Posted by: Genny Colby | August 28, 2012

Homeschooling…a Way of Life

As we start to think more seriously about home schooling our children, gathering materials and scouring resources, it occurs to me that I should really put what my (our) philosophy about schooling and education really is into words.  Something that we can look back and say “This is where we started”.  And it should also give us a good starting place as we develop our home school curriculum.

That is one thing I know for a fact will happen…we will develop our own curriculum.  We won’t simply take one approach to our children’s education.  But maybe I am getting ahead of myself here.  Let’s back up and start more at the beginning (pause as I replay the “Sound of Music” DO RE MI lesson in my mind…)

At the core I think learning should be fun and have value to the student and the teacher.  Learning should be intrinsically valuable.  We should not hear “but when am I ever going to need to know “X”!” If we are doing it right, what ever we are learning should have value and connect with subjects/skills that we are working on.  Or we can show how learning a particular skill or knowledge set will allow us to learn more about something else.

I don’t like to do something just for the sake of doing “something”.  I won’t just pull out a worksheet for her to do busy work.  It is not that I don’t see some value in some worksheets (how else do you work on handwriting skills?) but I think there are too many cases where they are just busy work, with no real intrinsic value to learning.  I will be honest…I make most of our worksheets myself so I can be sure that they are meeting the objectives I have for the learning activity. I can tailor the skills she is working on to her level, I can make them fun and interesting, and I can adapt them as needed as we learn and grow.

Learning just to learn is not fun nor is a good way for anyone to retain information.  Yes, there are basic skills everyone needs to know (letters, sounds, how to read, how to write, numbers, number value, basic math skills, history, basic science principles).  I am not arguing that point, but rather HOW those skills are taught, the method of delivery.  I am not a fan of rote learning.  I believe learning should be hands and personal.  I don’t believe anyone should learn just to repeat the facts back on a test.  I believe that children all can be successful in school, if they are given a chance to learn at their own pace, if they are taught in a way that learning is meaningful to them, and that they are encouraged to be a part of their education.

It is one of the reasons I am so drawn to homeschooling.  We can make their education truly their education.  It does not have to be cookie cutter.  If Monkey wants to spend a whole year delving into Greek Mythology, we can.  If the little dragon wants to spend a 2 months on dinosaurs, we can.  We use their interests as a starting block for all subjects.  Education does not have to occur in a vacuum, nor does it have to be about passing a test at the end of a unit.  Education is a journey and half the fun is getting to your final destination…and who knows what other wonders you may discover along the way?  Homeschooling allows us to take those detours, see where we end up.  It allows our children to see that as parents, we are still learning, right along with them.  That is not about having the answers, but knowing how to ask the question and look for the answer.

So, how are we going to do this?  Well, first we will take each year as it comes.  If homeschooling is still proving to be successful for us, we will continue.  If not, we will look at other alternatives.  As you may have guessed, I do take a thematic approach to my teaching.  I use the theme to find/develop/create learning opportunities.  I use as many hands on, personal learning opportunities as possible.  I use songs, poetry, literature (non-fiction and fiction) to introduce themes.  I try to have as many materials as possible to manipulate, to make learning hands on and fun.  I try to make as much as I can a game, or at least interactive in some way.  As time goes on, the Monkey will have more say about what types of themes we use as our base of study.  And it is likely that with two, I will have two different courses of study going at one time!

We are looking for other families who are homeschooling as well to share resources, learning opportunities, and ideas.  We are going to take advantage (once she is old enough) for the many opportunities for mini-courses at places like the zoo, the Botanic Gardens, the Museums, and the numerous nature centers in our area.  We will take trips to the library to look for books, we will plan family vacations that allow us not only to have fun, but explore our interests.  We make “school” a family affair and enjoy discovering new things, new ideas, and maybe even along the way find the answer to the universe. (…the answer is 42)  Well, at least we will always remember to bring our towels!



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