Homeschooling Goals and Methods
So, I am happily homeschooling along with my daughter when slowly I realize - what I have been doing all along is not working anymore. It is not that she is not bright, or not learning, she just does not want to keep learning the way we started. Getting her to do The Work Books With All the Correct Material for her Age, were the catalysts for temper tantrums and out right refusal. These were the same kind of books she used to love.
What do I do!
When I started homeschooling I did the reading, and developed a patchwork philosophy of what I wanted to accomplish. That was nice to begin with, but it was based also on my idea of what 'school is supposed to be'. I had ideas based mostly on what school was like FOR ME. You do math problems on a page and you read from a reading book that is a compilation of several stories. You do spelling tests and learn American history (there isn't any other kind of history, right?).
In John Taylor Gatto's books he talks extensively about the history of current education system in the United States. He states it much more eloquently than I can but it amounts to a systemized plan for creating people who are able to read, write and FOLLOW ORDERS. But, not people capable of analytical thinking and reasoning. Kindergarten is a place to learn how to follow directions, stand in line, take turns, and sit quietly.
This was not what I wanted for my child.
What did I want? That was the key. I needed to sit down and figure out what are the most important things to learn.
With that list it was easy to see that the standard school concept is not as necessary as I had once thought. We are told that these professionals know how to teach our children, but they only teach at them. They do not teach them to learn.
So how do I teach my child to learn?
There is a big conspiracy out there to hide the secret from us. The secret is that I don't have to teach her how to learn! It is hardwired into them to be curious and to learn. Think about talking and walking. Do we actually teach them how to do this? No, we just model the behavior and they decide they want to do these things and so they learn.What I must do is keep from interfering with her desire to learn.
Once I understand this, my job changes from teacher to facilitator. I discover what interests her and guide her on her journey. I still have things I insist she continue to learn, such as math. As a scientist myself, I understand the need for a strong foundation in this area. As to most other areas, I no longer worry about "gaps' in her education. I have decided any education will have gaps -- it is inevitable. The educational bureaucracy has been fighting this problem, and creating a new one: lack of depth on anything.
For my daughter, at this time I am working toward helping her learn more of how the world works. We spent a recent afternoon experimenting with yeast to see how much sugar we could add before it would stop bubbling. We designed the experiment together (logic and reasoning), she took notes (writing), made observations (science), collected data (math and science), and drew up charts (math).
She also likes to make up songs and poetry, so we keep a folder to collect her work in (writing). She is into American Girl books and is writing her own story on the computer (writing and typing). I could go on and on about the things we do. Frequently when we are checking out at the library I will find a book in the stack that I didn't know about. She will see something that catches her interest and just want to read about it. Last week it was a book about dinosaurs that swam and fly. I don't know why she wanted it. I though we had completed her interest in dinosaurs a year or two ago, but there it was.
What seems to work is a mixture of ever-changing immersion. Several months ago she discovered Nancy Drew and was reading non-stop. Today, it is difficult to get her to pick up a book, but she will practice piano before anything else. She practices pieces until she has them note perfect. Her teacher told me the other he wishes he could "bottle whatever it is" that makes her learn so well. It isn't just that I homeschool her, he has many homeschool students; it is that we are following her passion.
When I talk to others who have home schooled for any length of time what I find is that we all have tons of materials we bought that we don't end up using. Many things we think will work don't, or perhaps, not as long as we wish them to. Our children grow and change. My younger daughter used to love workbooks, and now she doesn't. What my older daughter, likes is another whole article.
Homeschooling is a route I am glad I took. It allows for so much freedom in how my daughters learn. I can't tell you what books to use. I can only tell you to listen to your children. They are your children, and you know them better than anyone.