UGH! A new year is coming up. What are we going to do?
We’ve been asking this question all summer long. Up until now, we have experimented with various methods of homeschooling.
The first year (2004-2005 school year), we did “school at home”, a common mistake among new homeschoolers. Because we grew up in the school system, it seemed natural to translate the school environment to home. But it felt stilted. It felt wrong for our family. Homeschooling quickly became a battle of wills. “You WILL do this worksheet!” “OK.. now it is time for science!” Even lunch was scheduled.
It sucked. No one wanted to teach and no one wanted to learn.
Then I read about “deschooling”. Deschooling is a period of adjustment – learning to live without the reinforcement of grading and regimented learning. Often, it is the parent as much as the child who needs to deschool. When we’ve been raised to believe and think of education in one particular way, it is hard to have a shift in thinking. So we took the school year of 2005-2006 off for this purpose.
The 3rd year (2006-2007), I tried the “unit study” approach. Honestly, we did love this way. We learned about pioneers, Ancient Egypt, and astronomy. We had a lot of fun and so much was learned. It showed when Mikayla had testing completed on her in 2006. She was a grade level above in social studies as well as science. We didn’t use curriculum but real books from the library and bought used books on the specific subjects we were learning.
But we were still butting heads. I doubted myself as a teacher of my kid. Our personalities clashed. And even fun subjects took much wrestling to get cooperation. Plus, with my trying to form a complete and thorough unit study from scratch for each topic, I found myself quickly burnt out from all of the intense preparation.
2007-2008 found us experimenting again. Somewhere along the way (but long before this time frame), Mikayla had lost her love of learning. We knew of several homeschooling families who had successfully unschooled their children. Their children had the passion to pick up new topics and learn them on their own. They had initiative, creativity, and knew how to learn. If my children only learn a few things, I want one of them to be knowing how to learn.
Unschooling takes the approach that children direct their own learning, not a teacher or textbooks. By providing a resource rich environment, children have a natural bent to learn of the things around them. The parent can guide them but never force them to learn. The child chooses why, when, how, and what topics to pursue. We set a time guideline for this experiment… if by the summer of 2008, Mikayla had not shown the initiative to learn or the progress (even a little bit) in key academic areas, then we’d reconsider how we were homeschooling.
The school year flew but Mikayla showed no initiative. All she cared to do was watch movies, play with her Nintendo DS, play on the computer, or play with her friends all day. The one good that came out of the experiment? She progressed quickly from reading simple books to chapter books.
Many would say we are doing Mikayla a disservice with this fluctuating homeschooling adventure. But we don’t see it that way at all. Through this journey, we have learned alot about Mikayla’s learning styles and interests. But more importantly, we have been learning that developmentally Mikayla wasn’t really ready for formal academics.
We were pushing learning down her throat when she wasn’t really ready for that type of learning. Recently while researching homeschooling methods, we’ve been learning alot about classical education as well as the Hebraic model of education. One surprising fact is that in Old Testament Jewish times, formal learning didn’t even begin until the age of 10. Even Charlotte Mason advocates more experiential learning in the early childhood years. Not saying there was no learning before the age of 10… just not formal, rigorous learning.
All children go through specific learning stages: the knowledge stage, the understanding stage, and the wisdom stage. Many educators know these stages more commonly as the Trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) stages in the classical model of education. We’ve seen this in Mikayla. She easily accumulated trivia facts: for example, she knew every scientific name for the dinosaurs or could identify every breed of horse. Now as she hits 10 years of age, she has started expressing a desire to learn more about various subjects, even those that don’t necessarily interest her per se such as math. She is starting to ask questions that are more abstract versus concrete. Her development and maturity seems to be hitting that magical moment when she is more open to formal academic studies. So we have been researching what educational method would best suit our family to meet the needs of our girl.
Tomorrow, if you’ll indulge me more, I’d like to journal my initial thoughts of the methods we have been learning: Christian classical education, Hebraic educational model, Charlotte Mason, and the Well-Trained Mind.