All though we have lived several places, my feelings on who should direct the education of my children has never wavered. I believe that must parents feel the same way that I do; that the parent(s) should be in charge of their children's education. Some parents do this by joining the PTA, some do this by supplementing learning at home, and some do this by homeschooling their children. My grandmother did that first one (PTA), my mother did the second one (supplementing), but I choose the last one (homeschooling).
I was told by people within the educational system, when my daughter was in Pre-K, that homeschooling was the best option for her. She was independent, free-spirited, intelligent, and it would not help her to hold her back by putting her into the public school system.
Does that mean she some sort of advanced genius? So many people seem to think that about homeschoolers! No, she is extremely intelligent, independent, and can think things through and make her own choices. She is a wonderful artist, and loves to put together websites (or blogs, or squiddo lenses, you get the picture). She is skilled in math; even so, she has spent ten years trying to find a job that an adult would not use math in.... We still haven't found any. She reads and comprehends at a college level, and writes very well when she chooses to. Most things she writes are simply first drafts that she never goes back to.... She doesn't feel the need to revisit them.
Spelling... hmmm, here's aonther shining example of how life learning works!
Remember: Interest + Exposure = Learning
It is only within the last 18 months that she has taken an interest in spelling. Before that her spelling ability was stuck back in grade school. (She's going to get mad at me for telling you that. But if you can understand how life learning works a little bit better, it will be worth it and she will forgive me.) It has jumped a few grade levels at a time each time she works on it. One day she will look back at something she wrote the day before and be disgusted by how horrible her spelling is. And thus the interest is sparked. As for exposure, one of her favorite methods is to write at the computer armed with a spell check and a dictionary. And over the course of a few weeks, her spelling ability jumps. I remember her complaining a few days ago. She was trying to work on some words that she knew she commonly misspelled, but every time she wrote them, she was spelling them correctly! That was enough to set me to laughing. There she was complaining because she was spelling everything correctly!
At this point I am switching into stuff that all the children are doing since we run most of the "teaching" as a family unit. At different ages they all get something different out of it. Of course, age does not limit one's ability to learn something either...interest does.
With the interesting food sensitivities that run through our house, even the five year old knows more about nutrition and food families than most adults. Parental bragging rights aside, all of my children have been found regularly teaching neighbors, adults at the grocery store, or parents at the park about food sensitivities, and common reactions. Then they go on to explain the connection between simple carbohydrates and disease, list the vitamins found in the foods around them at that time, and discuss the benefits of eating fresh foods over frozen or canned, or the benefits of eating a steady diet of "green leafies" (lettuces and herbs), and the difference in nutrition between juicing and blending. Like everyone else, knowing and doing are not necessarily the same thing!
We have had several pets in our house over the years, as part of our science lessons. We have studied the best habitats for each of them, and done our best to reproduce them. We have studied the culture of the people where our various pets are native to. We have studied the plants in the pets native areas as a part of creating their habitats. We study what they eat in the wild. What types of pets have we had? We have had cats, a dog, dwarf hamsters, mice, rats, bearded dragon, snakes, and several types of tropical fish. I think the fish have inspired the most intense studies. We try to stock tanks with fish from the same area of the world, and even there we found that you can't just throw them all in together. We have had a few batches of kittens born in our house, and watched the development of the kittens from birth. We have studied the plants and animals that are native to the places we have lived. We have learned about the effects of the sun in the southwest and the cold in the north on various types of materials. We have seen first hand the effects of abundant water, and the effects of drought.
With this past election, we discussed the platforms that each candidate was running on, how the government was set up, and what the election process is for. I thought it was a real treat when I was allowed to take the kids through the polling place on election day, and explain how the ballots work, and what the various machines are for. The volunteers there even answered questions and explained parts in further detail. When we were done, the kids were given a bunch of stickers with an American flag on them that stated "I Voted". The five year old was so excited that he set up a polling place in the front room for the stuffed animals after we got home. He also stayed up all night watching polling results, and listening to people talking about the candidates. My daughter was thrilled to have seen everything, and stated that voting was no longer scary. She is looking forward to the next presidential election so her voice can be counted!
For physical education we do things like rock climbing, hiking through washes, swimming in fresh lakes and rivers on good days. Of course we play sports like soccer, basketball, baseball, badminton, tennis, golf, and frisbee. The rest of the times we depend on things like the bikes, scooters, and trampoline (inside and outside). The kids like to set up obstacle courses in the yard to run thorough, and dig grand holes in the dirt. With all the dogs in the neighborhood that bark at every thing they see, the grand plan is to build a clubhouse hole that they can play in. I am not sure that they will accomplish that, but they are having a lot of fun working on it. The youngest loves to run laps around our current house, while the J-man loves racing back and forth along the fence with the dog from down the street. (We are friends with them, and they actually love having J-man race with "Oscar" because "Oscar" settles down and sleeps well those nights.)
Maybe one of these days I will attempt to put together a version of a normal day in life learning... but everyday is different.