Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

The struggle is human, not homeschool

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Snapshot Joy

The Pinterest, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram images of happy, successful, engaged, active homeschooled children are snapshots of when all the effort you put in clicks—for an instant, for that one project, one morning, one outing.

I love looking at those images—bright red polka dot teapots, open books on a checkered tablecloth, shell collections with annotations, three kids tossing handmade paper airplanes, the family hike with the dog on a leash, yummy health snacks artistically laid out on plates, even the helter-skelter mess of a long runway of cars and blocks and other obstacles down the hall…

We look at these images and think: “I wish my homeschool looked more like THAT.”

But the thing is: that’s how most humans feel about any collection of images. If you are single and wishing to be coupled, all the married photos and anniversaries and big group outings of pairs make you utterly miserable.

If you are childless and your entire feed is filled with babies and showers and strollers and the little monkey next to a four month old pudgy buster, you’re going to think your life is awful and the sun isn’t out for you.

If you do have love and children and a home—basics that are craved by a huge number of people who would settle for your messy hallways and uneaten treats and the bickering of sleepy cranky siblings—you will still find ways to separate yourself from the feeling of wholeness by simply narrowing the scope of your search for what is missing in your life.

So you notice the types of cozy, livable homes other parents create that you haven’t, or the way someone else’s child is “invested” in learning to play chess or memorizing the constellations unlike your stunted-growth 6 year old boy who only cares about ways to torment his little brother with burping noises and won’t. stop.

We are bombarded with images—images of exercising, yummy food, fabulous home styles, married bliss, celebrations, generations of family members smiling for a camera as though they all get along famously. We crave what they sell and forget what they conceal.

We add homeschool images and do the same—wondering how we can get our lives to match those single moments of time.

You already have these moments, too. You may or may not take a snapshot, but scattered through your busy, messy, not quite what you planned days are those golden moments of yummy food, cozy home, invested learning, and love. If you could take photos (and this is why so many people DO take pictures) of those moments and then scroll through your own feed, you might begin to see that you actually are doing it—living the life you always wanted.

It’s just that the life we always wanted comes with mess and hardship and heartache, like every other version of life ever lived. You won’t get a pass. There’s no special key that will end the challenge of raising children so that it is a seamlessly joyful experience start to finish.

It is stupendously joy-filled! We are compelled to have these offspring no matter how many people tell us it will cost us all our life savings, life points, and good looks. The joy—the single moment snapshot joy—outweighs ALL else.

When you start to wonder if you’ve got the stamina to keep going, know that you do. You will. What other option is there?

Within that certainty that you will keep going (whatever that looks like, however your children are schooled), choose deliberately to be alert to snapshot joy. Be a contributor to the stream of happy out there that helps others get ideas, and the hope to keep trying. Include snapshots of when it goes hopelessly wrong so we can comfort you or laugh with you or stand with you.

The struggle to feel good about your life is useful to you. It motivates you to keep at it, to want to improve, to care about outcome. This proves to me and everyone else that you are not depressed and are doing it right.

The next step is proof for yourself: please prove to yourself that you are making a happy life for you and your kids. One snapshot, one moment at a time, even if those moments are a week apart. It all counts! And they all add up to the wonder of your family.
Golden_Moments_quote
Also, if you feel inclined, post some photos (or word pictures) in the comments below or on our facebook page where this was shared originally. Let’s talk about the one moment in the last week that helped you peek out from behind worry to see the good in your life and in your kids.

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Remember this next time you flounder

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Kids_cant_not_learn_blog

Let’s play a game: Tell me one thing one of your kids knows that you don’t know—that the child learned or discovered or understood that you can take NO credit for having taught or informed or instilled in him or her.

Ready? Go!

