September 10, 2012 in Education
“So what should I do with my six year old for school?” and “What do you use for your kids for school?” are by far the two most commonly asked questions families interested in schooling their own children.
My stock answers: “I don’t know,” and “It doesn’t matter!”
People are asking the wrong question.
It’s the natural question, of course, when you’re stacking your kid up against the industrial system of education because schooling is something you do to a child, right?
It’s the wrong question.
What is the right question?
“What is my philosophy of education?”
A “philosophy” isn’t as scary as it sounds. It’s simply the thinking, the reasoning, the belief about a particular subject that provides the impetus for action.
So the right questions are:
- What do you think or believe about children and how they learn?
- What are your convictions about the kind of life you’d like your child to lead?
- What principles do you value in the development of an education?
- Which theories of child development and learning resonate most with you?
- What is your end goal? What are you trying to accomplish in the raising (educating) of your young person?
Until you have the answers to these questions firmly in mind, I can’t help you and you really can’t even help yourself.
I’ve helped so many parents over the years who come completely frustrated, with a laundry list of what they’ve tried and what’s not working and how HARD it all is, this business of educating children. They’ve burned through every product marketed their direction that promised to “deliver results” and the results they’ve gotten aren’t satisfactory in one sense or another.
Until you know where you’re going and why, you won’t be able to get there.
- If you’re trying to replicate public school at home because you’re just taking a year off to travel: you can do that.
- If you’re wanting to create a tailor made education for a child according to his natural bent: you can do that.
But the path to those two ends is very different as are the tools you’ll employ to reach them.
Instead of spending the time sorting through the ocean of “curriculum options” and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on “programs” spend the time and money on educating yourself.
Read books and websites that resonate with your beliefs about kids and education. Read those that you think will challenge your preconceived notions. Do the hard mental work and figure out what YOU think, what YOUR philosophy is.
Having a well defined educational philosophy simplifies the process.
- It allows you to walk by the boxed curriculum if that’s not where you’re going without guilt.
- It allows you to freely choose what will suit your own ends, without worrying too much about what anyone else is doing.
- It allows you to confidently teach your children according to your values
- It frees you from the tyranny of the daily by giving you a long term focus
If parents new to alternative education would spend the time and money their first year on their own re-education the whole experiment would go much more smoothly. I’m convinced of that.
- Until you know where you’re going, I can’t help you find what will fit.
- Unless you happen to share my specific educational philosophy, what I’m doing with my kids is immaterial.
The beauty of the whole process of outside the box education is that there’s not one way to do it. There are a million ways, probably more. We compare notes, we help each other along, we work together as families, but we don’t replicate one another or insist on our way being the best or only way.
If you’re interested in knowing, our family philosophy of education is a blend of the Charlotte Mason and Classical schools of thought. We’re what’s called “eclectic” in home school groups. We believe in a parent directed education with great consideration to the natural bent of the child. Our long term goal is not to teach our kids “everything” but instead to develop the skills necessary to adapt and continue to learn as the world changes and find what they need. We focus on problem solving, doing hard things, perseverance and creative thinking. We take a long view of education, historically, and in terms of our individual lives. We view the “public school standards” as a minimum, not a bar of useful measurement for annual progress. We believe learning is taking place with every breath from cradle to grave, and thus we’re not “schooling” our kids, we’re learning together. We focus on the development of the habits of attention, self discipline, self control, health, happiness, diligence and perseverance, among others. Charlotte Mason believed that all learning was dependent upon the cultivation of particular habits, we tend to agree.
But that’s us, our philosophy of education. That doesn’t matter a single bit except to the generations of our family.
The real question is what do you believe? What’s your philosophy of education?
Take the time to nail it down. It will be time well spent.
Here are a few books that we’ve found useful in our process, perhaps you will too:
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola
The Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason (6 books!)
The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer