Last night I was having a great deal of trouble sleeping and, as is common for me, my mind started wandering. I began thinking about our homeschool journey, and I tried to put into words what my overall homeschool philosophy is.
The first thing I have come to realize is that I do not favor the term “homeschooling”. Yes my kids stay home for school, but I feel this term does not completely cover all that happens in the education of my children. They learn at home, at museums, at classes, with peers, with family, online. They sometimes sit at the dining room table, sometimes they are outside on a blanket, sometimes they are at a coffee shop, sometimes they are in the car, and so their education is not tied to home, nor do they always spend a great deal of time home. Also I feel people often hear the word “homeschooling” and a picture comes into their head that is not entirely accurate. I don’t like that.
Instead of homeschooling, I would like others to know that my children are being educated in a purposeful and meaningful way. I don’t simply follow a public school education at home. Instead I purposefully educate my children following a very specific path that I believe offers them the greatest chance at an education that is both engaging and worthy. One that exposes a great many ideas to the kids and allows them the tools to succeed and the time to develop their talents. An education that keeps in mind the child, the teen, the young adult and allows them to grow. An education that pays little heed to standards, public school goals, or the masses and instead thinks about the individual and his or her needs and gifts.
I started out on this path with a classical model, and this was a great way to start. Now I see that I have taken that model and adjusted it to my family and my beliefs. I do see that we have homeschooled in three different stages, but they are not the classical education stages. This model was too limiting for me and not healthy for the kids. For us the stages have morphed into a different model. They are:
Stage 1 – From about age 4 to 9, this is the time of exposure and exploring. Exposure to all the wonders of the world from science and math to art and music and everything in between. Listen to audio books, read together, look at art together, listen to classical music, jazz music, world music. Watch old movies, foreign movies, independent movies. Explore nature, have fun with science experiments, study the night sky, read poetry. Turn your back on the common culture and instead open up a world of wonder. This is also a time of short lessons, outdoor play, and free time that allows the imagination to soar. This is a fun stage, enjoy it and don’t stress about their formal education.
Stage 2 – From about age 10 to 13/14 – This is a transition stage and will differ for each child. This is the time to cement a child’s skills, find the child’s passions, and move the child from a free learning environment to a more structured and formal one. My youngest is in this stage now. This year we are working on cementing his math skills and he is exploring his passions which include writing, animation, composing, and cooking. Right now I would guess he is going to be a writer when he is older, but I cannot be positive. He enjoys playing piano, making cartoons, and cooking almost as much as writing, so I am devoting time to all these areas to see where it takes him. He may end up losing interest in one area or discovering a real passion in another. These years give us the time to discover and explore one’s passions and develop the necessary skills needed to take one’s passions to a higher level.
Stage 3 – From 13/14 to adult – We are just beginning our time in this stage, but it has been so much fun to see the twins spread their wings and take off. I have some great goals for this stage that I have already written about, but I want to articulate in words what the overall theme of this stage is. This is the stage where passions get developed to a high level, where school is approached in a serious matter, and where the child transitions to an adult. Although the children are transitioning to adults, I am there every step of the way to guide them and help them, but we are now partners in this journey and no longer in teacher/student roles. By this stage the kids know what their goals are for the next few years, they know what they have to do to get there. I give them the tools they need to help them, and I give them the time they need to reach their goals. I do not micro-manage the teens; instead I support them and help them get to where they want to go.
This stage is a wonderful place to be as a home-educating parent. I am enjoying all the benefits of the years past, and more than ever, I am positive that our education journey was the best journey for us to take as a family, especially as a single parent on a limited income. The kids are motivated, confident, and driven, and I am proud of who they are and where they are in life.
It is not always smooth-sailing though. Some days are harder than others because of the fact that I am a dealing with teenagers who are grappling with hormones, teen issues, and growing up (this is never easy for anybody). I try to always remember what it was like to be a teen, and I often deal with the kids with compassion and understanding (this too will pass is a familiar phrase around here) instead of anger or punishment. This helps all of us navigate this stage and makes it more enjoyable. Before I know it the kids will be out of the house and onto their own lives. I want to enjoy them as much as I can while they are still here.
Of course this is just a quick little blog post about our educational journey and my philosophy. I hope to develop these ideas further in subsequent blog posts, but for now I had to get down in words what was going through my head all night. It may make sense to you or it may seem crazy. Either reaction is completely reasonable. This is our journey, nothing more, nothing less.