just that they do learn it.
It just keeps happening: people asking me if something we do "counts" as school. I related the story of the swimming lessons ("does this count as PE?") before. But even homeschooling moms do it.
The topic was spelling. Spelling comes up a lot, even at the playground. I related that I have a "natural speller" in my house, so I don't use a spelling curriculum or program for her. And I got that oh-so-familiar "you have two heads" look.
"You don't teach her spelling?"
"No. She doesn't need it."
"But... don't you need to teach spelling?"
"No. She doesn't have any trouble spelling. Sometimes she asks for a spelling test, so I grab a book she's reading and pull words from that. She mostly gets them right. If she gets something wrong, she learns it and doesn't get it wrong again."
"But does that count?"
I don't know how to answer that. How can it not "count?" The objective of a spelling program is to teach someone to spell. If the person knows how to spell... what is the purpose of trying to teach her to spell? My other child has a lot of trouble with spelling, so we do use some spelling curriculum.
It's the same thing with vocabulary.
"What do you use for vocab?"
"Nothing. We just read."
"We read, and when unfamiliar words come up we talk about them, or if the kids come across a word they don't know in their reading, they ask [I have to admit they don't use the dictionary much right now] and we talk about it."
"But don't you have to teach vocabulary?"
You might think that my kids have very limited vocabularies, given that I don't teach it as a subject. But they don't. They have very strong and varied vocabularies, if I do say so myself. This is their best area when it comes to their standardized tests; they always score very high. (Which is a good thing, because they don't always do so great on punctuation. That does not come naturally to them. Guess what? I do teach them grammar and punctuation.) This is simply a result of all of our reading. And, I think, not talking down to them when they were little. We always used "hard words" and explained them, rather than always using simpler words.
If a child learns to build furniture in Grandpa's garage rather than shop class, does it still count? Only if the chair doesn't fall apart when he sits in it, I guess. If a child learns to sew or cook at home, rather than home ec class (does that even exist anymore?), does it still count? Only if there are no wardrobe malfunctions or cases of food poisoning.
It's the same with "school subjects." If I start reading to my kids from our history book (having history class, so to speak), and one of my kids starts telling me what I'm about to tell him, or fills in more information than the book gives about the event or person, does that knowledge, acquired through the child's personal reading on an interesting topic, count? Does it count if he learned it by watching a documentary? Or how about from talking to someone knowledgeable on the topic, say at a museum or over the dinner table?
Kids can learn in all sorts of places and in many different ways. As long as they learn the skill, or internalize the information, or make the connections, it counts - because they know it, and that's the goal. Isn't it?