Recently we enrolled our four-year-old in her first “official” homeschool class – Watercolor Art for ages 3-5. It was our first experience taking classes through L.E.A.R.N., a secular homeschool group in Kansas City. L.E.A.R.N. stands for Let Education Always Remain Natural, and their mission statement reads:
- L.E.A.R.N. is an organization formed to provide secular support for homeschooling families.
- L.E.A.R.N. supports families with a wide variety of ideologies regarding education, parenting, culture, and religion.
- Membership in L.E.A.R.N. indicates a respect for other individuals, regardless of age.
- Membership in L.E.A.R.N. indicates a willingness to be respectful of other member’s beliefs or lifestyles that may not reflect your own.
The first two weeks’ classes I missed due to scheduling conflicts. My husband Dave took Emily instead, and returned each visit talking excitedly about the parents he had met. He is far more outgoing in crowds than I am, but after my second visit to the weekly classes, currently housed in the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, I too had to admit it was a fun place to be.
Watercolors and spiderwebs
Before each new watercoloring adventure, Emily’s teacher, Katie (see Homeschooler Profiles) brought all of the kids and parents together in a circle to share, learn more about each other, and remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. She did this in the most gentle of ways, a ball of yarn, some introductions and a little bit about ourselves. As the ball of yarn would be thrown to various children and parents around the circle we would say our name and maybe something we liked. Afterwards we would hold onto a piece of the thread before tossing the ball of yarn to someone else. Before long we had an intricate web, tying each of us to the other, a reminder that life is connected, sometimes in weird and unpredictable ways.
The watercolors were made from natural plant dyes and no watercolor adventure seemed complete without the hands, face and chin becoming involved and stained blue, red or yellow. Very little direction was given, save the basics, “rinse your brush before using another color” and each child’s creation was different and unique.
Baby-wearing and Insubordiknit
In all of my life I had never found myself surrounded by more down-to-earth, babywearing, nursing moms. Everywhere I turned there were moms with little ones wrapped in slings, chatting and laughing.
We talked about everything, and I shared my purse, made during one of my Purse Magick classes I teach – where participants transform a wool sweater into a charming purse. One of the moms, Jacey, shared her website with me, and talked about the potential for a fun hobby to turn into something rather spectacular. Her new book, Spin Art: Mastering the Art of Spinning Textured Yarn is available for pre-order on her website.
Dalliances with tiny kittens
A trip to L.E.A.R.N. will often result in the intentional petting of tiny kittens (or puppies, which I missed at last week’s meeting). I look at this as a learning opportunity for the kids. These tiny helpless creatures are fostered after being abandoned or orphaned at a young age. The kittens we petted on one of the visits were only eleven days old and had barely opened their eyes.
There to answer any of our questions was a young man, I’d guess his age at about eleven or twelve. His mother works with Wayside Waifs as a foster mom to the kittens and pups. Because they need food and water every couple of hours, she brings them with her to the meetings.
Emily, alongside with several other young ones, learned how to hold them firmly but gently so that the kittens would feel secure and not be hurt.
Kids, of All Ages
Everywhere I looked there were kids, of all ages, from infants to teens, talking and laughing. One of the main socializing areas had a sign, “Peanut Free Zone” and another room adjacent to it was the Teen Room. Emily pointed out a girl who had purple, blue, and pink hair tightly braided against her head.
“Oh Mama, she has such pretty hair!”
I smiled, “Yes Emily, she sure does. Later we approached that pretty-haired teen and asked if we could pet the cute blond hedgehog she kept in her backpack. Emily marveled over the feel of the quills beneath her hand as she gently petted the small creature.
“Normal? Then you don’t want to talk to me”
I asked the kitten foster mom if she would be interested in interviewing for the homeschooler profile, saying “I’m just trying to show that homeschoolers are normal people.”
She laughed, “Normal? Then you don’t want to talk to me!”
It made me re-think my approach. After all, what is normal? And is normal that good after all? I’ve personally always liked being a bit…off.
I realized then and there that it wasn’t a matter of portraying normal. It was about portraying reality. My goal was to share with others an insight into homeschooler’s lives – normal or otherwise.
It’s Not Quite Home, But It’s Getting There
For most of my life I’ve felt a significant disconnect with others. I’ve felt alone on my path, and disagreed fundamentally with others on their wants, interests, and more. At L.E.A.R.N. I am finding a preponderance of people who are creating their own paths, living their lives without compromise, and being true to their own beliefs and interests.
It is a refreshing feeling. It’s not quite home, but it is getting there.
Interested in learning more about L.E.A.R.N.? Visit their website and consider attending an informational meeting.