Thursday, June 9, 2011

Homeschool Toolbox

Thursday is my day to talk about educational things, and I was thinking about how to make it work.  I decided that what I would most like to have at the end of the summer is a "teacher's tool box" of things at my fingertips for next year.

"Toolbox"  -- is that the right word?  At first I wondered.  It sounded sort of mechanical.  But then I decided that if Henri Charlier could glorify skilled crafts that work with real things employing natural logic, then toolbox isn't a purely utilitarian words.  It can imply thoughtful diligent interaction with real things.

I considered "Garden" to go with my 2011 word for the year -- Cultivation.    But garden doesn't bring across quite the right impression.  Sure, educating kids has some parallels to gardening.   You till the soil and plant the seeds, and wait, and water, and wait some more, and what the harvest brings can be surprising -- some things don't sprout and others return fruit by the hundredfold.    

But "toolbox" is more about a set of things for me to get comfortable with AS TEACHER.  And teaching is an art, a craft of a sort.

I used to love doing a lot of organizing, catalog browsing and lesson planning at the start of the school year.  Maybe I will get back to that again.   But with the exception of my very involving and time-consuming (though fun) Year 9 Lesson Project,  which was great but a great energy drain, I never really used the organizational apparatus.  And it all took a lot of time, time away from my kids and away from Real Life.   I think organization is good, I admire people who do it to a high degree, I enjoy it but for me it can almost be a drug.   So I'm avoiding it this summer past the bare minimum (whatever that is).

What I do miss having during the year is having a protocol of a sort -- a toolbox.  So that's what I thought I'd try to focus on, and see if it pays off.

This was an amazingly substance-less post.    Just so that there is actually something here to take away, here is my post on Setting Their Feet in a Spacious Place. .... things I try to remind myself to do regularly if not daily with my children.    I might as well start there.  Oh, and A Map Back from the Island


  1. I can relate to this, Willa, as I love to organize so much that I used to spend many happy hours writing lesson plans that my kids hardly ever looked at! My 'toolbox', now, is my blog and, even though I've told myself not to plan anymore, I still have a sneaky, little list going in the form of a draft post on my blog;) Still, I like the analogy of a toolbox - it implies craftmanship and pride in one's work. God bless Vicky

  2. Hi Vicky, I saw the lesson plans you put on your blog and they were amazingly beautiful!! Wow, you are talented!

    Planning is a difficult question. As a human being, one realizes that what isn't planned in some respect, often doesn't happen. So planning keeps me out of the doldrums of just doing my default activites.

    But when the child is the primary agent in learning, it makes a difficulty in "planning" for the parent because planning usually means that one thinks carrying out the plan is within one's control. But it's not really -- it's under the student's control. You might be able to make him do the work but that reduces learning to "doing the work" and it is more than that.

    I always have trouble with that! It's hard for me to plan to create an environment where learning can naturally happen, but that is probably what it takes in the end!

  3. Hi Willa, This is a really interesting question which I've pondered, too.

    I used to get the children involved in creating their own lesson plans so that they would feel some 'ownership' but, it got to the point where we all enjoyed the planning more than the doing! And, yes, the planning gave me a false feeling of control. When the kids didn't cooperate with my plan, there was a sense of failure which was unwarranted - their own independent learning was usually more worthwhile.

    My eldest daughters ignored my plans for their last two years of school. They spent their time reading, writing (I'm not sure what)and talking. But, despite the fact that I didn't contribute to their learning, they are both doing really well at university and have been commended for their writing skills. That gave me the confidence to step back and give all the kids more freedom to experiment and teach themselves where they can.

    For us, I don't worry anymore
    about what we get done as I'm more concerned that they have curious, creative minds, instead. Megan had to do high school maths at university because she gave it up as too hard, at home - and she ended up with 85%! I guess the point is that God provided for her education where she needed it, regardless of the fact that she isn't a brilliant student and I'm nowhere near a brilliant teacher!

    A lot of jumbled up thoughts here, Willa - so many more thoughts are tumbling around in my mind but I get the feeling I've gone off topic, already!

    God bless

  4. Maybe if I wrote in my plans "encourage curious, creative minds today" that would help me look for opportunities as they came up. I may seriously try something like that!

    My experience was similar to yours with your children. My daughter basically designed her whole high school education -- lots of reading, writing, sewing, violin playing, and singing. And some math. And writing letters to her friends, and dancing. It worked.

    My second son got stalled in math in high school and decided he was just terrible in the subject, but when he went to college he still tested into a college-level class. He chose to take a remedial class because he felt shaky in the basics. He did very well, and then took an intermediate algebra class and was one of the top scorers in the class.

    The point being that it does seem to work out according to what God wants for that child. It's always harder to see day by day though. One sees one's own inadequacies, and feels responsible for the future of one's children. So it's tempting to go for what looks like a safer road, where you feel there are more guarantees, but that doesn't always add up to the best way.

    Thanks for commenting so thoughtfully, it helps me to have discussions like this!

  5. Willa, I've read your other posts and this is incredible.
    I feel much like you. I'm having a critical time in our homeschooling. How can I put this. I believe I have been going against my intuition because I thought intuition is not good enough, but I believe my intuition is educated.
    I liked you deserted island exercise. After all the bad press I have always given to unschooling, I relate to what you say. I still say I homeschool, but as Vicky says, we don't end up doing the plans I write... Last four months I printed categories with boxes that I mainly filled retrospectively.
    Willa, I wanted to say that though I'm only commenting in the PK chapter 9 post of yours, that will beat a comments record! I read all of your posts with interest. I identify much with you, I don't know why. I only have two girls and I don't have all your experience or knowledge, but it's strange, meeting you through this Internet world, and translating CM, as meeting Brandy and Mystie, and other few things in my life of recent, are making me question, rethink, and specially I want to thank you and the others for making me feel much more confident with my insight.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Willa.

  6. Silvia -- I just found your website. It is really beautiful. Are you translating CM into Spanish? I couldn't find that part. That would be a wonderful way to really assimilate what CM was saying.

    About "unschooling" -- in some ways I don't like the word because it has a connotation of not doing anything. But on the other hand, as you say, I have to remind myself to listen to my intuition. Sometimes when I try to do things the way other people are doing it, it falls flat because it is "unreal" somehow, so that's what I am trying to think about as I look ahead to next year.

    I've read Poetic Knowledge before but I think I understand it much better from reading it along with others -- so thank you, too :-).


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!