Friday, May 11, 2007

Homeschooling Heresies

Along the way, I have often been asked "how" I homeschool, and especially, what curriculum I use. I've been teaching my children at home for twelve years, and in that time I have come to hold some quirky views. Which I will now share. Remember, of course, that this is what works for *my* family.

1. Curriculum doesn't matter. I don't care what I use to teach my children. Give me something, and I will make it work. I am deeply wary of the desire for perfect teaching materials, and I view the search for the magic bullet curriculum as a time and money pit. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you sat down with your child and together engaged in mastering an idea.

2. Mastery is everything. If my child can demonstrate that they understand and can do, we're out of there. Frankly, I have better things to do than spend twenty minutes rounding up tongue depressers, mylar balloons, and exposed light bulbs in order to demonstrate some science concept I can explain in thirty seconds. Further, if you can do the last three problems on the math page just fine, I won't waste your time asking for all the odd-numbered problems.

3. Diligence counts too. School isn't negotiable--we do school every day. I don't care if your essay is mis-spelled, just write it already! Just show up.

4. Trust the child on enrichment. The *idea* of unit studies is just fine, but my experience says that if my child expresses an interest in, say, butterflies, that if I jump on that and assign him to find five butterflies, read about metamorphosis, and create butterfly artwork, he will suddenly find butterflies the most boring subject in the world. Leave them alone! If they're interested *they* will create or request the opportunities to learn more.

5. Live an interested life. I cannot put this in bold enough face. You are interpreting the world to your child. Is it fascinating for you? Are you engaged in creating, in thinking, in knowing people? Do you make music, take pictures, cook, teach yourself to sew, hike someplace new, learn to fish, eat at a new restaurant, take the back way into town? Are you reading about the history of mental illness, repairing furniture, learning to oil paint? *Show* your child how interesting the world is, and they will love to learn.

And that is what we're after, isn't it?

45 comments:

Milehimama said...

"Mastery is everything"... reminds me of an Albert Einsein quote:
'You don't truly understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother'

Mama Says

Cheryl (Copper's Wife) said...

Well said.

EEEEMommy said...

Excellent post! Encouraging and challenging at the same time! Thank you for sharing!

Laura said...

Beautifully said! I have had enough of being asked for my "secret". There's no secret. Be engaged, interested, loving, creative and you won't be able to STOP them from learning. Put God first, trust Him all the way...and your little ones will grow up just fine. :) You're so encouraging and I look forward to checking in each week. I've even started painting again...and your suggestion to use something that smells delightful to mop my floors...has changed my attitude about that "chore". Mmmm... The house smells divine.

Deana (Dee) said...

Hi Anna,

I Love Tip number 5 the best! I was convicted the moment I read it. I don't homeschool yet I am my childs best teacher!

Blessings,
Deana

fairmaiden said...

Thank you for the encouraging suggestions...if we are enjoying learning & living they do too. For God loves a teachable heart at ever age. I think I will paint next week! Your blog is very beautiful...it looks like you live in such a lovely place. Simplicity.

G.L.H. said...

You hit "right on" the mark. Just tell it like it is, sister--thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

so so true ... thanks for sharing.
love life.

Denise
x

Rebecca said...

I can see how some might think these 'quirky' but when I read the first one-I knew I was in for a treat. I am *PREPARING* to homeschool (my children are too young for it to be official) and I try to soak up everything I can, having not been brought up that way. Just in the short time I have HELD homeschool conversations, I have noticed a quest for curriculum.

By the time I reached the last one~I knew for sure it was a treat. Number five is like my personal Life song!

Thanks so much for sharing these.

Jacran Cottage said...

I have the greatest admiration for parents who home school. My son is now 28 so schooling is long past for me. When he was in school I'd never even heard of homeschooling. But even if I had I'm not sure I'd have been able to do it. You must need to have a certain temprament to do it successfully. And successful you've been! Congratulations to you and to your son. You've certainly done each other proud!!

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Excellent! I'm sending this to my daughter (who went through public schools all the way through college but has started homeschooling her oldest).

When I first started homeschooling my son (in second grade), I remember praying a lot about what I should study about homeschooling. I felt God told me not to become an expert in homeschooling but to become an expert regarding my son.

It is quite hard to believe we are now entering our "Senior" year. He is amazing and I know with his quite severe attention problems, he was losing interest in learning already back in the first grade.

I don't get a chance to comment often but your blog is one of a handful that I stop and read as soon as I see it come up on Bloglines.

picketfencemom said...

Excellent post! I couldn't agree more! And on a similar note, people constantly ask us our secret to well-mannered, well-behaved, happy interactive children! I believe Point # 5 can apply here as well. Be involved, be interested, be consistent with attention and discipline, be loving, and set good examples. Many times much more is 'caught' than 'taught'!
Well said!
Blessings,
Amy

Garden Girl said...

One of the best essays I've ever read on homeschooling!

His Girl said...

Wonderful...thank you for sharing!

Storybook Woods said...

I can always tell a longtime homeschooler, they focus on the real stuff !!!! Clarice

Jennifer said...

Wow! I pulled my daughter out of first grade a few months ago...and have been struggling with all the choices. I am trying to keep it simple but constantly worry that I'm not doing enough. I'm printing your post to read when I need centering! Thanks for this and all your other lovely thoughts!

Emily said...

Thank you for sharing this Anna, it's really helpful as I hope to homeschool one day, God willing I get married and have children. I especially love the last point.

In His care, Emily

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your comments on homeschooling. My children are 3, 2, and one on the way. I research homeschooling info. every day as this is the way my husband and I feel the Lord is calling us to educate our children. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to make sure my kids' education will not be inferior and am struggling with that lack of faith and acknowledgement that the Lord is in control. (My husband and I were academically successful in the public school system and I don't want my kids to do worse than we did at my own hand!)

