Friday, September 30, 2011

Homeschool Friday

(used with permission from The Family Man)

Well, I normally do my lesson plans in 4 week chunks, and we are at the end of our first chunk.  With a month of school under our belts, I feel good about our progress.

I was at a "Mom's Night Out" with our homeschool group last week.  It's a lifesaver to get together with a group of women who deal with the same issues, or are veterans at this homeschool thing and are full of helps, and sometimes it's just a safe place to vent without someone saying, "You really shouldn't be homeschooling if it's that hard."

This last week we listened to a speaker named Andrew Pudewa via c.d. player that someone had bought when they were at a conference.  It was honestly one of the best talks I've heard on homeschooling ever.  I'm not 100% certain it was the best ever, but it's certainly on my top 3 list, and I ordered a copy of the c.d. so I could listen to it again.  The mom who brought it in said she's already listened to it 6 times.

So today I'm going to rattle off all the things that have stuck with me from that session, as I journal what shapes me as a homeschool mom.  I'm not sure how to forward someone onto obtaining a copy of the session, but it would be worth it to find out.  I literally can't wait to hear it again.

It talked about leadership training with your children.  It talked about educational philosophies throughout history, and where we as a culture stand right now in education.  He talked about tracking in public and many private schools and the educational philosophy put forth by Dewey (as in the Dewey decimal system) and how that changed things.  He quoted a book written by a teacher called Dumbing Us Down that has now been added to my reading list.  He quoted several other books that sounded depressing, yet interesting.  That book, however, I might actually read.

Then he talked about the education that people got in history before the time of Dewey.  There were a few different kinds of education: education for the lower classes, and education for leaders.  Learning to read and write were basic.  Future leaders received an education based off of logic and thinking skills.  The peasants were taught what to think, and the leaders were taught how to think.

Bringing it back to modern homeschooling, he talks about his own family and the struggles they faced with their little school.  Specifically, the speaker's wife who did the majority of the nitty gritty teaching.  He said she would hate to go to conventions where there were tables of different curricula.  After taking a few spins around the exhibits, she would feel overwhelmed thinking "I can't do all this!"

As an educational expert, he said that going to homeschool conventions 5+ years ago, he would talk to moms after a session and they would say things like: "Hi, I was homeschooled, my husband was homeschooled, we're so excited to homeschool with our kids..."  Now, after a session moms come up to him and say, "Hi, I have a 7th grader, a 4th grader, and a 1st grader.  We just pulled our kids out of school and we're trying to figure out how to do this and I just want to be sure that we're covering all the bases."

Then he went on to say that covering all the bases is the last thing you want to do.  There is just too much information out there, and if you attempt to cover it all, your kids' knowledge will be a mile wide and an inch deep.  Knowledge like that evaporates with time.  He said phrases like that speak fear and not vision.

We need to stop constantly comparing our little schools to public or private schools as if each needs to keep up with the other.  I don't mean to portray public schools as either evil or good.  They are neutral.  They are not, however, the North star: directing all of us homeschools on what we should be teaching, or how it should be taught.  They are a completely different ideology of education, and unless we agree with that ideology, we should not be trying to emulate it.

So, with his overwhelmed wife, he said they were going to stop having 10 different subjects (reading, handwriting, grammar, math, history etc.)  It was overwhelming.  He said from now on, when we do school, we will choose activities that fit into 3 subjects.  Just 3.  No more.

These subjects are:
Character
Knowledge
Skills

He pointed out that when you have only character and knowledge, but no skills, you are ineffective.
When you have only character and skills, but no knowledge, you are not believable.
Lastly, if you have skills and knowledge but no character, you are a president (hardy, har...har).

Therefore, a well rounded education will have these 3 subjects, and these are the subjects to focus on.

He said as they planned their days, they would make sure that whatever they did fit into one of those core subjects.  They didn't stop teaching history, math, grammar, etc.  It was merely a way to evaluate their own school to say, "Does this activity build character?  Does it add to their knowledge?  Does it give them a skill?"

