Search & Win


Jor Man with the Coconut he found and opened
Dakota's comments on the last post really made me smile.  I love ALL your comments.  Keep them coming.  But what you may not know is that Dakota and I know each other in real life.  In fact, she's the person who encouraged me to start writing this blog - and the person I am usually thinking of when I write it - My audience of one, and the rest of you are all gravy!!  Wonderful gravy.  Dakota challenges me with her questions and makes me think about why I am doing what I am doing.  Not that I haven't thought about it before, but putting into words clarifies it for me.

But back to Dakota's comments.  For the record, I also started out as a Classical-minded, Charlotte Mason leaning educator.  I still am.  I love the classics and good literature.  I read "The Well-Trained Mind" through several times before my oldest child turned 3!!  We have a lot in common, Dakota and I.  (The two best ways to totally overwhelm yourself before starting homeschool are to read through The Well-Trained Mind, and to browse through the Rainbow Resource Curriculum Guide.  The options are indeed endless.)

It is so easy for me to fall back into that - it's deliciously comforting to me in theory.  I love the idea that I could educate my children in such a way that they would have read all of those wonderful books, and had a very rigorous and thorough education.  It's just that when I tried, I found a different reality hitting me in the face.

At Auto Safari Chapin in Guatemala
I didn't like the struggles with my kids (mostly Jor Man, since he was the guinea pig first born).  It broke my heart to see his initial joy and enthusiasm toward learning turning into a grimace, a pout and then all out defiance.

Reading John Holt's "How Children Fail" was such a revelation to me.  I was expecting my children to produce a certain result.  And this had slowly become so much more important to me than the fun of learning.  I saw in that book that I was producing for some unseen (and some seen) critics of my homeschooling.  I felt I had to produce brilliant and well-schooled children in order to "prove" that my choice in homeschooling them was somehow justified.  (As if I could convince anyone who doesn't want to believe in homeschooling.)

Hitting the wall came for me in fits and spurts.  I noticed how much they learned when life created a necessary school break.  Instead of "regressing"  when we took a break, they excelled.  It got downright embarrassing.  They did better when I didn't teach them than when I did.  Hmmm.  So much for proving myself.

Sher Bear's drawing of the boy we met carrying his parrots on a stick
I noticed the "teachable moments" - those times when they were really excited about about a beaver, a fly or a plant they found in the yard.  I noticed how a movie could open up a whole discussion about something, that (prior to the movie) they had not been interested in.

Piece by piece, I realized that my teaching them was not the joyfilled, fun experience we were all hoping for.  I organized, planned and imagined wonderful times of learning - and in practice, there was arguing, groaning and (yes) yelling on my part.

I considered sending them all to school.  Perhaps it was just that I was a poor teacher.  Or perhaps teaching and parenting was too much for me.

After digging for Mayan artifacts in the mud, Sher Bear does her "yucky" face
But I found something else.  I clung to the moments of wonder.  Instead of urging them to get back to the table and finish their worksheets, I entered into their questioning of the world.  Discovery became an adventure - OUR adventure.  And they started asking me for help.

"Mom, could you help me figure out how to skin this snake?"  Umm, ugh, okay.  "Mom, can we find the chicken's brain?" (while slaughtering our chickens)  "Mom, how do you spell Birthday?"  "How do you make a B?"  "How many quarters do I need to buy my doll a backpack?"

This Monarch butterfly is one of the many Campster will catch this summer.
All the subjects flowed naturally from their curiousity.  I no longer needed to coerce them into learning.  I just needed to be willing and flexible.  Suddenly, I was the best "teacher" ever.  They were learning, and I was helping.  I wasn't getting in their way.

Dakota, you mentioned skills like reading, writing and math.  I know you well enough to know that you read volumes to your kids.  They will read.  You don't need to teach them.  They'll get it.  They'll start asking you how to spell words and how to make the various letters.  They'll become interested in numbers, counting, and how many.  Before you know it, they'll be doing division, and you will have never "taught" them it.  That's how its happening in our house.

Campster and Sher Bear climbing the steps of an old chapel
If your kids are begging you to teach them to read, facilitate their learning.  Doing it every day is great if you want them to read early - but if they get frustrated - back off.  Kids who feel like mom or dad (or teacher) is disappointed in their progress start to shut down.  Every time my daughter reads, she's so much better than the last time.  It's a natural developmental process.  Like talking.  Like walking.

When my kids were learning to walk, I sometimes did egg them on.  It's fun.  And as long as it was fun for them, they would humor me and try.  But sometimes, I think, they didn't want to.  They resented the pressure.  Imagine if there was a school for walking.  Imagine we sent our kids to walking school, and they were graded.  Some kids were considered remedial walkers.  Really - that sounds absurd.  Or talking school?!  We play with kids when they babble.  It's fun and that is how they learned to talk.  We talked with them.  Can you imagine step by step instructions for teaching your child to talk?  "Teach your child to walk and talk in 100 easy lessons".  Crazy.  So why is reading, writing and math any different?

Jor Man overwhelmed by his club sandwich!
By not teaching my girls these things, I have noticed the natural development that occurs in these three areas if children are left to investigate them at their own pace.  It's so amazing.  Just like walking, talking, and feeding oneself - children naturally learn to read, write, and do math.  It's built into our development.

These are skills.  I agree with Dakota.  We can place them in a category different than, say, American History.  We do use them everyday.  Even without trying to.  Give your children an environment that is full of real life (not an isolated existence in a classroom full of their peers), and watch them develop naturally - with all the love for learning that God gave them.

Wish you were here!

P.S. - Dakota - I love you whether you homeschool or not - whether you unschool or insist on doing the trivium.  Whatever works for you and your kids is wonderful.


MamaMahnken said...

I know what I want to say, but not how to say it. And I like your theories too - I just don't see them working for our family. And I still can't help but feeling that it won't work forever for yours either, though I suppose you never pretended to say it would. I know you will adapt your methods as needed, which is one of the things that makes you a good mother and teacher. Whether it is because my students are only 8,6,&4, or because I've never read Well Trained Mind, or because we've just found a good balance between doing to much and doing nothing at all, I don't know; but I am just not seeing the burnout and resistance you are describing happen in my family. They have a love of learning and why not? Besides a few pages of math every week and some copywork, nearly everything we do involves reading good books aloud and exploring our world. And yet I'm guiding it and we're checking things off my "Stuff to learn/skills to master" list because, yes, we're remembering it. Maybe I have the best of both worlds?

Dakota said...

I'm entirely complimented. Thank you for mentioning me.

I bought How Children Fail by Holt at your recommendation, and would you believe it, I can't get through the book. I expected a treatise, and it's journal entries. Humph.

Anyhow, just to sufficienty ramble all over your comments section, I just returned from a Homeschool Expo and was completely turned off by Classical Connections dry approach to the Trivium. Oh, did you notice that I capitalized it? Ha! Perhaps a false god. Perhaps not.

Brenna said...

Enjoyed this post and your lovely family!

Lauren said...

There are more Christian unschoolers around -- join the free link-up at http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=985 and be inspired!

"Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

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