I have written here about my journey homeschooling the boys from day one. When I go back and read my old posts it fascinates me how our homeschooling has evolved (and continues to evolve), and in ways I never had intended.
When I started homeschooling I was like many new homeschooling parents in that I tried to bring the traditional classroom in our school room. As a public school student myself, it was difficult to imagine any other way to school. I spend hours reading and talking to homeschooling moms about curriculum options, and I was overwhelmed by all of the available choices. Too many options is not always a great thing!
Then I read The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home and decided to follow this method of homeschooling and ended up purchasing many of the books they suggested. And the boys and I were bored.
Then we joined Classical Conversation, a classical-based homeschooling co-op that meets once a week. It seemed perfect at first and I was completely sold on the premise when I went to the three-day intro meeting. CC teaches that the early years are best spend memorizing facts (memory pegs) which you will learn to apply and debate during middle school and high school. When they explain it, it sounded brilliant. And if you google the reviews of CC it is difficult to find anyone who isn't thrilled with the program. My sister Heather has her kids in it and they not only love it, they are thriving! Probably because her kids are just super smart. :-)
I don't know about you, but listening to my children memorize seemingly random history facts, Latin declinations, and math theories and sing annoying songs as memory aids is not my cup of tea. And my boys were unfortunately not thriving with this method. They didn't like to memorize facts, they were more interested in asking "why" and finding answers. Singing the memory aid songs was killing their interest in learning. And driving me crazy!
Amazon and I are good friends since I feel you can never have too many books in your house, and it was sometime last year when I read Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything and Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners. They were both rather boring in parts (not like those free zombie Kindle books I like to read ;-), but suddenly I realized that I was going about homeschooling in completely the wrong way.
I looked at how I personally learn. I never liked going to class, I found it terribly boring (shoebox dioramas, YUCK). I did well in school in spite of my boredom because I have a gift of memorizing for tests, but ask me about something I learned in a class a year later (well, a month later) and I was clueless.
I did fine in college and got my BS (ironic?) in Genetics and worked for years in genetic/cell biology/biochemistry labs. I enjoyed doing experiments and graphing/calculating results, but I had no interest in getting my PhD and having to beg for money (grants), write boring papers, and have my underlings do all of the fun lab work.
So I had kids and sat around depressed realizing I had no Plan 2 if I wanted to stay home with the boys. If you leave science for several years to raise your kids your techniques and education can become obsolete. My husband told me to relax (he should just tape this and push play) and hopefully something would come up. So without any plans I just decided to wing it.
When I had little babies I taught myself to sew and started sewing diapers for them and invented my own diaper pattern. Then I decided I really wanted to learn more about photography since I was taking photos of the kids all day long. So late evenings between breast-feeding I was reading books on Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography and spending hours learning how to improve my photos. I walked into my first job when I met a wedding photographer at a friend's wedding who was looking for a photo-editor, and he hired me to edit for him.
My sister Heather kept on asking me "how did you edit that photo" so I started this blog so she wouldn't keep on harassing me with stupid questions. ;-) I had fun writing actions and tutorials and posting about my life, and suddenly realized people than my sister were reading my blog, so I decided I had to learn how to design websites so I could make my blog more presentable.
I spent many a late night reading about CSS, HTML, and website design and hours and hours playing on the computer. I found out I loved it and not only designed my own site, but started to do some part-time website design to bring in some extra money to support my CoffeeShop blogging addiction.
A few years later I am still having incredible fun, and everything I do now I learned without going to a traditional school. No one has asked me to see my graphic design/photography degree. ;-) Other than a few books I purchased, I spent nothing for my education other than hours and hours of personal time including late-night reading and playing (my poor husband!). I am self-motivated, never bored, and this has allowed me to make some money to help support my family and stay at home while having a much needed creative outlet.
I read somewhere that our American school system is not broken, it is working exactly like it was initially designed to work. History tells us that in the not-so-far past rich kids had their own tutors or went to boarding school while the poor kids usually didn't get any schooling as they were needed to work to help feed their families. So what to do with all of the middle-class kids?
In the time of factories Americans needed workers who could read and write, do some math, and work in jobs where they would do what they were told, much like worker bees. These are important jobs that helped our country grow and flourish and this method of schooling was very effective for the time.
But the times, they are a-changing. With the unbelievable technological explosion, I honestly feel that the school system as historically designed is rapidly becoming obsolete. And now with the internet and free on-line schools/colleges, you can learn anything you want, any time of the day or night. We aren't limited to books in the library, public school systems, or even colleges. I can't even guess what education will look like in a decade, but I really feel we can't educate our kids using methods developed over a hundred years ago.
So then I started becoming a bit of a "radical" thinker and started reading about "unschooling". I found an interesting blog by Penelope Trunk. She makes a great case for homeschooling without using curriculum and I really enjoy reading many of her posts. However, she also has many unschooling theories (like benefits of unlimited video game play time for kids) that almost make my head explode. I personally think video games are like junk food; great fun and won't kill you in limited doses. Interacting with the real world is so much more important.
I don't know if my feelings (dislike) about video games are reasonable, but I do know that the internet is invaluable for education. We just came back from a car trip to Palo Duro Canyon (second biggest canyon in the US, called the "Texas Grand Canyon"). It was one of the most beautiful parks I have ever visited. When we got home last weekend I realized we had our science curriculum for the next week or two.
We were captivated by all of the wind farms and oil pumping units (nodding donkeys), so that lead to an hour of you-tube videos on the manufacture and operation of both, and then on to a healthy discussion of the pros and cons of all types of energy capture, including renewable and nonrenewable energy. We even watched a video of inventions of possible future wind farms and discussed that their usage of hundreds of vertical wind turbines would chop up birds into bloody bits!
Our next project with be discussing the formation of canyons and what type of rock are found in Palo Duro. I am also interested in the area's Indian history, and I am excited to read more about it and discuss it with the kids. Wow, I just realized we have our history curriculum for the next few weeks.
So this is our homeschooling life; messy, not always well-organized, and absolutely amazingly fun! We don't sit in front of a screen all day playing games, listen to boring lectures, or try to plan our day similar to the kids in public schools. We get out as much as possible and explore this amazing world, we devour books and you-tube videos, and we "do" rather than sit passively letting someone else tell us what they think we need to know.
Yesterday I was trying to do some laundry and the kids were really quiet and that set off my "mom alarm". I checked on them in our school room and they had dragged out some of my embroidery books and thread and Duke was teaching Imp to embroider. Neither had ever done this before, so it was really interesting to watch them interact. Imp told me that Duke was a great teacher (and he is), but that he was a quick learner (and that is also true). An hour later Imp brought me his first embroidery project which he designed on his own, a picture of a space video game on a TV with a little video controller on the ground next to it.
Yep, you can teach your boys to embroidery, but you can't take the boy-ness out of their project… And so our homeschool adventure continues.
I would love to hear your comments on what you think the future of school will look like. And what do you think about allowing children unlimited time on video game? Am I being too judgmental and old-fashioned?
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