What works for us - Home School review pt. 2

Every  family is unique, and every child is different so it only makes sense that every home schooling family does what works for them.  That is the beauty of home based education, the freedom to customize each childs education acorrding to their learning styles, interests, and personality.  We also customize how we do "school" around our family dynamics.

I'll save the specifics of curriculum for another post but I wanted to share a little about what home schooling looks like for us.

When I first began a couple years ago I knew nothing about educational philosophies, I had never heard of Charlotte Mason, and I didn't know the names of any common curriculum suppliers.

I researched, read blogs, and printed out all kinds of charts, schedules, and ways to keep us "on track" and motivated.  I scrutinized the public school grade lists to be sure we would cover the exact same material.

Only a few months into the school year our schedules were scrapped out of frustration or they were just plain forgotten about. Feeling like a failure,  I examined other home schooler's daily schedules broken into 15 minute time frames that lasted all day filled in with things like Latin, studying famous painters, and  craft time.  My heart raced just looking at a day like that.  Not my cup 'o tea.  Then I realized that we didn't have to look like anyone else and that there really is no "right" way to home school.  I eventually realized that I needed to start thinking differently about education, rather than just trying to do school in a new location.

We are not a structured family.   Neither mine, my husband's, nor our children's (except maybe 1 of them) personalities lend themselves to rigid scheduling or structure.  It makes us miserable.  Learning shouldn't be miserable, challenging yes, but misery no.

After doing some reading about different philosophies of education, "styles", methods, and 2 years of trial and error....we fall into some kind of ecclectic combination of  "Leadership Education" (You can find more arictles on Leadership Education (here and here.) and  "Literature based Education".... all tied together with an unschooling/ interest led education bow.  Not that we "unschool" but we are casual and non structured enough to warrant a slight aura of unschooling, at least a polite nod to our unschooling comrades.  With a couple subjects we are more or less traditionalists, and have assigned work to complete each day.    We are far from puritans to any one system or philosphy...heck we aren't even puritans to home schooling.   My son is at his public school Kindergarten orientation at this moment.    We do what works for each child, and that changes from year to year.  That's the only method I'm loyal to...finding what works and doing it.

I agree with some of the tenants of "Leadership Education" in that earlier is not always better and I like to keep the preschool  and early elementary years as unstructured and focused on creative, learning play as possible.  My son Roman certainly falls into this type of learning.  He was SO not wired to sit in a desk at 5 years old...even now in 3rd grade he has only 2 subject to complete in a day.  He has formal curriculum for math and for reading/ phonics.  The rest he learns as he experiments, plays, asks questions, and reads books.  We  do social studies out of a curriculum read aloud book but we don't do it every day.

My daughter who is finishing up 5th grade this year added a  Science curriculum to her Language Arts and Math line up from last year.   She also does a ton of reading, researching what ever she's interested in, writing, and creative play.

We are minimalists as far as formal, sit down, "buy a curriculum" book work.   I view education as a life long process, and part of what I want them to learn is a love of learning.  Their schooling should never interrupt their education.  I also view their "School years" as a 13 year process, with lots of time to fill in any "holes" or to learn what they need to learn by the time they graduate.   For example we haven't started learning French (like most Canadian kids do by 4th grade) but we will buy her a Rosetta Stone or some other curriculum in her teen years and she will be motivated by the desire to learn another language.  By then she will have a sense of purpose for wanting to learn French (she already talks about the various countries she wants to travel to) ,she will learn it more quickly, she will retain more of it and she will see the value of it.   Our kids already have a start on Spanish, but I know a desire to communicate better with their Mexican friends will inspire a more diligent study of the language at some point in the future.  I've stopped scrutinizing the list of what their public school counter parts are learning each year to ensure that we line up perfectly.

{examining the geometry of an empty wasps nest}

So much of what kids learn in "subjects" at school...health, Phys.Ed, Home Ec.  etc.  are the things kids can learn by being part of an intentional family.  We learn health by talking about how our bodies work, and why we need to keep them healthy.  We learn about nutrition by eating nutritious meals, we learn sports by playing,  we learn what it means to be a part of a family and community by being a part of a family and community...no crossword puzzles, busy work, and "center" activity sheets needed.

The subject we focus on the most is math.   That was a difficult subject for me as a child and it was so easy to just get left behind, perpetually lost.   The benefit of home schooling for my kids has been that we work on things until we have them mastered, and then we move on with confidence.   We are not on a timeline or trying to keep up with any one else.  We work until we "get it".  If something comes easy to them we can fly through their lessons and skip ahead grades, if something is a struggle we can work at it as long as they need without fear of being left behind.  If we only have time in a day to complete one subject we start with math.

{sibling closeness has been a wonderful side effect of home schooling}

 I guess the biggest thing I've learned this year, other than a better understanding of why and how I want to educate my kids, is just to relax.  I'm not in a competition with the public school,  I don't have anything to prove,  and I don't have my pride wrapped up in my kids academic achievements.   They have the freedom to enjoy learning, and I have the freedom to enjoy them.

{my kids beg to do history lessons, and they are fascinated by maps}

My goal is to encourage and develop each of my child's unique strengths to the fullest potential, while at the same time helping them to overcome, compensate for or just steward well the areas that are a challenge for them.

The funny thing about deficits, learning disabilities, or weaknesses is that, rather than something to be crushed or squelched, they are often a valuable gift that just need to be patiently unwrapped.

Perhaps I'll write more about those gifts in part 3.

{A ceremonial mask, made while we studied ancient India and the people of Mohenjo-Daro}

1 comment:

Marcy P said...

This was such an encouraging post. I almost have a sense of excitment as I consider this for my kids. It's tricky when you have challenges and giftedness within the family dynamic. I think you are doing wonderful job (from what I can see).