I love your blog and really admire your family's intellect and curiosity. Would you be willing to share your thoughts on "unschooling?"

Mrs. D

AmeliaB said...

My Mom has had some ''odd'' ideas about homeschooling. She has had to indure a lot of raised eyebrows. :-) I turned out all the better for it too. :-)

~Amelia

Kendra said...

I read this post this morning, and have been pondering it all day. I really like what you have to say, and I admire your confidence. You have obviously been successful.
I totally agree with your point in number 2 about not needing a lot of 'stuff' to teach a concept.
I am curious about number 4. About how old is a child, typically, when he starts pursuing more independent study. My oldest is 7, and every now and then she will express a particular interest, but then will "forget" to pursue it. Is there a way to more gently encourage her while still allowing her to be the one in control of seeking that knowledge? Or, maybe she's still a bit too young.
Number 5 is great, it reminds me of a lot of things that I read in Edith Schaeffer's "Hidden Art of Homemaking."

C.A. Worcester said...

Yeah.

Lana said...

Anna, I could not agree more with your comments about homeschooling...as I see it from YOUR vantage point and MY reflections as a first grade teacher in public school.
If I had it to do over...

Janet said...

Anna, this post was such a blessing and an encouragement to me. I have found I have "spun wheels" in the past, switching from one curriculum to another, even on an extremely limited budget. Thank you for your wisdom! I just love your blog.

Janet

Mrs. Rabe said...

Anna,

I completely agree!

I just came from our state convention and I always see ladies struggling to find the "right" thing. We use a lot of living books to learn history, alot of hands-on, nature study for science, lots of music - both listening and playing.

I second what you had to say about setting the example and being interested in life!

mrsrabe.blogspot.com

helene said...

WOW! This is good, good, good. More!

Jen in MS said...

Thanks for sharing Anna,
I have to admit that I was curious about your homeschooling philosophies after hearing of your son's high ACT score!

Deb said...

I do agree! Great advice for moms just starting out. I would love to have read this about 15 years ago.
Debbie

Pamela said...

Such wise advice! I hope you'll consider writing more posts on this topic. You have much to share.

Robyn said...

That's some really good advice to hear as I struggle with the decision to home school or not. I do wonder, though, how it was for you when you first started out, when the kids were young. I have an almost 3 year old and a 1 1/2 year old and I wonder how I would manage the both of them at such a young age when I start working with my oldest. I also wonder how you managed to find time to do things you wanted, hobbies, etc. when the kids were young and you were also home schooling. It seems an overwhelming task, one I'm not sure I'm suited for, but that I really want to be.

Marianna said...

Wonderful! I am not a homeschooling mom, but can attest to number 4 and 5. When my kids have an interest in something we head to the library. We read about it, we talk about it, they draw about it etc...Both have learned much more this way than they ever will with directed "learning."

dianeinjapan said...

You said it all beautifully. I hope you'll write more on this topic, as you can see that you have many interested readers!

You are absolutely engaged in your children's learning, yet relaxed. I love that! I strive for this attitude in our homeschooling. I know what you mean in #2--it irks me when I see time wasted on "fluff" that sometimes doesn't even teach a concept very well!

Eren said...

Thank you for this...really, it is so timely for me.

DangitAnge said...

Very well said!!

Dawn said...

Excellent! Hope you don't mind me linking back to this from my blog! Thanks for the encouragement today!!

Anonymous said...

Posts like this cause me to long for the old days when I was a home school mom! It's just not the same being a home school Grandma, but it's pretty close. You are a home school mom after my own heart. May your tribe increase! Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I'm pretty sure that's my Mom, Julie, in the comment above me. She sent me to your blog. I was homeschooled from 8th - 12th grades. I'm now 35 with three kids 4 and under. Your entry put in words the ideas and concepts I've had floating around my head about teaching our kids at home. Wonderful to see it so clearly in print! Some think because I was homeschooled so long ago that I know exactly what to do in grades K-7, but I don't. The back of my mind I kept thinking, "Teach them life." Your number 5 would describe that further for me. God has already revealed to me the knowledge He can give my kids without me even trying. What a relief!
Thanks for your post....I'm going to send my husband over :-)
Colleen

Jennifer said...

I would like to quote this at length in my blog, with a link to you, of course...
it so perfectly describes my way of thinking that it came as a comfort to me. Here as I start planning the next school year, it is wonderful to find someone who makes me feel understood and not judged. The homeschooling world at large is a hard place to be sometimes - full of comparisons to be made and guilt to be heaped and inadequacies to recall again and again.

There is wisdom here, stated in such a lovely way.

Thanks,
Jen

staceyhoff said...

Your so right! I have discovered much of this after several years of sweating homeschooling,but now I take things more in stride and don't stress- I know that, as you said, "I can make anything work."
Thank You!

Christy B. said...

Wonderful! Thank you! I agree with you, and my littlies do as well.

good_to_be_home said...

I hope you don't mind, but I just linked to this post from my own homeschooling blog....thanks for the down to earth suggestions!

Anonymous said...

It's about time. You said what I've tried to get through to parents for years in a much more concise and understandable manner. THANKS.

~Chautona

Homeschool Mother said...

Very interesting post! Well done.

Amy @ Raising Arrows said...

Well, I must be a heretic as well. I used to think there was a perfect curriculum...I've since grown up. Wonderful insights!
Blessings,
Amy

Composing Hallelujahs said...

well said!!! :)

myheartathome said...

I first read this post way back in 2007. I came searching for it today and google did not let me down. :) In my ninth year of homeschooling now and this is encouraging me once again. :)

Thank you...

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