We got over 100 responses to this on facebook! Here are a few of them:

My middle guy knows HTML language–I know absolutely nothing about this and couldn’t help him if I tried. —Paula

The ratio between femur length and tibia length can help paleontologists make estimations about stride length and how fast a dinosaur could run. —Ellen

How to play Minecraft! —Laura

Stop start animation. —Leah

Aerospace engineering. He is 16 and takes online courses because his mama never learned anything about engineering! —Jean

How to set up and maintain fresh water fish tanks, and how to knit. —Nikki

Egyptian mythology. —Courtney

Computational biophysics. —Rick

My 17 year old always-homeschooled student won the national mandolin championship at Winfield this past year. Mostly self-taught and certainly not something I know anything about! —Susan

Yesterday my daughter told me that MLK jr was born in Georgia. I told her I didn’t think so and she told me she’d read it a couple years ago. I checked and she was right. —Rachel

Chess. They ALL get it and I am just like “my brain hurts!” —Colette

Photo editing, music editing, oh so much Shakespeare. —Sarah

Everything. He is 15. —Anne

So, remind yourself that your kids are learning. They can’t not learn!

And feel free to add to the list!

Image by Brave Writer mom, C (cc)

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You can only do what you can do

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Painting

I’ve had a flurry of phone calls this week. One common thread is that January seduces parents into believing they can fly. There’s something about the start of a new year—the blank slate, the brand new, the no-mistakes-made-yet, the intoxicating elixir of “this year will be different.”

Whatever failed in fall is now up for re-evaluation and redoubling of effort. The urgency to “get something done” for year end evaluations, or to satisfy a skeptical spouse, or to appease your own fantasy of what “should” be happening in your homeschool is surging. The temptation is great: to completely change gears or programs, or to load up on one particular subject area, or to revamp your schedule so that the one neglected child who was happily playing Minecraft all day is now required to sit at the kitchen table for two hours straight every morning (to prove to you that he IS being homeschooled).

My caution: Slow down, Bessie.

You can’t change who you are with the snap of your fingers or all the alarms and whistles of your smart phone. No one new curriculum piece will transform your personal style of being or your natural family rhythm. Worse: if you do the “big overhaul” right now, you may upend all that lovely “settling in” that would naturally happen in January, mid-year.

Huge shifts quoteHuge shifts in philosophy or practice midyear feel like whiplash to kids. They sense that the changes mean whatever came before was “not good enough.” (And what if they were reasonably happy doing whatever before? What if they were just getting the hang of the math book or copywork or the system you use to study history?)

It’s hard to commit to an experiment, too. Your children aren’t reading the home education discussion lists and they aren’t necessarily worried about their educations. You worry (that’s your job).

So what should you do if you are dissatisfied with the program or the schedule or the feel of your homeschool midyear?

Pause. Take notes.

Let yourself consider the good of what IS going on in your homeschool before you assume it is all wrong or messed up. I remember one year when I thought we weren’t doing enough dictation (I had some fantasy that we’d do it a couple times per week per child).

Midyear, I pulled out our notebooks where I collected their work. Page after page of dictation. It wound up being that each child (the three who were writing) had practiced dictation 2-3 times per month and by January, that meant they had done dictation practice 8-10 times. These dictations, in the shiny clear page protectors, showed remarkable effort and growth. Did they need more dictation than that?

No. The answer turned out to be no.

But the temptation to revamp the schedule was so strong, I almost did it without that backwards glance. It was a fluke that led me to examine the notebooks and to recognize that with my personality and our busy lives, getting to some form of dictation 2-3 times a month was not only pretty good, it was getting the job done!

This is what I want you to consider. It may actually be true that the practices in place from fall are enough and are a true reflection of who you are, already. It’s good to pause, to look through workbooks, to flip through photos, to remind yourself of all the ways you explored learning and the world in the fall.

To make an adjustment, follow this plan to help you and your kids make authentic reasonable changes.

Change one egregious subject only.

Don’t get swept up into the “change it all” plan. Save that for summer, when you have time to really think through how the new philosophy will work. If the subject getting you down is your awful co-op composition class for 5th grade, drop it. If your daughter despises the Wordly Wise workbook, shred it. If the math text is confusing even to you, a full grown adult, replace it. Overhaul the one truly awful component in your homeschool.

Make logistical changes first.

