Play is Serious Learning
To say Katrina has a full, busy life is an understatement. With four kids, pursuing a Masters of Science in Nursing, and a passion for self-sufficiency and sustainability, Katrina is always on the go and constantly balancing priorities.
Amongst taking care of chickens, beekeeping, and hand-making various food-stuffs, Katrina also homeschools two of her four children, working the skills of self-sufficiency and fun learning into the mix.
The Decision to Homeschool
Homeschooling started three years ago when they moved to their farm in the county. Her oldest, Nick (11), had done well in school when they lived in a city district, but wasn’t being challenged (he qualified for the gifted program, but they moved before he could take advantage of it). They tried homeschooling for a semester after moving to the county, but then decided to try the county school. The county school was even less challenging for Nick. Tessa (9) also did well in school, but had experienced some bullying in the county school. After the one semester in the county school, they made the decision to go back to homeschooling.
But school quality wasn’t the only reason for choosing homeschooling:
“I really, really like my kids. I love them as people. I like being around them and love seeing them grow up. I don’t like the idea of them sitting in rows of other kids learning. I want to be around them and watch and help them learn and homeschooling helps me do that.”
A Typical Day
There are few typical days around Katrina’s house, but ideally, they’re all up by 7:30 am. The kids do their chores while Katrina makes breakfast, then after breakfast schoolwork gets started. The older kids do more traditional school work at this time while Katrina feeds the chickens and then works on her own schoolwork.
Violet, the four year old, is given some work to do as well. After lunch, and when the 18 month-old goes down for his afternoon nap, there’s focus on kid-directed learning, which sometimes involves marathon reading sessions (she’s always encouraging the kids to read) or any project they’re currently working on. This is the kids’ fun learning time, a time to explore.
In the evenings, the kids may help put the chickens up for the night and they know how to take care of their other animals, so they help with the dogs and cat as well.
Katrina is an eclectic homeschooler, pulling from many resources to make homeschooling work, in addition to their “at home” studies, the kids take classes at Franklin School, their cover school.
Katrina explains their approach to learning:
“Nick is more of a hands-on, non-traditional learner. Tessa is more of a traditional learner. Both would have been fine in school, but I believe Nick would be best served having more fun… not as structured. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mr. Rogers and sums up how I feel about learning: ‘Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.’ This quote has always resonated with me. But I wouldn’t want people thinking that all we do all day is play, we don’t, but I don’t see the point in fighting with the kids over studies, because then they’ll be resentful and not learn anything. Like Plato said, ‘Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.’”
Here are the resources they use:
- Math – Harcourt Brace Complete Curriculum, games, Cuisenare rods
- Language arts – Reading, creative writing, World Literature (with her cover, Franklin School), Harcourt Brace Complete Curriculum, Internet research
- History – Story of the World (with discussion), Ancient History (with Franklin School)
- Science – Lego Robotics (with MindGear Labs), Huntsville Botanical Garden’s homeschooling classes, Physics for Every Kid, Biology for Every Kid
- Extra-curricular: Theater and Piano, Nick helps with the beekeeping when needed
Katrina is seeking a Master’s of Science in Nursing, but most of the time her schoolwork doesn’t get done until kids go to bed. Her husband works swing shift, so she has to also work around his schedule and is sometimes up until 3-4 am working on school. As such she’s unable to schedule time based on class load and family priorities. Balance is hard, but it was a decision she made and she’s stuck with it, now completing her final term of class work and starting clinicals in the new year.
Karen Gann had a marketing communications career in high tech before taking a sharp turn into stay-at-home-momdom and homeschooling. She grew up in the Tennesse Valley, lives in Huntsville, and is wife to the wittiest man alive, mother to two head-strong and independent girls (they're adorable, really), and human caregiver to the cats. Addictions include Facebook, Pinterest, NYC's Radio Lab, coffee, food, and politics (not necessarily in that order but sometimes all at the same time). She's also the marketing director for Pandia Press in her spare time.