As we continue this journey along the homeschooling pathway, I am reminded over and again why I feel we are making the best decision for our family. There are those days, of course, that I think can't be avoided...but can be accepted: days when nothing really "gets done", whether because there are special circumstances, interruptions, lack of focus, or just sheer laziness on my own part; days when the kids are driving me crazy and I wish I just had a break; days when I worry we aren't doing "enough" or the "right" thing, days when I think their brains might turn to mush becase I somehow managed to allow television for hours, days when I think my entire home could be mistaken as a disaster zone that was created by some extraordinarily dusty food, clothing, and craft-related explosion. Those days are frustrating, no doubt, and in those moments, I might find it difficult to quiet my inner stress-monster and see the greater picture. But here's the thing, it's those other days that keep me going. You know what I'm talking about: those days when you had no schedule and while merely playing and talking with your kids, you covered a variety of subjects, imparted wisdom and information, piqued their natural learning curiosity, engaged them in their world and basically lived a wonderful, informative day; or those days that may be a little less easy to identify some subject they specifically learned, but while tucking them in you realize that while they busied themselves building forts and obstacle courses, doll communities and crafts (unfortunate side effect being that disaster zone I mentioned earlier) they didn't argue once. They cooperatively played, using their imaginations without restriction and reaped the benefits of a fun, full, meaningful day and it is evident in the way we all smile and seem so relaxed. Because I believe character is just as important as wisdom, I recognize the value of this, in and of itself. And there is always the added benefit of lower stress levels, something I wish to foster as much as humanly possible. We could all do with a little more simplicity and a little less stress-inducing pressure in our lives.
So, when I think about the path we are on, seeing "how" we are currently homeschooling and I am looking for a way to define this, I come to this conclusion: for the most part, we go with the flow. I believe I mentioned before, that I consider my teaching style to be eclectic, a catch-phrase that I realize is often thrown around haphazardly. However, I think it is a good description of my "technique" because in a nutshell, my "technique" is this: just take it day by day, try new things, shift gears if something doesn't seem to be working, try to recognize when to push and when to let it go, take plenty of "free time" to let the kids do what they want; recognize when this leads to learning and don't feel guilty about it if it seemed to be nothing more than a day of "nothing" (kids can learn things from "nothing" just as much as "something" we think needs to be learned), and generally, don't sweat the small stuff. As far as philosophy goes, I've seen all the labels...unschooling, classical, themed/ unit, delayed, delight-directed, etc. Depending on my mood, or more often...the girls' moods, we use any combination of any one of those on any given day. Sometimes Tater Tot feels like reading, sometimes she would rather clean the house than do a single math problem, occasionally I might break out a worksheet, more often than not, the worksheet gets shoved aside and we do something hands-on, some days I stress more than needed and feel like she needs a push to "stay on task", others I wonder why I ever doubt how much she learns on her own time and in her own way. The point is, not only do I believe there is no one way that works for all children, but I also believe all ways can work at some point in time with any children. Can this be exhausting...keeping up with a changing paradigm and interests, sure, but it is definitely worth it. I can't count how often I have just completely switched gears mid-stream on a "lesson" I was giving because Tater Tot asked a question that deserved answering. Do I worry that we are not staying "on task". No, I'll let the compulsory schools deal with that fallout. If getting the most out of life, while giving yourself to it as a full and productive; contributing and useful member of society is the task, then I think we continue to be spot-on. No worries. I know what you may be thinking. "Your kids are in the early years. You haven't hit those really heavy-duty subjects yet. This lack of a specific curricula might work now, but you'll be singing a different tune later." Well, that is a possibility and something I think about often, because, of course, one of my biggest fears is to not prepare my kids well enough to be the adults I described above. "What if I miss something? What if I screw it all up?" But the conclusion I've come to is that I will likely be more specific in what I expect from my children in their early years than I will be later on. This is because I believe the proper foundations are of utmost importance, which leads me to my next point:
Even though I don't really have a defined way of doing things, I thought it was a good idea to define what it is I hope to accomplish. After much contemplation, I have determined that the foundation I feel is most important to lay for my children can be broadly categorized in just a handful of terms:
-thinking to learn and learning to think
I believe if my children have a strong foundation in these six categories, they will be able to learn anything, accomplish and task, and overcome any obstacle during their lifetime. Thinking and learning are my top priority, regardless of how that works individually for each of my children. They must know how to analyze, extrapolate and interpret everything they see and question everything. Nothing should be taken for granted. As my children continue to question the world they live in, they will continue to learn new things and to think for themselves. Thinking and learning how to learn seem to be all, but lost in our current educational system. Kids are no longer taught to think, only to regurgitate. Next, there is a reason the "3 R's" have been a long-standing basis of learning. If my children can read, write and speak they can then learn anything and communicate effectively in whatever manner is needed. Sadly, in today's world of texting and Facebook, I think that actual communication skills are also being lost. My children will have the edge. In addition, math is at the root of our universe. If you understand it, you have the ability to understand virtually anything else in the world and at the very least, are able to see the bigger connections between things. Lastly, but not least, is character. This encompasses everything I believe my children should be in order to be a useful, contributing member of society that will hopefully leave the world a better place for them having been in it. To name just a few of importance: honesty, integrity, compassion, and morality. I feel that once armed with these basics, my children will likely thrive in whatever they choose to accomplish and therefore, I won't worry as much about what, specifically, they are learning because I will feel confident that they have the tools to learn anything needed. This is why I believe it is more important to spend as much time as needed on these basics, regardless of standards and societal norms. After that...all the rest is cake. ;-)