I know that Christmas is just days away. I should probably be writing about defusing holiday stress, how we observe advent, or homemade gift ideas. You know, the usual Christmas-time blog stuff. As I type I am watching my mom and my two kiddos string the lights on to the Christmas tree here at their house where we are visiting for the holidays (halfway across the country from us). I’m feeling very Christmasish… but it’s more of a wordless-soul-saturating-exhaling of just simply enjoying the moments. I just can’t bring myself to write out the stuff I’m living and thinking right now, because I’m too busy savouring it all.
So, I want to write about the mad swirling of thoughts that rush through my brain lately on a quite unrelated topic. I’ve been researching and reading about education (specifically of children, more specifically with a mind to my own children) since before my first child was even born (over three years ago).
A long time ago – possibly before I even got married almost a decade ago – I acquired the notion that when I had children of my own, I wanted to homeschool them. I don’t remember how that desire came about, but I know that I’ve had it for a very long time. Since my children have been born the desire has remained constant, but my knowledge on the subject has been steadily increasing and widening.
I used to think that homeschooling meant setting up a little classroom in my home, teaching the kiddos a math/science/language/writing unit, then getting them to do worksheets, projects (oh! the bristol board fun we could have!), essays, and tests. Regular school done at home with just us, in essence.
Then I discovered that there are in fact very different philosophical approaches as to the best way to educate children. Many of them, actually. There is the Traditional Method, the Unit Study Method, the Charlotte Mason Method, the Unschooling Method, the Classical Method, the Literature-Based Method, the Workbox Method, the Leadership Education Method, and the Eclectic Method. You can read descriptions and find links for further research into each of these methods from this post (and the Part Two follow-up post) at Simple Homschool (an excellent blog on all things homeschool with many contributing writers and experts). There are undoubtedly even more not covered in that post.
So, if you thought that homeschooling was simply about deciding which curriculum to use, then you (like me several years ago) have a lot of reading ahead of you. Assuming you want to make a fully informed decision, that is. That is not meant to intimidate or scare you though – I very much enjoy my research, and continue to find it exciting and gratifying.
As I have read and researched and engaged in many a discussion with my husband, I have found myself naturally gravitating toward one or two specific philosophies. At this point I am most drawn toward and convinced by the philosophy of the Unschooling method (which is perhaps the most different of them all), with perhaps some eclectic bits and pieces thrown in as desired, and a definite nod to the Leadership Education Method (at least from what I have read so far since my very recent introduction via this website, as it seems to mesh quite well with the unschooling method. I believe the founder was a Mormon, which doesn’t necessarily negate the method but it is a note of importance, in my mind).
Unschooling is built on two simple observations, as outlined by this article. First, that children are natural learners. Second, that “forced learning kills the desire to learn”. I plan to do a follow-up post on Unschooling, going more in depth, but for now I will just say that from all I have come to believe and observe in my own children, the idea of unschooling is probably the most incredible and potentially life-altering possibility I have come across in a very long time. I hardly dare to allow myself to become too excited about it because it is much, much larger than simply my kids’ schooling plans. It is a way of life that busts out of the box with a vigour and revolutionary mindset. When you wholeheartedly believe that the system offered by society is inherently flawed and harmful to children, this possibility of a better way simply quivers with wide-eyed excitement and inspiration.
If you want to know more about unschooling or interest-led learning (terms often used interchangeably), then be sure to explore the following resources:
Curious About Unschooling? (the same article linked above)
Some books I am hoping to read soon:
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (by John Taylor Gatto. I am partway through this one already)
How Children Learn (by John Holt. He also wrote “How Children Fail”)
There are lots more books by the above authors that I want to check out, as well as tons of other resources beyond that. If you are someone who tends to dismiss things like this as way too hippy/weird/out-of-the-box/crazy without really truly looking into it first, then my challenge to you is to do your research and then get back to me. Let’s discuss, let’s learn together, and let’s encourage each other to give our children the best possible opportunity to learn and succeed in life.
I know that any (good) parent truly wants the best for their child. I believe that providing the opportunity for my child to learn in a way that is most conducive to his success – even if it’s way out of the box – is not only my duty as a parent, but my privilege. And so I carry on with this journey researching unschooling and other philosophies of education, keeping an open mind to learn and a passionate heart, hoping that my children will learn to do the same.