To study or not to study… is that the question?

We work really hard as homeschooling moms. Harder than we need to.

We want to make learning a pleasure, we want to cover everything (every single thing), we want to do a better job at teaching every single thing than the schools and we want to be sure that our kids retain everything.

Every single thing.

It would be criminal to think that our kids might forget some gem, some mathematical sequence, some grammatical construction, some aspect of the freaking Cold War after we had so lovingly and conscientiously taught it to them, right?

In fact, did you know that no elementary-aged self-respecting homeschooled child has ever missed a math problem? Seriously. It’s a proven fact. Moms make their kids re-do every missed problem, that’s how neurotic (and adorable) we are.

Yes, we’re a tad paranoid about doing a good, stupendous, outrageously effective job.

Though most homeschool discussions ask, Should I follow a more structured approach to education or allow for a natural, relaxed approach?, the real question is more like this:

Help! How do I keep from ruining my kid?

About now would be a good time to spike your herb tea with forbidden sugar cubes.

Ready? Let’s tackle this tiger.

The chief difference between home education and school is the word “home.” School happens in a building with teachers and dozens of other age-mates who must work through a set curriculum for each subject so that the school system can measure its effectiveness in achieving goals and standards of education. Fair enough.

Home is a whole other animal and that’s why we have such difficulty figuring out if what we’re doing is working, or whether or not we are producing comparable results to school. Let’s just admit right up front: we don’t do a good job of duplicating what school does. In point of fact, we signed up for this homeschool gig in order to not produce all the things school does.

But that admission needs to make us brave, not cowards. If the conditions of education at home are not the same as school, then Pysch Reseach 101 teaches us that the results will be different.

If it’s a foregone conclusion that our results will not be the same as school, it’s time for us to assess what results we’re looking for so that we measure ourselves by a different yardstick. Right?

I offer the following list as a set of realistic, humble expectations for home education:

  • Reading
  • Handwriting
  • Math facts
  • Reading aloud
  • Tea times
  • Music lessons
  • Fostering curiosity
  • Personalized learning goals coordinated with a child’s vision of her future
  • Facility with the library (and affection for it!)
  • Home arts (cooking, repairs, sewing, cleaning, knitting, yard work, crafts)
  • Extended, uninterrupted play
  • Narrating (talking about interests, questions, ideas, experiences in a one-on-one setting)
  • Mastering areas of interest using as much time as needed (no set end-point for a topic or subject)
  • Tackling a subject at a personalized pace
  • Computer literacy
  • Awareness of current events
  • Conversations with parents that both nurture and challenge
  • Socialization (learning to relate to siblings and parents with respect, working out problems patiently and with parental support)
  • Lots of free time (to use any way the child wants)
  • Nature observation (both through a window and in outings)
  • Trips to cool places
  • Running a business
  • Time to discover what one wants to learn
  • Learning from mom and dad what they know
  • Use of television and movies for learning
  • Depth involvement in sports or the arts without competing schoolwork
  • All subjects open for learning (no stigmatized subjects)
  • Vast variety of learning models which can be attempted and discarded or adopted
  • Close family relationships
  • Hands-on learning (no need for canned workbooks for things like counting money, for instance)

As you can see, this list doesn’t itemize subject matter like the four year cycle of history or geometry and calculus or the academic essay. These subject areas are important (I’m not minimizing them). But they will need to fit into these other goals of home education so that they are a natural part of home life rather than a sudden imposition of “school” on the home.

How can Algebra 2 foster close family relationships? How does the academic essay become an extension of narrating and dialog between parents and students? How does research involve computer use as well library skills? What does the television enable us to teach? See what I mean? That’s the trick. Education must flow through the nurturing and less structured world of home for it to work. And when it does, it’s breath-taking. When school is brought into the home, all that goodwill and imaginative, peronsalized power goes down the proverbial drain.

Next installment will look at some creative ways to transform this list of home education strengths into fulfilling academic requirements. 🙂

2 Responses to “To study or not to study… is that the question?”

  1. […] Julie’s Bravewriter Lifestyle post was worth a read and then a re-read and then maybe a re-re-read today. […]

  2. […] We talked about the key difference in home education versus school being the word “home.” Home makes all the difference. If we are at home, with family, living a lifestyle of learning, how we educate will be different than what happens in a school building. We may also have a different set of goals or expectations for home learning than a school has. […]