Picture by Gregor Buchhaus
End of August and almost all of my daughter's friends have started school (in France) and kindergarten (in Germany). To me, three years old is still young age to talk about « homeschooling ». On the other hand, if we lived in France, chances were that my daughter could be in school already. One child out of eight starts school when she reaches the age of two, according to the French Ministry of Education.
But we live in Germany and here schools starts officially at six years old (or latest at seven). Nevertheless my daughter could have been in a kindergarden already. When last year we had a free spot in one kindergarden just three blocks away from our house, we paused and reflected about our family values. We said, no. This year, when my daughter saw all our friends starting kindergarden, we had a discussion about what she really wants and she said: "Could we just do kindergarden at home?" Sure! So this was a great opportunity to reflect again and set our intentions for the "next year"
Depending on countries, school begins between two and seven years old. But when does learning start?
"Just as children come into the world with instinctive drives to eat and drink what they must to survive, they come into the world with instinctive drives to educate themselves- to learn what they must to become effective members of the culture around them and thereby survive" - Peter Gray - Free to learn
Do children need to learn in special settings? Can they learn naturally?
"Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places”- John Holt- Learning all the time
We made a conscious decision to follow our daughter’s way of learning naturally. We follow her rhythm, motivations, interests. Should we call it "unschooling"? It doesn't really matter how we call it. Our goal is to allow her be who she truly is.
On this journey, I find inspiration and support in many different education methods but we have made our own mix. Our homeschooling approach is based on:
Free play and exploration
Building a close relationship with nature by spending plenty of unstructured time outdoors (in the garden, in our neighborhood as well as in the forests and the mountains close-by)
A Montessori-inspired environment: an amazing way of fostering independence and acknowledging that children’s motivation to learn is natural and comes from inside. You can see our Montessori-inspired home here.
A Waldorf way of living with the seasons, including rythmes, rituals and celebrations into our daily lives and encouraging imaginative play.
Less is more: few toys and materials, mostly open-ended toys and loose-parts (inspired by the Theory of Loose Parts)
But plenty of books that we read together every day
"Follow the child"- a child-led approach of education inspired by Reggio Emilia and Montessori
A Project-Based Homeschooling approach from time to time
It's a bit messy and eclectic maybe. But it works for us. We don’t use a curriculum. We focus on the interests of the moment. Our days follow the rhythm of the seasons. There is plenty of time for outdoors for adventures and exploration, free outdoors and indoors play, gardening, cooking, music, arts, yoga, reading books, meeting friends and relaxing. We have almost no "learning materials" and we approach learning as something that happens naturally just by paying a conscious attention to the world that surrounds us. As something that belongs to real life, not separated from it.
Our family rhythm evolves according to the seasons, my daughter’s age, our family needs and our interests. Our anchor are our family values. There are a couple of small rituals and rhythms that provide consistency and a feeling of security (like for example reading stories before we go to sleep).
"In their consistency, rhythms establish trust. They offer children a sense of order… the joy of anticipation and the security of things to be counted on, every day (…) There aren’t many people whose lives are still characterized by the rhythms of the earth, by the sunlight in a given day, the growing or fallow seasons, the cycle of a crop’s harvest. Yet our lives are still influenced by rhythms." - Kim John Payne- Simplicity Parenting
With this in mind, we allow a lot of flexibility and spontaneity in our every day life. One of the best thing in our life without kindergarden or school is that we can travel whenever we want or change plans if we find something more interesting to do.
"Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping. "- Maria Montessori- The Discovery of the Child