Practice context quote 2Rather than throw in the towel on dictation, try new tools or a new environment to see if those recast the practice. You might move dictation to a new time of day, or add candles, or add brownies, or use a digital recorder and let the child do dictation alone in his bedroom, or try typing dictation rather than handwriting, or let the child select her own passage, or have the children pair up to do dictation of jokes with each other, or use gel pens and black lined paper. The point is that sometimes the practice is fine, but the context is tedious or unhelpful.

Re-evaluate pace.

Does the child need to work every single math problem if she already understands the concept? Can you skip the odds or a full chapter? Perhaps you’ve been over-doing it on freewriting. Time to take a break and only have experiences, read books, and play with poetry before freewriting again. If you are trapped in Ancient Greece in history (kids are into it and you are sick of it), consider ways to re-hook your interest to accommodate theirs. You don’t HAVE to follow the four year history cycle just because a book tells you to.

Add or take away one regular out of the house trip.

For some families, if you just stayed home one more afternoon or day, you’d find that everything works beautifully. You’d have enough time and space for everything without rushing or hurrying or interrupting the flow. But there are some families who are home so much, the kids are utterly bored of the four walls and need an exit! Add one exciting outing a week (even going to the mall, the park, a coffee shop, the zoo, McDonald’s play land, a friend’s house, the library) to change the vibe of family life, to have something to look forward to!

You can’t fly. You can only do what you do a little better than you are doing it now, until it stops feeling better…and you tweak it again. Be patient, trust the process, and go do something AMAZING that enlivens YOU (take on a big goal like traveling for a weekend away with girlfriends to see the Chicago Art Institute, or running a half marathon, or going to cooking class, or signing up to get your Master’s degree online).

You’re already doing a better job than you realize. I know because I know.

Consider the good

Image © Michael Spring | Dreamstime.com

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Mother Tongue

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Your alsome

I want to live in a world where the content of written communication is more important than spelling and punctuation.

I want to live in a world where people are generous about typos and the accidental homonym-switcheroo.

I want to write in a world where readers value the risk of self-disclosure that goes into all writing, even blog comments, even Facebook status updates, more than grammatical accuracy.

I want to read in a world where voices very different from mine have access to being published, in their natural writing voices—whether or not they use “prestige English.”

I wish for a world where communication of all forms is regarded as self-expression, and the vibrant ever-changing shape of language is appreciated, not judged as good or bad or in need of protection or preservation.

I like language and people and varieties of spellings and deliberate and accidental misuses of grammar and creative punctuation.

I love seeing the explosion of self-expression that is the Internet—the spontaneous need to share and express and be heard. I love that that hunger overcomes the endless drum beat for perfectly edited copy.

I am less fond of the pride that stems from “being a grammar snob.” But I’m trying to love and understand that impulse, too. After all, I know it takes quite a bit of work to master the prestige form of English, and most people who do so are passionate about language, and have been rewarded for that effort.

If there is one soapbox that I still mount occasionally, it is the one that says, “There’s no officially right way to say or write anything. There is only custom and convention—and these evolve all the time. In the meantime, please—hear the content before you eviscerate the copy.”

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Quinn Dombrowski (cc image cropped)

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You are the right person for the job

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Rainy Day Inspiration :: You Must Believe In Yourself!

 A mom wrote:

We never feel like we are doing enough, yet at the end of each day, we are exhausted from doing too much.

Do you know that feeling?

That is a crazy-making feeling right there. We are perennially worried that we are not accomplishing enough toward our children’s educations, yet each day is overpowering in its demands on our emotions, time, and mental energy.

This is where you have to rally on behalf of your self.

If you are exhausted and spent, it is because you have used an extraordinary amount of energy toward managing your home and your children with an intention to educate all day!

You can’t do more than that!

Can you channel your energies toward more productive uses? Perhaps. Some days, for sure. Some days, NO WAY.

Trust that…

that output is working secretly, invisibly, on behalf of your children.

your worry is evidence of your profound love and devotion to your children.

your neuroses will drive you to bettering your homeschool little by little, year by year, and that will be enough.

one day, you will be at the end, you will know that it is right to be finished, and it will be time to do something else.

