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Campster caught this butterfly in Tiquisate, Guatemala
When I mention to people that we homeschool, invariably they ask how I know what to teach.  Wow.  There are so many assumptions about learning going on in that question that I hardly know where to be begin.

If you read my blog, you know that I don't claim to teach my children anything.  I prefer to view myself as a facilitator or a resource person, rather that a teacher.  They do the learning.  I help them with resources and supplies.  But I don't teach.

The original question also assumes that there are certain things which would be the correct things to teach.  As if anything my kids wanted to learn would not be the right things.  I ask my kids regularly what they want to learn.  I keep a list.  I focus my attention on helping them learn what they want to learn.  If Jor Man wants to learn about DNA so that he can "clone dinosaurs", I rent Jurassic Park, and get him a DNA kit.  If Campster's abundant interest in butterflies means she'd like a new net and a larger habitat for them, I look into getting it.  I also got her books on butterflies so she can identify what she's caught.  Sher Bear's interest in learning about Egypt lead to books on mummies and pyramids.  You get the idea.

Campster and Sher Bear examining a dead dragonfly
But what I think my well-intentioned acquaintances mean by their question is this:  "There are certain things that kids learn in school.  And if your kids don't go to school, how will you know what these things are so that you can make sure they know them?"

This assumes something commonly referred to as core knowledge: the philosophy that there is a central body of knowledge that people should know in order to be "on par" with their peers and eventually be a well-rounded citizen.

Well, apologies to Ed Hirsch aside, I don't believe in core knowledge.  First of all, because I've never met anyone who has said "core knowledge".  Rather, everyone I meet has a certain amount of things they chose to remember from school, and most of it they forgot.

This is what John Holt refers to as producing - when a person "learns" something just long enough for the test and then forgets it all.  Are we really going to call THAT learning?  And if that is what we mean by core knowledge - this all important shared information that we all have - how come we all seem to be doing just fine having forgotten it?

This amphibian was at the door one morning.  
Similar to the idea of core knowledge is the fear of holes in our knowledge.  Somethings these are called gaps.  As if any of us actually knows everything!  Obviously, we all have gaps and holes in our knowledge.  That's okay.  That's what books, experiences, museums and the internet are for.  If there's something we don't know, and we decide that we want to know it - we can go and find it out.

Every homeschooling parent I meet is amazed by how much they are learning in the process of home schooling their kids.  This means that either they never learned this "all important knowledge" the first time around themselves, and managed to lead a productive life nonetheless.  Or it means that what we want for our kids to learn, or what they want to learn, is somehow different than what we learned.  But who's to say that different is bad?

So, to sum it all up:  I am much less interested in meeting (what I deem to be arbitrary) guidelines or even milestones.  I fully expect that my children will have gaps in their knowledge of the world.  Ultimately, they choose what they want to learn about and remember, regardless of whether I want them to or not.  That would be true whether they went to school or not.

In the end, I want my kids to believe that learning is something that is fun, rewarding and something they can do whenever and wherever they want to.  I want them to love to learn.  That will serve them their whole lives.

Wish you were here!

3 comments:

Pebblekeeper said...

Really, Really, Really Really - well said. :)
I am one that has learned so much while homeschooling, and we are only through the 6th year. I've learned the most about math and geography - however, I was a 4.0 student. The only core knowledge I retained was how to get good grades on memorizing answers to tests. )

Lynn said...

amen.

Dakota said...

OK, you're killing me here, TravelMom, I'm a classically minded educator with Charlotte Mason leanings. But what you say makes sense, though I just don't buy it in the 'skills' area. I think teaching my kids the 'skills' (reading, arithmatic, writing) is important. I just figured that the reason I'd forgotten so much else is because either a.) it was taught so shallowly, or because I didn't use it daily.

Grrrr. I'm NOT becoming an unschooler! No! No siree.

Dakota

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