Are you suddenly homeschooling? Maybe you’ve made the choice to do it long-term. We’re here to make sure it’s a joyful and fun experience—it doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. We’ve created a four-part series of low-stress schooling-at-home tips and inspiration for anyone starting out (and for veterans too!). These tips are from Entropy Academy, a homeschooling parent’s memoir full of guidance and inspiration for anyone educating their kids outside of the institution of public education, temporarily or otherwise. In this memoir, Alison Bernhoft recounts how she discovered that she could train her messy home to do half her teaching, while much of the other half unfolded “entropy style”—in the natural process of everyday life.
I began with the kitchen, which was where we spent most of our time, and purchased two large maps: the world map went on the kitchen table, the US map on the wall. I was scandalized to see that the world map cut Asia in half so that America would be in the middle of the map. Fuming quietly (well all right, fuming noisily, as my children will tell you), I cut the map down the International Date Line and stuck Asia back together with Scotch tape. I put it on the table and covered the whole thing with clear contact paper. It wasn’t heatproof, but it lasted a while—somewhere between two and ten years, depending on my tolerance for singed and melted bits on the kitchen table. Over the years we tried out different maps; our favorite was one that showed all the flags of the world at the bottom. Periodically we would turn the table around so everyone got to admire the flags; it amazed me how many the children knew. And that map didn’t cut Asia in half!
The map was there, undeniably, and the children saw it every day. But there is a world (literally) of difference between seeing and noticing, and I was thrilled to find a game that had them examining the map most carefully: one person takes the first two letters of a country and the last two letters of a neighboring country, makes a four-letter word, and challenges the family to name the countries. For instance, SWeden and NorwAY make SWAY, while BRAY is a “two-fer,” Brazil and either Paraguay or Uruguay. To my knowledge, the word BURE exists solely to draw attention to Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, two small countries of West Africa that might otherwise be eclipsed by their larger neighbors, Mali and Niger.
The map of the States on the wall was primarily for reference, but Iain used it to learn his states by pinging rubber bands at them from across the room: “This one’s for Tennessee…watch out, New Mexico, here I come!”
As the children grew older, and particularly when they started driving, road maps jockeyed for position on the wall: Washington State, Everett, and the greater Seattle area were all readily available for trip planning or simply browsing. These maps helped us develop a strong sense of “north,” which a reliance on today’s GPS technology does little to cultivate.
Excerpted from Entropy Academy by Alison Bernhoft, full of easy and comforting homeschooling guidance. Paperback available from Chelsea Green and e-book via Amazon! Looking for more tips? See “Bath Time,” “Science in the Kitchen,” and “Reading Aloud!”