Homeschooling Methods and Jigsaw Puzzles

As you probably already know, we’re a homeschooling family. Many of you who have been forced by the pandemic to consider homeschooling are probably learning that there are vastly different ways to homeschool. If I were to label our homeschooling style, I’d say it was independent eclectic with strong leanings toward unschooling.

My eldest child is 13 years old, so, since we believe that learning starts at infancy, we often say that we’ve been homeschooling for 13 years. In those 13 years, we’ve tried a number of homeschooling methods. In the beginning, I fell in love with Waldorf. I had some concern about the spiritual aspect of it, but found a Christian Waldorf resource. We tried it out, but it involved an entire lifestyle that wasn’t always easy to keep up, so we took the bits that we liked and tried out other things that we thought might suit us better. It was early days, so we did a lot of sampling. At preschool age, my daughter ended up doing a lot of lapbooks and project-based homeschooling. 

In between then and a couple of years ago, we sort of fell into unschooling. I was busy with work, autism revelations, new babies, homemaking, etc. and it was just easier to let Marguerite follow her interests since I didn’t have the energy to be consistent with any structured curriculum. In those years, she got very good at different forms of art, amassed an impressive vocabulary, turned herself into a grammar Nazi, and cultivated a hodgepodge of really cool interests. She was definitely behind in Math. Her grasp of Science was splotchy but okay, probably not any worse than what I’ve retained after 15 years or so of traditional schooling. Her historical and trivial knowledge, however, was impressive. 

It was mostly going okay, except that I felt a lot of guilt and disquiet about the total absence of “schooling,” and I experienced a lot of anxiety about the future. I obviously didn’t go through proper deschooling like I should have to properly embrace the concept of unschooling. So, about two years ago, I decided to try another homeschooling approach that had interested me in the beginning. Charlotte Mason appealed to me because it prioritized a lot of the subjects and skills I valued. I like the idea of copywork, nature studies, narration, living books, classical art studies, practical crafting, etc. We tried following Ambleside Online’s curriculum, but we tended to deviate from it to read and do whatever the kids preferred, so, as with Waldorf, we took the bits that suited us and moved on.

I want to say that we switched back to unschooling, but it wouldn’t be true. I feel that there are skills and knowledge that my kids would benefit from and should acquire whether they’re interested in them or not, so I include them in their to-do lists.

I do still subscribe to a lot of Waldorf and Charlotte Mason resources and I remain a member in the FB groups oriented to these learning methods because there are just some things about them that I really love. Of course, I also affiliate our family with unschoolers because we just identify with them so much.

At any rate, in a local Charlotte Mason group, I recently came across a post advertising jigsaw puzzles depicting famous paintings. I was instantly interested. I love art, I love puzzles, and I loved that these ones were very reasonably priced. I would have liked to order every design available, but I convinced myself to calm down and just start with four. I let Marguerite choose two and I chose the other two. She chose Starry Night (Van Gogh) and Mona Lisa (Da Vinci) because “we should have those,” and I ended up going with Spoliarium (Luna) and Open Window (Matisse).

The seller (The Art of Homemaking) was very accommodating and the transaction went smoothly. I had the puzzles (and all my other shipments) delivered to my parents’ house because there’s always somebody there to receive parcels. I didn’t get to check them out until the day after when we visited my folks. While still there, I decided to try working on one and chose Starry Night. My sister worked with me for a short while, but I did it by myself for the most part. It’s pretty challenging for a small puzzle set (A4-sized, I believe). Of course, I was a bit distracted because I was also chatting with other people and watching TV the entire time (never say that I can’t multitask, lol). It took me two NCIS episodes and one NCIS New Orleans to finish it. We don’t have a TV at home – and obviously for good reason- so I binge watch when I’m at my folks’.

The kids and I worked on Starry Night again at home. It wasn’t in one sitting, so I’m not sure if it took longer or not. When we were done, we debated on whether to hang it on the wall in our homeschool room or not, but decided to break it up again so we could have it as an activity option when we have people over (after the pandemic ends, of course) or whenever we feel like challenging ourselves again. I think it will eventually go up on the wall though. Anyway, I think we’re doing the Mona Lisa next. It’s probably going to be easier than Starry Night, but we’ll see.

There’s only Marguerite in the picture because the boys liked to flit around. That orange on the table is actually Cameron’s. Usually when they’re doing mental work, I diffuse a blend of Peppermint and Lemon essential oils for clarity and focus. 

In any case, these puzzles are a great tool for teaching kids about the masters. They’re definitely more engaging than simple prints. If you’re interested, you can go to The Art of Homemaking Facebook page to check out the different available designs. This is not a sponsored post, btw, in case you’re wondering.

Anyway, puzzles hold happy associations that brim with ‘80s nostalgia for me. Since I do like exposing the kids to old school childhood elements, this activity is a win in multiple ways.

What about you? How do you feel about jigsaw puzzles? Are you homeschooling? What method are you using? Do you have a TV at home? How do you feel about the ‘80s? Let me know!

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