My Homeschooling Experience

An Essay By Raine // 1/29/2006

“It was the start of the Summer of the Late Rose. . .”

Thus begins the first book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques---a wonderful work of fiction. My mother would spend hours reading to my brother, sister, and I. We would spread a blanket out on the lawn, or weather not permitting, we would pile onto the couch with blankets and pillows, listening with rapt attention as mum read aloud the story of Redwall Abbey and the gentle creatures that inhabited it. I love these long reading sessions. I could close my eyes and picture the book in my mind, creating the sounds, smells and animals with my imagination. We went through most of the series. Many times I could not stop myself from reading ahead. Many days were spent in this manner. Mum read many different books to us---The Lonesome God’s, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Call it Courage. She read The Snow Goose, Travel Across Canada, and Little Women; The Life of our Lord and Little House on the Prairie. Mum read about dinosaurs, birds, bugs, planets, slaves and frogs. Whatever we happened to be interested in at the moment, Mum found a book or three on the subject. I remember the first time I read a book on my own. I was a favorite that my mom always read to me. I remember the joy I found in reading by myself. As I grew older I devoured C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Walter Farley and countless other books from World War II to mathematicians and architecture. My sister followed in my footsteps, reading voraciously. My brother didn’t enjoy reading as much as the rest of us, but he still loved to sit and listen during our family reading sessions. I found math classics, that I loved to read, even though math was my least favorite subject. I read The Number Devil, Flatland, Sphereland, and other math books that I found on our bookshelves. Each day, Mom would gather us in the living room and we would draw quietly as she read out of our World History series. Often, this inspired us to find and research different eras, and different people. Many history projects were born from reading historical fiction and the history series.

We began reading Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom, and that inspired many expeditions into the great outdoors, at which times we’d all pretend to be characters from this wonderful series. We would pack a picnic lunch and accompanied by our books we would head out for a day of adventure. Sometimes our exploring would take us down to the river, other times we would never leave our yard, and instead of climbing Mount Everest or sailing down the Nile, we’d settle down under a tree and read listening to the birds singing, the wind through the leaves and the gentle croaking of frogs. Mother Nature’s music.

My family loved music, from my dad, down to my youngest sister. I started violin when I was eight, and piano lessons were soon to follow. My sister found her love in the harp, and my two brothers took an interest in that mystical instrument as well. My sister and I began singing together, and my brothers took up the guitar. Soon we had a small music group formed, and my Mom dubbed us “Wandering Musicians.” We’d perform together at talent shows, recitals, hospitals and seniors homes. We’d make up concerts for my dad, or play just for the fun of it. Every time we sing or play, my little sister begins to dance and sing, enjoying it as much as we do. Music has always been in our home. We would constantly have a classical CD in, Bach, Mozart or Hayden. We enjoyed making up skits to music, and once we made up a pirate story and performed it on the front lawn. A soundtrack from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean blared as we danced across the lawn, sailing and sword fighting. Music is and was always a part of our lives.

My mom would take us to ponds; we caught small frogs and snails, trying to keep them in a small wading pool in the yard. Last year we built our own pond for the creatures we found. Mom took us bird watching and on long walks, to watch the clouds. We did a lot of exploring. We would watch old buildings for owls, or fly to the moon while my dad pointed out various constellations. In the winter, we’d read about explorers, who found the North Pole, and then make up our own Expeditions. We’d set up several ‘camps’ along the way, and bundled up tightly would begin our journey through mountains and ice. When it rained, we’d run outside and dance waiting for the Rainbow to appear. When it did, we’d do our best to follow it to its very end, but it always eluded us. Even though we'd learned sometime ago, what rainbow's really are, we still chased them happily, watching for the gold at the end. We'd turn our kitchen into a lab, and all become mad scientists, busily reading and experimenting. Sometimes we would take our science projects outside, building volcanoes in the sandbox, watching and describing the clouds and the different types. We collected plants from the mountains, climbed rocks and visited museums. Our favorite trip was always the Zoo, however. We would always tour the dinosaurs first, and then head over to the birds or perhaps the monkeys. Most often, we would end the day wandering through the gardens, smelling the flowers and wishing we could pick them all. We loved the beautiful plants.

During the summer, we always planted a garden. On one occasion, we tried to grow three foot tall pumpkins, but we only managed to get one a foot tall. We liked planting Sunflower houses that nearly always grew the wrong way, but were still large enough to offer shade. As little children the cornstalks were high enough to provide a sort of African Jungle, in which we carry out many expeditions, fighting lions and tigers.

After fighting our way through the corn, or rather, when the weeding was done, we would all head over to our raspberry thicket. Our favorite place to hide was in the mazes of the tall prickly bushes. Along with friends, we had created tunnels and pathways wide enough to traverse without getting scratched, but small enough to crouch down and remain hidden. We’d fill our pockets with pin cherries, gooseberries and crab apples from the nearby trees and bushes, and hide in our little caves of branches. Before eating the Raspberries, we would always carefully examine them, hoping to find a caterpillar to put in a jar and observe. During the afternoon we’d always enter my Grandpas magical greenhouse. We’d help him water the flowers and carefully transplant the delicate little plants. When we were no longer needed in the greenhouse we would clamber up the large poplar trees with handfuls of Saskatoon’s and a book, perching rather precariously in the branches to read.

We are older now, and our interests and habits of study have changed. My sister reads almost constantly. Classics such as Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia compose her reading list. Right now she’s particularly fascinated with Ancient Egypt and languages. She has learned to say Hello and Goodbye in ten different languages. She’s also creating her own poetry anthology. My brother is more interested in physical activity right now, and has taken an interest in stunt biking. He spends the morning’s reading and practicing music, but heads almost instantly outside in the afternoon. He’s built two jumps in our ditch, and is working on a third. I’m working on a British Literature course and learning Latin. I’m writing almost everyday; poetry, essays, stories or songs. I’m playing my instruments every day…and studying, working to become a well educated leader. My two younger sisters and my youngest brother are learning along with my mom. She takes them on explorations, or helps them with math. But mostly, she reads to them. We all gather around when Mom sits down, no matter what she reads. Lately she’s been reading about Bats and China, or out of books like The Dao of Pooh, The Last Battle or Les Miserables. We all wait, as the magic in the words transports us into a different world, a different time. We all smile, as another day full of learning and joy begins, another day full of family, learning and life. Just another homeschooling day...