Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April Thoughts on Homeschooling

It's  April, which is usually when I start praying and planning for next year.   Next year I will have a 12th grader, a 10th grader, a special needs 5th grader and a 3rd grader.   Plus 3 grown kids in college or beyond. 

When we visited my daughter at Thomas Aquinas College last week, Suzie Andres (whose husband is one of the tutors at the college) gave me a copy of what we have been calling The Book, meaning this one.   In The Book, I am one of the contributors who does not entirely unschool but who relies a lot on unschooling principles.   That has always been the case.  When I try to unschool entirely I get unhealthy.  I start becoming self-conscious about whether this thing or not is "really" unschooling.   But when I leave unschooling principles too far behind, I get away from the core of what our family's homeschooling is about.   

This happens regularly.  April's often the time that I realize it and start reflecting on where we've been going and where we want to go.  

So where we've been coming from: 

Last school year, Paddy did California K12, Kieron read and wrote stories, worked out geometry proofs, and listened to lectures from Homeschool Connections.   Aidan pretty much did whatever he wanted to, which meant learning how to help with almost all the household duties, and recently, coloring all kinds of pictures of vehicles.   And Sean left "building school" and went to "public charter school" which involved using the state textbooks but at home, with biweekly visits to a teacher, and participation in a 7 on 7 traveling football team.   So you can see we fairly well cover the spectrum.  

Kieron had a light year, Aidan had almost a neglected year.  Sean is old enough to do what he thinks right about his education (with our help of course).    Paddy -- well, Paddy has been doing K12 --Lite.  But even that feels a bit too much right now.  I'm trying to decide if it really is too much or just feels that way because of other things going on.

So for next year?

I don't know for sure.  Unschooling was my first love, mostly via Nancy Wallace's Better Than School,  then came Charlotte Mason and classical.  In common, they have respect for the child as a person with great potential.   They look towards the whole person, not just the academic part.   They all consider the student to be the primary agent in his own learning.  They all aim to form a free man (or woman) who is a  lifelong learner with strong (and hopefully true)  interior values.  Of course, in day to day aspects they might differ quite sharply.   I try now to avoid deciding what "method" a given thing we are doing fits into.   That kind of thing makes me lose my focus on what my family, my kids are doing at a particular time.

Recently I have been trying to envision going back to a more integrated type of homeschooling.   If I do depart from K12, which is where I think this is heading, I will be sad in many ways.   It was so nice to sit down and have everything ready to go.   It is as sequential and well thought out as anything I have seen in the way of planned curriculum.   It used Real Books and stories to teach understanding and virtue (at least, in some respects...).  As we advance further in, however, it takes a bigger part of the day, at least if we do it right.   Not that taking a bigger part of the day is wrong per se, but if it's stuff that doesn't seem necessary, then it is clutter.  

So, I'm thinking! 

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