Friday, February 26, 2016

Homeschool Values



I read a few blogs that are homeschool related, and one of my favorite ones is SimpleHomeschool.net with Jamie Martin. She does a weekly link post and I found this great quiz that got me thinking. Why does homeschooling have such value to our family that we're willing to forgo a second-income? Why does our lifestyle look so drastically different than our peers? The What Kind of Homeschooler are You? quiz gave me a little reminder on why I do what I do.

The quiz gives you eight outcomes that match with homeschooling philosophies, from unschooling to traditional classroom-style, to Thomas Jefferson Educational theory. My three highest outcomes didn't surprise me one bit. The philosophies I most accept as we homeschool are: Charlotte Mason, Montessori method, and Unit Studies. Here is a brief overview from the quiz outcome page that breaks each of these three down:

Montessori

  • The parent’s most important job in education is to teach the child how to learn.
  • Parents should model a love for learning, a love for work, a curious nature, and read a lot.
  • Education should include practical activities like household chores or handcrafts.
  • Children should have long periods of uninterrupted time for child-led study.
  • Children should learn at their own pace.

Charlotte Mason

  • Short lessons with focused attention are better than big chunks of time.
  • Living books are a great tool for learning.
  • Learning ideas is more important than memorizing facts.
  • Children should spend lots of time outside.
  • It is better to study a wide variety of subjects than to focus mainly on reading, writing, and math.

Unit Studies

  • Lessons that can be used with multiple ages and grades are best.
  • Topical studies are a great way to learn.
  • Incorporating many different subjects into one study is preferable.
  • Living books, projects, and activities are preferable to textbooks, workbooks, and worksheets.
  • Topical studies help children make connections between subjects.

If I had to describe these teaching styles as they pertain to our homeschool in one word or phrase, I'd say: Real-Life, Good Books, and Synergy, respectively.

When my kids were toddlers, and I first started researching alternative education and homeschooling, Montessori method was one of the first I came across that really resonated with me. I took my family every year to the children's bazaar at the local Montessori farm school in our community, and although our paycheck couldn't compare with the school's tuition prices, I valued so much of what they were instilling in those young kids: real life experience with gardening, food prep and cooking, animal care and related handicrafts, etc. using child-size tools and materials. I took that knowledge home and started implementing chores from a young age with my own kids. For example, my kids are now 7 and 8, and are fully capable dish-washers, launderers, recyclable organizers, and they're 'getting there' (i.e. they still need my oversight) at bathroom cleaning, lawn care, and cooking. They've used small, child-size tools since they were a kid, and were expected to help out.

The second method listed is Charlotte Mason (CM) pedagogy and has been a natural outpouring of my personal habits and hobbies; it has naturally flowed into our homeschool. The two biggest takeaways for our family has been reading good books and a large chunk of uninterrupted time in the afternoons for the kids to do whatever they want (within boundaries). I've seen a lot of creativity come out of that 'boredom' time, and just as I write this, my kids are spending their Quiet Time (2.5 hours daily after lunch) outside playing together in the backyard for the last 90 minutes. I recommend to anyone who will listen to be consistent in instilling a quiet time in your home for your children who've given up their naps. You will reap the rewards for years.

The last educational philosophy that makes complete sense to me is Unit Studies, which generally combines multiple ages and abilities, goes deep with one topic, and includes all academic studies focusing on that topic. I also see Unit Studies as very similar to Project-Based Learning, only perhaps PBL is more child-directed, and US is perhaps more facilitator-directed. For example, a Unit Study on Magic could include history and geography (which cultures around the world and throughout history had illusion/magic?), writing, spelling, reading (reading a fictional book or nonfiction book about a historical magician/illusionist and write a paper or other writing activity), math and science (figure out illusions and *why* our natural perceptions are 'tricked' into believing them). The possibilities are endless. I can see so many connections to how children learn, what they learn, and how it's all synced together that make me value homeschooling with a unit-study mindset.

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If you've stuck with me this long, congratulations! This is one of my wordier posts, but an important one for me to write for myself. Why do we value homeschooling so much that we're willing to take a financial loss, adjust our lifestyle, and take full responsibility for their educational outcomes as well?

 We value, among other things, what this quiz has led me to remember: self-sufficiency, work ethic, good books, life-long learning, margin, and interconnectedness that spans subject, interest, passion, skill, and purpose. That's why we homeschool.

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