In my search for balance and inspiration in my homeschooling life, as well as my own personal journey that blends mystical Christianity, Paganism, and sustainable living, I have begun to identify what I think children need to learn today. While certainly schools and other formal learning communities could take this curriculum on, it may be more suited to homeschool families because it's about understanding the insufficiencies of our modern relationship with spirit and the heart, and about changing those to create a vibrant and healthy world inside and out. It's about being flexible, individually designed, and responsive to the world. Traditional learning skills, such as reading, writing, and math are learned through the following five areas, rather than as separate "subjects." As our society grows ever more diverse and we tap into a global force through the internet, environmental stewardship, and the global market, children and adults need to know how to think in an interdisciplinary way. They need to understand how reading, writing, science, and math support these five areas. Learning this way also makes these skills relevant. It makes them easier to learn.
The Four Pillars of a Global, Ecological Education
- Service to others. This can take many forms, appropriate to your family and your children's interests. This is about learning to view the world with compassion, from any spiritual or religious path, and to honor differences. It is about being grateful for what we have, and sharing what we can with others. As a family (or as yourself, if you have young children) identify service projects. Do them together. Make blessing bags. Send books to Africa. Serve breakfast to homeless youth. Grow a row of vegetables for the hungry. Check out the free educational programs at Heifer International.
- Ecology and nature study. This starts with simple time outdoors that lead to observations and questions that lead to projects and research that lead to bigger studies of the natural world. Read books about nature - not just non-fiction, but animal stories, children's books about gardening, etc. Here's a list to get you started: Books about nature. (will send you to Amazon). Read books about math in nature, such as Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. Set up a weather station.
- Sustainable living skills. This might be second nature in your family if you already garden, compost, bike, recycle, knit, cook, carpenter, etc., or it might be a project the whole family can take on. What do you want to learn? How can your community support this, and how can you support your community in your quest for sustainable living? This includes financial skills. To find local organizations, search "[Your town] urban farming groups" to find classes and community. Read articles at Mother Earth News.
- Pursuit of a child's individual skills and interests. One of my children is an artist and loves computer time. She is a gymnast. She loves to DO things like go to the park, ride horses, play board games, and cook. My other child is a dreamer. He reads, pretends, and imagines. He is still young, so I'm not sure what other preferences will emerge, but I notice how he likes to categorize (he likes to know super heroes' powers just as he used to want to know the names and personalities of all of the Thomas and Friends trains) and create in his mind. These different interests and skills drive our days. For more on this kind of learning, read Free to Learn b Peter Gray, anything by John Holt, Deschooling Our Lives by Matt Hern, or The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.
The fifth pillar is spirituality.
This will look different for each family based on your family traditions. It will include and inform the above four pillars.
And that summarizes what I think children today need to learn to be successful, happy members of the world, and to gain the understanding and skills needed to survive in a world that faces global destabilization and everything that comes with it. Oxymoron: happy in a global crisis. But as a homeschooling parent who is aware of climate change and wants what every parent wants - for my children to be happy and successful - I hold both of these as central to all I do.