For now, lean into home education and trust yourself. You are the right person for the job. Your kids are lucky that you are their mother. You bring unique gifts to them. Identify them. Celebrate them. Stop looking at your deficiencies. Blaze a different path—the one that is right for your family.

Your homeschool should look like you and your family…and no one else’s.

Trust.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Jennifer (cc)

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Why we use writing to teach writing

Monday, September 1st, 2014

WBWW 25

An email question from Lisa:

“I love your curriculum but really do not like the Format for the online classes. Please look into live Online instruction. Most students are not going to Read through all the post of others in the class. This Really doesn’t give the group interaction live Instruction does.”

My response, in case you are wondering the same things:

Hi Lisa!

Thanks for your feedback. We welcome it! I’d like to explain to you a bit about our style of instruction. It’s a deliberate choice on my part, not an accident, not because I haven’t “updated” to the current style of online instruction. In fact, what we do mirrors what colleges offer in Blackboard, Coursera, and Canvas. It is my belief that reading and writing create the best writers, and that lecture (while it can be enjoyable and even a short cut at times in explanations given) is not as effective in growing writers.

We’ve taught our online classes using this technique for 15 years. We’ve taught more than 15,000 students worldwide. It’s a deliberate decision based on pedagogy. Students are trained to read, understand, interpret, and apply what they read to their writing. All the interaction in our classroom is reading and writing—reading feeds writing and enables growth and development that lecture cannot/does not impart. Even the questions students ask are written and the responses are written. This helps writing growth in the following ways:

  • Students learn to clarify their thoughts in the written word, and have a record of those thoughts as they develop so that the words they create don’t “vanish” into the thin air of spoken language, but remain visible to the student for continued reference.
  • Students read the assignments and processes, which gives them vocabulary that will become useful in their own writing. They are able to scroll back through, re-read, and assimilate the language, structure, and ideas from the written word. Writing is necessarily just enough different from speech that it is of enormous help to read rather than listen.
  • Reading skill (the ability to analyze and process meaning and content from the written word) is the key skill in writing development. No other process has been more strongly linked to writing growth than reading.

We’ve discovered that our students do, in fact, read most of the posts (some can’t get enough of them—they read and reread!). What happens is that our students wade into the waters of writing gently. They are not distracted by hairstyles, tone of voice, personality, and their own fatigue or boredom or hunger. They come to the classroom when they are ready to concentrate and read and reread if they need to.

They have ample time to form their thoughts and consider what they are reading. There’s no “pop question” type pressure to respond in the moment over audio-visual equipment. They have ample access to the instructor for her feedback which is carefully crafted and thoughtfully given.

I’ve taught at the university level, and in many in-person contexts for writing (with homeschoolers). I am never as satisfied with the writing growth in those class environments as I am with my online classes. We use reading and writing to teach reading and writing. it works.

I hope you’ll try us!

Julie

You can still sign up for fall classes now!

Image by Brave Writer mom, Renee (cc)

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How I conceive of learning

Monday, August 4th, 2014

little hand has butterfly

I’ve been working tirelessly on the new products, thinking about what Brave Writer does—how I conceive of learning, what priorities I have for our model of education.

Most of us decide to homeschool because we have a hunch, an inkling if you will, that we might recapture the sheer joy of learning and discovery if we would only keep our kids close and spend our days exploring the world together. The simplicity of this natural nurturing vision hits a snag the first time you hear words like grade level, scope and sequence, and common standards, let alone the monolith of mediocrity: Common Core.

It’s not that the ideas expressed in grade level or scope and sequence, or even identifying what ought to be commonly held core aspects of education are inherently “evil.” It’s that once someone creates a rubric, human beings, with their bent toward achievement, competitiveness, and measurement, hurl themselves headlong at those standards and forget to actually learn along the way.

A deadening of curiosity, natural exploration and discovery, and practice occurs. Application and expansion of the ideas is short-circuited with stamps of approval (A, +, Credit, and smilie stickers).

