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Last winter, we went through a few months of medical issues with a close family member that required a lot of driving back and forth across the Colorado front range. Normally, this sort of upheaval of our “usual routine” would have made me feel anxious and unsettled, but thanks to the Brave Writer lifestyle (and Julie Bogart’s endless, soothing wisdom), I accepted that things would just need to be a little bit looser in this season of our homeschooling life.
If a homeschool fairy swooped down one day and told me I could only choose three tools to teach my children, I’d like to think I would not hesitate. I would smile and reply, “Books, nature, and open-ended art supplies.” But my answer is a sneaky one. I firmly believe that, at least in the early grades, you can teach just about every subject with these three things.
In our homeschool, our morning and evening baskets are a way to introduce a variety of content–in both fiction and non-fiction format–in a very relaxed and cozy setting. On any given day, both baskets are filled with everything from Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter to Life of Fred and Robert Frost poems. Atlases, maps, and history encyclopedias wait eagerly beside ABC books, Eric Carle stories, and a book of famous women explorers. Harry Potter rests against a tiny chemistry book and the Burgess animals share space with a guide to Rocky Mountain insects.
Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Peaches and cream. STEAM and nature study.
Yes, they belong together that much. This isn’t a new concept, it’s just that back in the olden days when we were kids, they didn’t call it “STEAM” (or “science, technology, engineering, art, and math.”) But we built forts, bridges, and hide-aways none the less. We forged ramps for our bikes, pulleys to get snacks to the top of the tree, and leaf crowns for our heads. We rigged up makeshift roller coasters, launched pinecones with homemade catapults, and sent crude little boats down drainage ditches. Most of us spent our childhood steeped in STEAM outside, from the time the sun came up until the street lights came on.
Edwin Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” Of equal notability (in my humble opinion), Richard Louv said “If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
While our kindergarten curriculum includes a very gentle approach to first lessons in history and geography, mostly focusing on the life events of the child and their family, I felt like I should start to incorporate some additional unit studies into our learning. There are so many historical figures worth studying, worth investigating, even when our children are very young, and many of the lessons we learn from their experiences shape future ideas for our children as they begin to connect the dots of world events and people.