We've invited moms who inspire us to share their stories with Momtastic for our Super Mom Series. Kelley King, who began homeschooling her eight-year-old daughter two years ago, has created her own unique approach to teaching that incorporates food, music, art, and dance. And the results have been amazing! She recently shared her inspirational story with Momtastic writer, Rita Mauceri.
My journey began two years ago when my daughter was enrolled in first grade at a public elementary school in Los Angeles. We loved it there, but I needed the flexibility to travel for several months for family reasons, and removing my daughter from school for that long wasn’t practical. So, we decided to try homeschooling her for a semester.
We live in an urban area where homeschooling is uncommon, and my only concern initially was that the community we live in might reject us for our choice. For the most part, people were very accepting, but a few people we know wouldn’t even talk to us! I was surprised because I feel parents, myself included, are trying to make the best choices they can for their children in terms of education, even if those choices are unorthodox.
Our homeschooling process started with a pile of library books. My daughter and I took turns reading to one another and within three months, her reading level went from second grade to fifth grade, which was an incredible eye-opener! At that point, I realized putting her back in school might not be the best thing for her and that our semester of homeschooling might turn into much more.
I researched existing homeschooling curricula, but none offered what I was looking for — so, I decided to create my own from scratch. I’m a graphic designer and my daughter loves art, so I knew visual learning had to be part of the process. I also love to cook and wanted to integrate lots of food into the lessons. From there, I incorporated music, dance, film, and folklore. Gradually this rich, multi-dimensional, creative curriculum began to emerge.
Instead of using a prepared curriculum or studying one subject at a time in depth (unit studies), which is a typical homeschooling method, we use a different process. My daughter tackles core subjects daily: math, grammar, spelling, studio art or music, current events, exercise and handwriting. Then, the rest of the day is devoted to a single, immersive subject like ancient history, creative writing, science lab, music or art appreciation, or foreign language. We do lots of field trips, hikes, and museum excursions with friends who are at the local public schools.
I also like to use a comparative studies approach to subjects. For instance, we studied the Silk Road and the ancient civilizations along it: China, India, and Persia. I played the music from these countries throughout our weeks of study and my daughter practiced the musical styles on her harp. She also created art from the regions (sand mandalas, paper making, Chinese brush painting, and calligraphy). Together, we read folktales from each country and talked about each society's inventions and contributions to science, writing, and mathematics. For physical education, she tried related activities like T'ai Chi, Yoga, and Bollywood Dance, which was so fun!
At the end of every historical era we study, my daughter designs a menu and we invite friends over to share the food and music of that time. At the conclusion of our Silk Road studies, for example, we held a feast where the first course started in Chang'an, China, and each successive course moved west through China, Central Asia, and Persia and all the way to Venice for dessert in honor of Marco Polo. We played music from each region for each course, screened a Silk Road documentary, sampled ancient ales from Dogfish Head (the adults, that is), and talked about life during that time.
I intend to put her back in school one day; that is important to me. I want her to be able to participate in discussions and debates with peers, and experience the social growth that comes with middle and high school.
I never quite imagined when we began homeschooling that it would lead us on this path. It has been an incredible learning experience and a journey of discovery for my daughter and our entire family — even our friends!