Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Real Learning...Homeschooling Philosophy Then and Now

Linking up with Micaela at California to Korea for Homeschooling Dreams: Share your educational philosophy.

Doing school with the Infant of  Prague

I used to have another blog.  Actually, I still have it, but I haven't blogged on it for a long time.  I started that blog back in March, 2010 and last blogged on it in 2011.  Back then I was more opinionated, back then I was more sure that my way, is the right way, the only way.  

Time and experience has softened me. 

Time and experience has taught me that there is more than one right way to raise children and more than one right way to educate them. 

I parent the way I do, because it works for us...but I no longer believe it is THE ONLY WAY.   
It is just the way we do things. 

And, way back on that blog...I wrote the following post.  I called it, Real Learning...and it was all about my homeschooling philosophy.  The Now-Me shudders at what the Then-Me wrote....because the Now-Me knows that Real Learning CAN happen in schools and it can happen at home.  I know that some children thrive in schools and some children thrive at home and it's all okay. 

I'm posting it here now...because some of this is still my philosophy and I've added in some additions/clarifications from the Now-Me (in blue).

Real Learning..March 7, 2010

Since my oldest daughter was just a tiny baby, I've always been attracted to the idea of homeschooling. As a college student, I spent a summer living with a Catholic, homeschooling family while I interned at a nearby museum. That Now-Me is not nearly as shy online as the I'll just go ahead and tell all.  The museum I worked at was Plimoth Plantation.  How cool is that?...I worked at Plimoth Plantation, I didn't wear a costume and dress up though.   That was really my first "up close" look at homeschooling with regular, every-day, normal people....they listened to country music (which at the time, I loved.),  they wore regular clothes (no denim jumpers ;)), and their children were just normal kids (not super genius' nor special needs).  The lifestyle greatly attracted me.

Therefore, when my oldest hit three or so, and all the other playgroup mommies were looking at preschools, we opted to stay home.  The idea of dropping a little 3-yo (who was barely out of diapers and still not even weaned) off to hang out with a teacher and bunch of other 3-yo's just didn't appeal to me.   Then she turned 4...and we continued to opt out of preschool. The Now-Me would probably have no qualms about dropping a 4-year old off at a good, trustworthy preschool other than the fact that I would hate to be beholden to the preschool schedule...that would put too much of a cramp in our homeschooling style so we still opt out of preschool.  By the time she was officially "school-age"   (and yes,by then she had been weaned for some time) I felt we were firmly entrenched in the "homeschooling world".

Over the years, I've learned that homeschooling is not about "keeping my children out of school".  It's not about avoiding  "those horrible public schools" with all the horror stories you hear. For our family, homeschooling is a continuation of attachment parenting.   In some ways this is still true.  I know my weaknesses.  Once my children are weaned, and sleeping in their own rooms and generally, not so needy, I do struggle with attachment somewhat. Homeschooling helps ME in that regard.  I know LOTS of other parents are able to remain attached while using public/private schools, but I tend to be selfish with my time.  I tend to prefer to blog, or surf the internet, or do my own thing, rather than play with my kids or read them stories.  Homeschooling forces me to focus on THEM.  

It is about listening to our children and their needs, letting them learn at their own pace, free from worries about bullies and the teasing of other kids and boys being allowed into the girl's bathroom. (ok, so I guess there are parts of school we want to "protect' our children from).   It's about choosing to still be intricately involved in their education. It's about doing what works for each child, even if that means finding something new for child number two.  While we aren't unschoolers, we aren't strict "school-at-home" types, often choosing to follow the irresistible calling of a warm, sunny, spring day or dropping everything for impromptu playdates. This is still mostly true, although lately we've been moving into the classical mindset.  We've been learning through good books and classic stories and even memorization has its place.

Education is about much more than books and sometimes the best lessons learned happen without being planned.  I love the freedom that homeschooling gives our days, we aren't tied to school schedules or time-lines. We have freedom and time to pursue different interests and activities ...learning things like ice skating and tennis, theater and music and dance.   It is having the chance to observe snakes on hikes or writing stories on rainy afternoons. Still true...I think this freedom of time is one of the biggest draws for me towards homeschooling.  I love not being beholden to the school schedule.  Although now, money constraints prevent us from pursing a lot of those activities.  And, the socialization is the best kind there is, with people of all different ages, children of different ages and families who share our values.  Contrary to popular belief, I'm quite sure our children have more friends than they ever would in school. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we have more "family friends" instead of just "kid friends" and I make friends right alongside my kids. However, the family is still the core of our lives.  Sisters become the very best of friends and it is heart-warming to see an 8-yo teaching her little 5-yo sister how to read.  Change that to an 11-year old and 8-year old teaching their 5-year old brother to read, and it's still true...and still heartwarming. 

Not to say that everything is sunshine and roses, my house is always messy, and there are days I yell way too much and want nothing more than to drop everyone off for seven hours.  However, when it all comes down to it, we would choose real-learning at home, every time.  I'm not sure that I would choose it every time   If we had a really awesome, super great school (preferably Catholic) available to would be a hard choice although I would probably still choose homeschooling.  One thing we've really gotten into the past few years are coops.  I LOVE having my children take just a few classes once a week from another teacher.  We've been very involved in coops over the last few years, and it's been an awesome experience and a great balance of learning from mom and learning from others  I feel that my years of education taught me nothing more than to pursue that 'A', to please teachers, turn my homework in on time, be quiet and obedient and follow the rules.   That is not what I want to teach my children. I want my children to learn that the sole purpose of education is not to get an A or please a teacher that you won't see again once the school year is over. This is still a prime reason why I homeschool.  I did great in school..straight A's, valedictorian...but once I got into the REAL WORLD, I didn't feel all that prepared.  All I was good at was it was kinda a wake-up call when I didn't have school to be good at anymore and I wasn't really good at anything. 

By bells and many other similar techniques they (schools) teach that nothing is worth finishing. The gross error of this is progressive: if nothing is worth finishing then by extension nothing is worth starting either. Few children are so thick-skulled they miss the point. - John Taylor Gatto 
Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know. - G k Chesterton
That G.K Chesterton sure has a way of putting things. 

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  1. Me reading this post is super good timing! I like the approach that your choice is based on what is best for your family. Not some crazy religious zealot, not calling schools horrible, just doing what will help your kids.

    Abigail's service coordinator for her therapies is already pushing for us to start Abigail in preschool in January! At 2.5-years-old! Girl doesn't talk, barely walks, isn't anywhere near potty training and they want me to ship her off, 2.5 hours/day, 5 days/week! I can't see that being the best environment for her to thrive...

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post : )

  2. Amelia, as always, I love your insights. I especially love your reflections on how your philosophy has grown and shifted over time. I find that to be true of almost everything in my life. I have soooo mellowed out about some of the "crunchy" topics that used to make me insane (organic mattresses, anyone?) and the really important topics have emerged.

    I was schooled for most of my life, homeschooled for 2 years, taught for 9 years, and now I homeschool. My husband is a school counselor! I clearly don't hate public schools or school systems, either. We just do what works for us. :)


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