When my daughter, B, was about 6 months old I met someone who changed the course of our early years. We met in a professional capacity. I quickly became interested in networking with her, but not because of the many parallel experiences on our resumes. Instead, I was completely enthralled when she talked about her 4-year-old twins. As a new mother, I was grasping for my former personal and professional identities, while feeling – gratefully – consumed by motherhood. Quite simply, I had not yet figured out how to balance my love of being B’s mom with my desire to pursue other interests. This encounter was my first, as a new mother, with someone who seemed happy and successful in both parenthood and her career and who described a balance I could envision for my own life. She had found the balance I was seeking by melding parenthood and professionalism. She had done so by homeschooling.
Does homeschooling as a means for professional advancement seem improbable to you? It didn’t to me. You see, my professional path up to that point had very clearly led me to that place… and it only took one 30-minute conversation to realize it. I started my career as a preschool teacher. I taught diverse students, many who had special needs, in both areas of extremely low socioeconomic status and one of the wealthiest communities in my region. Although I found school politics draining, I loved planning and differentiating curriculum for the diverse students I encountered. I strived to create classrooms that were child-directed, respectful and full of learning through play. After 5-years, I left the classroom to take a job at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. While at LPZ, I had the opportunity to oversee a variety of programs related to schools and again worked with the least to the most advantaged and kids of all ability levels. I also collaborated with other educators throughout the city – both classroom educators and others like myself who worked in museums, aquariums, and other informal education settings. I loved both phases of my career: Working with children and their families was my first professional passion. Informal education embodied the ideals that I had strived for in the classroom and allowed me to continue my work in a new way; working at LPZ was a dream job. Museums and Zoo’s allowed me to reach children in ways that were individualized, engaging, and free of school politics and made the “child-directed” learning that I strived for in my classroom a no-brainer.
When B was 6-months-old, I made a decision. I would home school her through her preschool years, and I would do so by exploring and utilizing the wealth of informal education resources available in our community. I found a way to teach and to immerse myself in the world of informal education that I loved, but I had to wait a few years for my student to be ready…
This blog is the documentation of my daughter’s preschool years. It is both a journal and a curriculum, and I hope it will inspire you and your students – either in the classroom or in your home – to use the resources available in your area to embrace adventure and learn while doing it!