By now it's pretty clear that I am a "city mouse". Even when I lived in the countryside (way yander pass the suburbs), the urbanite in me stood as tall and strong as those big trees holding up the sky. The fact is I feel incredibly alive when I'm buzzing around town, seeing, meeting and engaging with people I might otherwise only see in cars passing or Netflix. When I had my daughter, I thought for a long minute about moving to the outskirts of the city. Better schools, cleaner sidewalks, a backyard. And homeschooling would be that picturesque image of frolicking children discovering the world within their well-landscaped space. Then I woke up. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that image except that it's not very inclusive; even when the children are Black, Yellow or Brown. Yet homeschooling in the big bad city is not always a walk in the park; especially to those for whom a "park" is almost as far as the nearest suburb. Here are a few insights for tapping into that "bright ideas, big city" magic.
Are you a City Homeschoolers, Unschoolers? While that might read like a forward in an updated edition of The Tale of Two Cities, it's nonetheless a valid question to be at least considered. Generalizations aside, while homeschoolers might not adhere to rigid schedules, they do have a curriculum planned. The unschoolers however, are the people who do not set or follow any schedule or learning agenda. They try to teach through life experiences. Learn fraction while doubling a recipe for dinner or understand subtraction while making a purchase at the grocery store. The parents believe forcing a lesson onto the children takes the fun out of learning and they try to prevent that. They do understand that this way might leave many gaps in the children’s knowledge but they feel confident that the children will figure out what they need to know.
Some homeschooling parents prefer to emulate a regular school day. They will have lesson plans, timetables, online curriculums, workbooks/textbooks and even homework and assignments. The other parents however, use the cultural offerings around the city to teach their children. The museums, musicals, art galleries are wonderful teaching opportunities. These days several city institutions offer classes for homeschoolers on a variety of subjects. As the educational needs of the children become more sophisticated, parents reach out to the support groups, online homeschooling networks and even hire private tutors. Many times, the parents in the group also share their expertise while teaching children in groups.
The Little School Project ethos encourages children to get out exploring the world with thoughtful, purposeful, child-centered and content-aligned organization and to allow parents to be appropriately hands-on and hands-off. We are Cityschoolers primarily. Here in lay the balance between the two approaches. The exploration be it guided inquiry or child interest driven, is strategically linked back to the core content, the curriculum. The museums, PBL, apprenticeships, urban gardening and cookie fraction lessons are the curriculum model, the approach. This may all sound like fancy ed talk, and yet it's taking practical steps to ensure expanded knowledge as well as deepened understanding. This means sometimes our children are learning online, but they are also creating blogs or documentary videos of the significant people in their neighborhood, or even city government. (Hey why not?). They are learning and speaking multiple languages to people with that mother tongue. They are learning about STEM and have the integrity to remember to turn off the lights when they leave the room. They are studying advanced maths and can balance a checkbook (because when we do number, we really do number). And when they ride the metro, the Downtown 6 Train is not the only underground railroad that comes to mind. And then there's the issue of socialization and developing those communication and collaboration skills our world so desperately needs.