Spend any amount of time talking to moms or perusing Facebook homeschool groups and the question “does this count?” is sure to be asked.
Where does this question originate? Some parents are required to track homeschool hours for reporting purposes, but most of the time it comes from our indoctrination of how education and learning should look.
Head Down, Pencil in Hand
This is how you gain an education, right? How else can you learn if you aren’t doing something that makes you miserable?
And it must happen in 50-minute increments with a 10-minute bathroom break.
There must be textbooks, worksheets, and tests. You have to prove you’re learning and make it count by producing voluminous documentation.
Often, moms are asking if something can “count” because they know their children are learning from an experience, but it looks nothing like it would in school.
They feel guilty.
They feel guilty because they have no worksheets to pull from a file cabinet to prove they did “school.” They worry if the children are having fun, how can they possibly be learning? They believe those requirements for “direct instruction” means they must be standing at the kitchen table giving a lecture on the battles of the Civil War.
Why should we divide learning into to categories and label some as counting and others as meaningless or ancillary to the real business of learning?
It’s humorous when you realize that schools try to recreate real-world, hands-on activities in an environment not suitable to such endeavors and homeschoolers lament their children are not sitting still at the table long enough to “count” it as school.
The learning is what counts, not the manner in which something was learned.
No matter if knowledge is gained by a lecture at the science museum and they didn’t take a single note. It counts.
Even when they watch a documentary and there is no pop quiz. It counts.
Maybe they finally understand percentages and making change from shopping with money they earned. It counts.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the question “does this count.” This question causes me some deep philosophical angst.
This is our life, our children’s lives, and our time together, why should it be divided into things that count and don’t count.
Do I divide my activities as a mom based on whether they count or not? Does putting the band-aid on a cut “count” but buying the band-aids “not count?”
So it counts if my child completes a worksheet copying the names of fruits, but writing a shopping list for me doesn’t count? That seems ridiculous.
- Observing pandas at the zoo
- Finding a turtle in the backyard
- Watching the sunrise
- Talking to a grandparent about their childhood
- Playing tour guide to out of town friends
- Baking cookies with a sibling
Which of these wouldn’t or shouldn’t “count?”
From my perspective, all these activities count more than a completed worksheet or time on task. However, in a world obsessed with test scores and academic achievement, these all seem like a diversion from the real work of childhood, school.
More Than A Permanent Record
I know we all realize that life consists of more than a permanent academic record, but the anxiety induced by homeschooling can make us forget. Your child is more than their standardized test scores, completed math problems, or how many essays they wrote.
There isn’t some mysterious permanent record office a potential employer will access years from now and use to determine your child’s worthiness for a position.
These things are only important now because we are a statistical loving society. We want to assign numerical values to everything and believe that if it can’t be quantified, then it doesn’t “count.”
It All Counts
I’m not saying it all counts as some homeschool platitude, but as a sincere belief that all of life counts.
Essays and shopping lists count.
I don’t wish to define some things in life as counting, because that infers other things don’t count.
Does any good come from people believing what they do doesn’t count?
So stop questioning whether this or that activity “counts.” Your child’s life counts and that is all you need to know.
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