We’ve turned the corner—no more do children need to become repositories of information (information is everywhere, in millions of forms, accessible to billions of people in thousands of languages). Our educations are supposed to help us know what to do with information—how to creatively make use of it, how to manage and transmit it, how to analyze and evaluate it.

I read a terrific article today that resonated so strongly with what I think about education, I thought I’d share it here. This line jumped off the page at me since it is the crux of how I envision home education. When we talk about smarts, this is what I mean. The writer is challenging the notion that Common Core is any kind of educational salvation. He goes on to ask what methods will we use to make truly educated children:

“Instead of trying to codify information from past centuries, we better be looking at how students will handle the incoming flow of traffic. Or how to stimulate creative design thinking. Or how to make them smart enough—meaning curious, resilient, persistent, empathetic, and open enough–to live and perform in today’s world.”

Let me pull those words out:

curious
resilient
persistent
empathetic
open

Those can be the most natural by-products of home education. If we can move beyond thinking of content for content’s sake, and instead see content as an opportunity to expand those aspects of our children’s character and mental agility, we will indeed be giving a rich education to our charges.

The article is written to traditional teachers, but is actually better directed to educators at home—after all, you have no state breathing down your neck. You have the protection of your four walls and your rights.

So go for it!

The concluding thought ought to reassure you that traditional education is in crisis—what you’re doing IS the future of education.

“Untold damage has been done in the last ten years by the relentless focus on dispensing information to students like pills. That approach ignores the deep, magical relationship between purpose, curiosity, and intelligence—the mix that creates ‘openness’ to learning and makes engagement natural. More of the same won’t do anything but dumb us down.”

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Andrea OConnell (cc)

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It’s okay to take it easy

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Two of a kindImage by aussiegall (quote added cc)

You know that day where everything is going along swimmingly?

This one:

  • The older kids are quietly finishing pages of math and handwriting.
  • The toddler is happily covered in dress up clothes.
  • The baby is napping.
  • The pre-reader is sounding out the words easily, conquering Frog and Toad.
  • The right library books for the unit study arrived!
  • The most exciting chapter in the read aloud is next.
  • Bodies are healthy and fed. Showers and baths may have been taken in the last week.
  • All the machines and various household systems work: cars, AC, dishwasher, washer and dryer, ceiling fans, refrigerator and ice maker, all four computers, the DVR, the TV, your lawn mower, plumbing, and gaming consoles.
  • No one’s fighting. No one’s complaining. Maybe dinner is already planned.
  • You and your Significant Other are getting along—good conversation, good sex.

Sit in this vision for a moment. The vision of well being—of the stars, planets, and Cheerios aligned.

Can you see it? Feel it?

When it comes, when your life hits that magical moment—what do you do?

Here’s what some of us do:

We toss a home made hand grenade into the center of the living room. We reject our ordinary happiness.

Why?

Because some of us are under the impression that things of value only happen when we’re working hard.

So, when everyone is happily completing pages, reading, and skip counting, when the home is humming and our relationship is peaceful, some of us experience an involuntary panic.

This material is too easy. She must not be learning.

He whipped through that passage too quickly. He must not be challenged.

This book is fun, so it must not be that educational.

I better take in the car.

I’m going to ask ________ about why (he or she) doesn’t _________ more often.

We move into “anticipate the next crisis” mode. To avoid the surprise attack of the next crisis, we create one—one we can control!

Instead of staying home enjoying this (surely temporary) peace, we take the show on the road—adding the challenge of managing lots of kids out in the world.

Some of us buy brand new curricula so that everyone is suddenly thrust into the learning curve of “new” rather than enjoying comfy and familiar. We can’t appreciate the joy of mastery—we only esteem struggle to learn the next step/process.

Some of us look around at our friends (in person or online heroes) and decide that what they are doing is better, and judge our happy peace as undisciplined or, conversely, not free enough.

We refuse to allow the feeling of happiness to “settle in,” because it might mean we are not being conscientious enough about educating our young.