He says we get so focused on making sure our kids have all the same subjects as kids in other types of schools that we lose focus of the potential of our own school.  We get in the "cover all the bases" mentality.  We educate with a fear that we're missing something, instead of a filling our day with depth in study.

When I thought about it, all of our subjects fit into those 3 categories very well.  That was good.  It also gave me some much needed freedom to break out of the box.  The other day, I was filling overwhelmed by the to do list, and so I pushed aside our spreadsheet, and the kids helped me in the kitchen for half the school day.  Silje helped me layer the lasagnas that I was prepping for the freezer.  David and Elias helped me mix the bread dough for the refrigerator.  We talked, did dishes, made food.  It was wonderful.

Not only did they learn about cooking, like yeast and how it works, and how to save time making meals in bulk.  We spent time together just talking about what it means to be a family and to take care of one another.  We've been having a tough time as I've alluded in previous Fridays, of whining and arguing.  I realized listening to this speaker that I've been focusing very heavily on the knowledge and skills part of our school but neglecting the character portion.  So we spent a half of our "school time" that day working on character as a family.

It wasn't a matter of getting behind in the subjects that were more important.  It was a matter of catching up in a subject we were getting behind in.  It wasn't a matter if we were ahead enough to afford a half day off.  I had to ask myself, "Ahead of who?  Ahead by what standard?"

It really was "My kids were behind in one of our essential subjects so we put the other ones aside and tried to work on the subject most needed."  In all reality, other schools do this as well.  Teachers stop and work on listening skills.  Kids there get afternoons off all the time for this or that reason.  But I'm comparing again.  I need to stop doing that. 

What I have been doing that's good, is examining our days in a different light.  When everything on our to do list did not get done, I ask myself, "Did we fill our day working on character, knowledge, and skills?"  When I realize that we had, I realize our day was a success.

There's a freedom to this standard, and I'm excited to work on my next 4 weeks lesson plans with this goal in mind, rather than the idea that we must do it all.  I will see success when my child spends a half hour looking at the diagram of the anatomy of a seed, not when we cross of "read next 5 pages of science book."  So what, we didn't get all 5 pages.  We got deep into the page that we were on.  I don't want my kids to have an education that I designed for them that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  I want it to be very deep, and I must allow us to soak a bit for that to happen.

There still so much for me to learn.

If you made it to the bottom of this post, you must have an interest in reading about these types of things, or writing about these types of things.  I'll put up a little list below here where people can put their current blog posts about what they did this week in their homeschool, or any random thoughts on homeschooling (like I did).  Please be sure to put a link to this blog in your post if you do leave your link.

I'm going to keep putting it up on Fridays indefinitely because selfishly, I've been enjoying getting to read what other people are doing in their homeschool, or to just be encouraged and inspired by others in similar shoes.  

6 comments:

J and K Smith said...

We had a rough week of schoolwork, but reading you post encouraged me and reminded me that we really did learn this week even if we weren't doing worksheets. Thanks again!

tiffany said...

I have come to cherish the beauty of flexibility but it has required a total re-programming. I really enjoyed this post as it was yet another tangible reminder that we live real life and as we follow God's direction, He will sustain us and our families will thrive...with or without worksheets. :)
Happy weekending!
Tiffany

Mom said...

This is really a great post. We had a chapel message on something similar. The speaker was a former Airforce Officer and a graduate of the Airforce academy. He said that their training was based on the same philosophy. He said they had a fourth quadrant, though, as well. It was related to goals and vision. Your kids are off to a great start. You rock, Gretchen.

Melissa said...

I so enjoyed that meeting, too. I have read and studied many of John Taylor Gatto's writings and he is amazing.
The three subject areas that Mr. Pudewa talked about on the cd really struck a chord with me, too.

Lisa Joy said...

I also found that evening to be very encouraging! It was a great reminder of why we do what we do, and you did a great job of recapping things! It is something that I need to keep reminding myself. :)

momof4 said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm definitely going to have to listen to this CD since I missed the meeting. I know I get frustrated when I don't get to check everything off my list. THanks for the reminder that we are doing MORE than just a list.