It’s been two-and-one-half years since completing my experiment. As experiments go, this one was major.
Unlike grade school science experiments of baking soda volcano eruptions or bean root sprouts in water-filled mason jars, my experiment consisted of three little humans and the whole of their education journey taken upon me–for good or bad.
We started this educational adventure into the unknown in 1999, when my first-born, a beautifully, creative old-soul, not quite old enough to register for ‘real’ school. Two years later, her twin brothers joined the experiment. A house in the woods was our school. The natural world outside our door opened itself to experiential learning, where forest animals foraged among the wildflowers and weather patterns made art of the sky, creating ideal lesson plans for school’s sake. Nature journals elicited untapped skills of art, interpretive thinking, and their love for God’s natural world, where nature’s mathematics could be readily observed: a bee’s honeycomb; the Golden Ratio to a circle in plants, such as sunflowers and pine cones.
There were books, of course. Lots of them. Daily trips to the local library were our field trips. Each time, we’d fill the large, plastic milk crate with a wide assortment of reading material, anything from botany, music composers, historical fiction and non-fiction (oh, how we loved “Little House on the Prairie” series), poetry, math, and art. No book was safe from the grasp of their little hands and thirsty minds.
As they grew and demanded more, their education became more burdensome. On the one hand, we filled their time with traditional school subjects to meet state requirements, but we allowed time for their creative development as human beings. There we no test scores in our school, at least not until they reached upper middle school. Our little school in the woods was more a place for time. Time taken to develop creative skills, for alone time spent mastering origami or a Bach piece, maybe even imagining one’s matchbox cars traversing a large parking lot. Minds were engaged. Hearts were nurtured. And play was a natural part of their day.
Soon enough, high school transcripts, college applications, and FAFSA forms would become the order of the day. My home school was slowly coming to a close. No more spontaneous hot cocoa and toast breakfast gatherings on my bed, as I read to them to start the school day right. Those ended long ago. So have the midday chats about bullying, religious thought, C-span, future uncertainties, and story time, listening to audio books.
The last of the yearly school portfolios I created for a certified teacher’s perusement ended in May, 2014. Our daughter graduated from a wonderful private college this past spring with a degree in violin performance. And, her brothers are currently in their third year at local colleges.
So, here we are. What felt like an experiment many moons ago, actually turned out to be anything, but. What we did was to choose a different path, a different way, despite the loud retorts from naysayers. We were in a special world that only other home school families truly understood, the way families with multiples share that special connection, like a secret badge of honor. In the end, our experiment worked. Not because of any paper transcript of higher learning, but because they show themselves to be life-long learners who follow their hearts, not the status quo. And for that, I am grateful to God and Him, alone. For without his grace and guidance, this little experiment would have never happened.