What if we were to while away the hours without diligence and pain and struggle and effort? Would that mean we were irresponsible parents/partners/home educators?

Time for a sip of coffee.

That peace you hear? That’s the sound of your life working.

That happy completion of pages, the successful reading, the repetition of skills learned and now mastered? That’s the sound of education taking root.

No one wants to struggle with a new challenge every day. Some of the joy of learning is getting to use the skills cultivated. It feels great to copy a passage without any struggle whatsoever. It’s awesome to rip through a set of math problems, knowing you’ve got it! You get it! You can bury that page with accurate answers and even show your work.

Kids who find their daily groove and rhythm—knowing what is expected and then being able to live up to that expectation—are happy kids.

Don’t wreck it! Enjoy it!

This is the life you are shooting for! Problems will find you again, without you even trying. So for now, celebrate the modest joy of ordinary happiness and success.

Let yourself off the hook. It’s wonderful if everyone likes the curricula, finds it a bit “too easy,” and successfully moves through their work with skill. Even professional athletes repeat the same drills at age 30 that they learned in Little League—mastery relies on practice and practice is all about repetition of skills, not struggling to learn new ones all the time.

You are doing something profoundly right when you feel that whoosh of peace in your home. Pause to notice. Inhale. Then…

Exhale and smile.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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The goal of education

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-child-binoculars-image10477124

Your job—provide an education.

Your kid’s job—decide what to do with it.

Next year, five years from now, when he turns 18—these are not important today. Today is important.

Today’s task is to be present to today, with your kids. You can’t know how it will all turn out. You can’t decide now, for instance, that you are training your child to be an engineer simply because she’s great at Legos and math. Just because you think your child has a shot at a scholarship via viola doesn’t mean the child ought to play viola.

When we script the future of our children, we miss valuable learning opportunities today. We might focus on ensuring a set of criteria (check boxes of subjects studied) rather than seizing a moment now, right in front of us.

For instance, one mother shared at the Brave Writer retreat about a kestrel nesting box her son and husband built together. The son became so immersed in this project, he learned how to hook up video cameras for live streaming to the Internet and now a birding organization is coming to “band” the family of kestrels that live in it!

Kestrel nest building, live Internet streaming, and banding take real time away from Latin roots or grammar books or the study of ancient Greek political thought. Not only that, just because this son became a mini expert in one aspect of birding doesn’t mean he is destined for ornithology as his career choice.

The experience of caring about kestrels is quite independent of scope and sequence, college entrance requirements, and grades.

Yet it is inextricably bound up in all the elements of learning—reading, study, planning, construction, caring, pondering, mulling things over, making mistakes, correcting mistakes, anticipation, predicting, sharing results, interacting with real organizations that care about the same material (in this case, birds), and the eventual satisfaction of “mastery” or accomplishment. That meta-experience (meta—meaning, the experience as template over the actual activity) of learning is what IS the education. This child is teaching himself how to learn, he’s teaching himself about the power of invested, sustained, self-directed attention in the direction of his interests and innate powers.

What couldn’t this boy do next?

And who’s to say what that will be?

There’s no need to telescope and think that the content is what mattered here. In fact, the opposite is true. What happened in this activity is that the child moved one step closer to knowing that when he wants something, he has all the powers within to make it happen.

THAT’S the goal of education. It is not the result of most traditional educations. It IS the result of many home educations, when we pause to acknowledge and value what is happening in front of our eyes.

That said: my kids never built a single thing we could photograph and frame. It’s difficult sometimes to see what’s being built.

Maybe your kids are “building” a social network online. Maybe they are “building” a mastery of their favorite book series having read it 13 times.

Maybe they are “building” muscles and skills for soccer.

Maybe they are playing chess or Wii bowling or Settlers of Catan and within each of those games, they are discovering the power of game strategy, calculated risk, the importance of details, the ability to imagine someone else’s perspectives through the possible moves they will make…

Perhaps they use one area of interest as a means to an end in another one (our favorite example: a cookie business to pay for space camp—Jacob did this at ages 11-12). He is not involved in either baking businesses nor space now.

