"Why do I need to learn Freeennnch?"

This was a common refrain in my middle school classroom years ago.

A little background - I taught French at an amazing independent school for gifted kids in the Chicago area.  I have a Masters degree in French linguistics and literature, and most of a teacher's certification. (I ran screaming from that program when I was offered this sweet job.)

These kids were all nerds* and liked it that way.  All the teachers were nerds and all the kids' parents were nerds.  It was heaven.

*nerds - people who love learning in any form and aren't afraid to show it

Still, not everyone was in love with French class.

The French language is partially responsible for shaping the person I am.  So when I heard this question - "Why do I need to learn Freeeennnnch?"  I would pull the tiny dagger out of my heart and then I would say, "You don't!"

After they stared at me blankly for a minute, I would explain that they would likely not need it for survival or even for success as an adult...however!!!...They would need richness in their lives, depth to their education, and the chance to discover unawakened passions.

Keeping my French fresh - in Paris over summer break 2001

My answer to their parents also included the following information:

40% of our English language is derived from French.  French language learning, like Latin, is a major and measurable boost to a student's vocabulary.  It stretches their brain in a unique way as well.

The answer to myself:  If we think of the sum of our lives as a hand-woven tapestry, French is the golden thread that highlights the figures and shapes on my tapestry.  Not necessary, purely decorative, but stunning.

This is Why You Need to Learn French

I crafted this post because I often think of homeschooling in those terms, too.  

What is important to the very structure of a person's tapestry?

      Nourishment, survival, safety, love

What serves as the scene depicted?

       Friends, stories, beliefs, values, risks, failures, and happy successes

What are the embellishments and unique artistic qualities? 

       That is different for every individual, of course

And This is Why You Need to Travel

By homeschooling, we spend the majority of our time witnessing and supporting our kids while they weave their own scene as youngsters, so they have the best chance of going on to add their own richness later in life. 

Attitude of Play

Considering Homeschooling? Part V - Philosophies

In the spirit of keeping it simple, here is a link to a previous post with details about a variety of well-known homeschool philosophies.

Our philosophy is keeping an attitude of play.


It works well for me because I lean toward the serious, organized, wet blanket style of learning.  Focusing on play keeps my family balanced. 

It works like this:

Playing is learning.  Playing is important to kids.  When we give them time to spend as they wish, we are respecting their natural ability to grow and use their instincts.

In our home, I am responsible to the State of Missouri and since I need documentation to prove to myself that my children are gaining skills, I set aside specific time every weekday for written work. Roughly 20% of that time is spent on what I call "straight up math."  It is textbook and workbook driven.  The other 80%  is based in relevant seasonal activities or real-life events.

I keep a list of the top 5 skills I'd like to check on for each of my kids.  The list comes from the public school standards for our district.  Knowing that my middle son needs practice in paragraph structure and identifying the topic sentence, I will look for a place to fit that in naturally with something he loves.

I could never have anticipated how much all three of my kids have enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek.  My middle child, in particular has a strong sense of justice and is in the phase of his life where he is solidifying his ideas of right and wrong.  This was the perfect opportunity to have him write about the conflict between the Osage Indians and the Ingalls Family.

When we had the chance to visit the Shawnee National Forest and hike in the Garden of the Gods a few weeks ago, we talked about the Trail of Tears, just miles away.  This perspective on history was fascinating for my kids.  Suddenly, their perspective on the anger and savagery from their favorite story had changed.

They were able to forage for food along the same trails the Cherokee did when they were forcibly removed from the ancestral home.  They were reverent and their opinions weren't so black and white anymore.

My five year-old retold the story of the scary shrieking war cries that the Ingalls family heard in the middle of the night on the prairie.  Retelling a story is part of the Kindergarten standards.  I believe that story is relevant and has impacted his life.

The key to making this system work is starting with play.  Using a child's' interests as a jumping-off point means everything falls naturally into place.  Less nagging, threatening, and reasoning is needed to help kids see the purpose behind what they're doing.  They're doing it simply because it's fun.