The early years of our homeschooling experience sailed by. My daughters were thriving; I was excited and enthusiastic and only occasionally terrified by the ramifications of what we were doing. But often enough, I would run across articles like this one, which reassured me that even though they would never admit it, the Educational Experts Of The Day were advocating for learning environments that sounded an awful lot like what we were already doing at home:
And so I was satisfied to follow my daughters' lead, just as John Holt suggested I do, and our happy homeschooling life continued.
But as time went by, I began to hunger for something more. While I really was content to let my daughters continue to explore the world at their own pace, I also wanted a to create a window in their lives through which I could show them some interesting things they had not yet experienced or thought to ask about.
With a little trial and error, I hit upon the PERFECT solution:
|Checking out Native American art at our favorite camping spot, Totem Landing, at Camp Lyle McLeod.|
|Making checkerboards from recycled materials.|
|Counting, sorting and classifying the girls' giant hoard of Beanie Babies.|
|Observing a deer that wandered through our campground at River Ranch.|
|Posing with the bags of litter that we collected at our local beach.|
|Making Mother's Day vases with a friendly troop of older Girl Scouts.|
|Stringing necklaces from handmade beads that were sent to us from another troop.|
|Exploring the lake at Camp Lyle McLeod, with younger siblings and parents who camped with us.|
|Regrouping on the shore after paddling canoes and rowing boats.|
|Using a homemade solar cooker to melt s'mores.|
We joined Girl Scouts.
This organization for empowering girls is well-known and respected around the world. But while most parents consider troop activities to be an after-school, enrichment activity for their daughters, Girl Scouting became my family's educational bread and butter.
As soon as I understood the program and saw its potential, I leaped in with both feet. I trained to become a leader, then started growing troops for each of my daughters. By the time my youngest came of age, I was leading over fifty girls, and holding four ninety-minute troop meetings each week, plus countless field trips, special outings, and weekend camping trips.
I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
The iconic Girl Scout achievement badges were an important part of the process. Because the badges are grouped into five general categories that highlight science, math and environmental activities as well as arts and crafts, cooking, and health and fitness, it was easy for me to generate an interesting range of fresh experiences, week after week after week. In order to earn those highly coveted prizes, the girls were willing to try anything. So basically, I used the Girl Scouting program as a format for my daughters' education - a curriculum, if you will - and my darling little scouts begged me to keep the lessons coming.
* * * * *
These photos are proof that my daughters were caught up in a happy community of girls who were learning and growing and exploring together. But there is so much more that isn't captured in the pictures. We sang, we laughed, we talked, we treated each other with respect, and talked about our hopes and dreams. We ate snacks together, and brought in our pets for Show and Tell. We slept overnight together and we got scared of the dark together.
And yes, as any pack of little girls will do, we sometimes hurt each others' feelings and made each other cry. But we also figured out how to work problems out, and to apologize, and to keep on being friends.
In short, Girl Scouting served as that window to the greater world that I was hoping to find. Under my leadership, my daughters experienced the world in countless new ways. Yet within the context of the troop, my direction and guidance felt like a gentle invitation rather than an authoritative command.
I think John Holt would have approved.