What did he learn? That when he wants something, the power lies within him to find the means to make it happen—as he’s demonstrated through the steady stream of scholarships and opportunities he’s created for himself in his career aim to work in international human rights.

The interest of today is tied to tomorrow’s next step by virtue of the fact that that learning is stored inside a human being. That human being compiles experiences and learning opportunities into the cluster of skills necessary to flourish in the world.

The best way to prepare your child for tomorrow is to care completely about today’s happiness and interests. You do that by smiling, asking good questions, asking for permission to participate, and narrating back to the child the skills you see emerging from the investment being made. For instance, “Your dedication to beating that video game level is impressive. You’ve been steadily focused, willing to try again after repeated defeat, and you kept your cool. Wow.”

Learning is not about getting your child to a preferred future.

Learning is about your child becoming a person who can choose a future for him or herself.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Pavel Semenov | Dreamstime.com

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It’s the process baby!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Johannah and Noah Vintage Dance 1Johannah and Noah attending a Vintage Dance

Repeat after me: process, not product.

“Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” –Charlotte Mason

Let’s notice what Charlotte did not say.

She did not say:

“Education is meeting the requirements of the Common Core.”

She did not say:

“Education is the successful achievement of degrees—first high school, then college, then graduate school if you have a TRUE education.”

She also did not say:

“Education is mastering Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.”

Moreover, she did not say:

“Education is what someone does to you by teaching Important Information through tests and grades.”

Instead, Charlotte tells us to take our eyes off “end points” and to focus on creating a rich life through shaping the atmosphere (environment), through discipline (intentionality—being conscious of learning opportunities, creating them, acting on them), through life itself (the process of being alive is our best classroom).

You are on the right track when you get off track and focus instead on the feel of your home and family vibe. Ensure that people feel heard, loved, and that their dreams and hopes matter (can be achieved).

You’re on the right track when you ebb and flow—some weeks making a “course of study” a priority in a systematic way, other weeks learning as you go guided by curiosity and enthusiasm.

You’re on the right track when you see all of life as your classroom—that the conversation about recycling plastic bags over bagels at breakfast is as important as the math pages completed before lunch.

No one “arrives” at an end point: Time stamp—EDUCATED.

Rather, we have intermittent markers that let us pause to appreciate this new place (graduated, finished a book, learned to read, understood a principle and can use it). The purpose of education, though, is to LIVE a LIFE—not to idolize the mastery of facts, figures, and theories.

That’s why I return to this mantra: It’s the process, baby. If you can let go of your need to match the state’s expectations, or your schoolish memories, or the pressure of your very academic classical homeschool community, or the stringent requirements of some important university, you can surf the waves of learning as they roll onto your shores.

Johannah and Noah Vintage Dance 3For example:

You’ll feel freer to put Vintage Dance Lessons (and distributing flyers every Monday for three hours in the snow with kids along for the ride to pay for them) ahead of history for that one six months period. The learning is in all of it—the lessons, being with adults, the history of dance, the bartering work to pay for the lessons, the music, being in the cultural center of our local community, borrowing the fancy gown for the ball, participating in the ball, watching Jane Austen films over and over again to see which dances they are performing and which ones are being learned at class, manners, exercise, being paired with a sibling and learning to work together and love each other through it…

Atmosphere: dance lessons, with adults, people who are passionate about preserving historical dance.

Discipline: weekly lessons, must memorize steps and practice, weekly distribution of flyers to pay for lessons.

Life: siblings dancing together, community supplying costumes for ball, family attending the ball to see how the two students mastered the dances, attending rehearsals with all five kids, distributing flyers with all five kids to pay for two kids, watching and learning by being in the room with the dancers, being a family that loved Vintage Dance.

See?

Did dance go on a single transcript anywhere? No. Yet Vintage Dance still ranks as one of our top educational experiences during the homeschooling years. AND no one still dances! The kids moved on…because it’s the process, baby. Onto the next atmosphere, discipline, and life.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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