This meme has been making its way around Facebook lately. I get what it’s trying to say. One of the great things about homeschooling is the ability to make a lesson out of anything, and to follow tangents down delightful rabbit holes rich with fascinating information. This meme celebrates one of the best parts of homeschooling.
And if this is the measure of a homeschooling family, then I’m a failure.
I had to change a lightbulb just the other day. I pulled the stand-lamp down to where I could reach it, unscrewed the burnt-out bulb, and threw it out. I went to the closet where we keep spare lightbulbs, found the one with the correct wattage, took it out of the box, and screwed it into the fixture. I never bothered to call my kids and make it into a learning experience. Honestly, that never even occurred to me, despite the fact that I’d seen this meme twice in the previous week.
I just changed the lightbulb while my kids were playing Monopoly in the other room.
We do follow tangents sometimes, and we’ve had some great discussions because of it, but most of the time my kids get bored when I try to do something like this meme describes. I can just imagine my daughter saying, “Mom, if we need to buy a lightbulb, then why are we in the library?” My son would respond with, “How long can we play on the iPads here?”
And that’s fine. That’s us. I’m not that mom. I don’t plan out dozens of unit studies integrating drama, art, music, math, history, and fiction and non-fiction literature. And my kids aren’t the kids who would be into all that. We’re more of the no-frills, just the facts, readin-ritin-rithmatic kind of homeschoolers. We spend a little time most mornings doing ‘together’ school, and they have a list of assignments they need to do independently each week. Other than that and a few regularly scheduled outings, we each do our own thing.
Sometimes my kids play Minecraft. Sometimes they play Monopoly. A few weeks ago when my son was sick and taking a nap, I asked my daughter what she was going to do. She answered, “I’m just going to lie down on my bed and daydream for a while.” (I was envious.) They plan puppet shows and concerts and have written a book with their babysitter. They’re incredibly curious and creative children who shut down the moment they sense I’m trying to turn something into a ‘learning experience.’ They don’t want school to interfere with their fun.
A lot of homeschooling philosophy focuses on erasing the line between learning and fun, but I’ve found that my kids prefer to categorize things in that way. I just don’t tell them that it all counts as education. Some things are part of ‘doing school.’ Other things are ‘fun.’ And still other things are ‘stuff we need to know,’ which is different from school. Changing a lightbulb is in this third category. If I’d been thinking, I would have called them in to watch me change the bulb so they could try and do it the next time one burned out. And later on, when we get to Thomas Edison in our history class, we’ll read a biography on his life and my kids will be excited to connect his invention with the lighbulb they changed.
But we’ll skip the skit and models. According to my kids, that sort of thing is just silly.