Our Homelearning Community House
It is becoming clear to me that community (not what kids are learning or doing or how many wonderful classes they are going to) is one of the most important things for homeschooling and life in general.
This summer, my friend, neighbour and fellow homeschooling mom, Tamara, got very excited about Sudbury Valley School & The Little New School. She loved the idea of renting a house together with ten other families and having our own House School.
I wondered what we could do on a smaller scale with the few families that live near and the houses we had – since running a program would be expensive and time consuming. Then Tamara exclaimed,“Your house is Sudbury Valley School!” She was kinda joking but I really liked the idea. We talked about it with our other homeschooling friend and neighbour, Rosalind, and she was thrilled! It turns out she came to homeschooling through reading about Sudbury Valley School.
We talked about it and decided to give it try, using my house and Rosalind’s down the street.
I have a huge heated garage that we would like to set up as a workshop, pottery and painting room. We have a great yard and tree house that needs some improvements. Rosalind has a great big room in her basement and a wonderful backyard and garden. Rosalind was trained as a scientist and Tamara as an artist, and they both have a lot of wonderful knowledge and passion to share with the kids.
We moved our weekly drop-in from Strathcona to a room in hospice in a beautiful park a few blocks from our house and renamed our group Burrardview Co-op. We also have this space for three hours on Tuesdays. I have a background in theatre and am really enjoying working on Romeo and Juliet with the kids.
At first we thought it would take a lot of planning and that we would have to have a lot of rules and guidelines – but so far things have fallen into space spontaneously and effortlessly. It is becoming impossible to separate Cassius’ and Paris’ learning from that of Tamara and Rosalind’s kids. They come over to our house most days Monday to Friday and seem to be in a constant creative state. Rosalind, Tamara & I are all amazed about how much easier our days are and how happy our kids are. We are doing hardly any structured activities and we’ve never been so busy.
For example, Last Monday we went over to Rosalind’s house and washed a whole bunch of fleece and lay it out to dry in the sun in her back yard. (I had a meeting and I was able to leave my kids there for a few hours knowing they were happy and safe, and not a burden on Tamara and Rosalind, since all the kids are so busy entertaining each other.) The kids would help us and ask questions when they felt like it and then run off and play.
On Tuesday we brought the clean fleece to the Burrardview Co-op and carded the wool and started making some felting projects with it. Again the kids would come and participate as their interest led them. Some of the kids were completely absorbed, others like Cassius spent most of the time climbing trees.
I can’t believe how much I’m able to get done in a day. It is amazing how effortlessly and seamlessly things flow together. For example, On Wednesday Cassius got up and read some of his history book, then Tamara picked him and Rosalind’s daughter up, and dropped them off at a musical theater class with her three daughters, while she visited a friend. That gave me tons of time to clean my house instead of having to drive and wait for a class to finish. Tamara dropped them all off at my house when she was done, and went home to get dinner on, because she had invited us all over for dinner that night.
At that point Rosalind dropped by with a leach she had found and the kids spent a few house talking about it and looking at it under a digital microscope, before all the walking to the wild life sanctuary at Hastings Park to set it free and pick some grapes. While they were gone I played my cello and ended up giving Paris a spontaneous half hour music lesson.
Somewhere in there all the kids fit in a few games of tag and bike rides around the block. Then Rosalind went home for a few hours with her two kids, Maia and Kate, Tamara’s six year old twin daughters. Anja., Tamara’s eight year old stayed here and listened to Jane Goodall on the radio with Cassius. Then I walked down to Tamara’s house while the kids rode bikes, and we all had a wonderful dinner. Tamara was in shock that she had be able to cook dinner for thirteen people and still go to the dentist and visit a friend – and have happy kids.
Everyone is always careful to bring some food and help clean at the house we are at – although I think I’m getting the long straw of the deal. Yesterday Rosalind washed my dishes and today Tamara did!
Rosalind and I are in a quintet that practices on Friday afternoons at my house. We practice while the children play and I have been giving Thomas a few short lessons on his small cello, which all the kids take turns playing, afterward.
It all seems too good to be true. I feel like my life has gone from driving Cassius around to classes and play dates, to spending my time doing things I am interested in and which bring me joy, with people whose company I enjoy. And Cassius and Paris seem to be learning so much I can’t keep track of it!
I’ll keep you all updated on the progress of our homelearning community house!