For me, one of the hardest parts of homeschooling has been letting go of my past public school experiences. I am referring to the tendency I have to want to re-create a school-like atmosphere here at home. At the same time, that’s not really what I want because homeschooling is so much more than that. I don’t want my girls to sit behind a desk spending X amount of time on math followed by X amount of time on writing followed by X amount of time on science, etc., etc. What I really want is for them to develop a love for learning. Instead, I find myself getting into battles with my 6-year-old because I want her to complete a certain amount of pages in her writing book before she can work on geography, which she absolutely loves. Or I tell my 4-year-old that she needs to practice writing her name before she can move on to something she really wants to do. Instead, shouldn’t I be thrilled that my 6-year-old has developed a love for geography? And why does my 4-year-old need to write her name if what she would rather be doing in cutting with scissors? Isn’t the fact that she wants to learn how to use scissors just as important?
Sometime in the past, I’ve learned to compartmentalize subjects, when in fact every subject has multiple learning opportunities. It’s a carry-over from my own childhood and I have trouble letting go of that old idea. Geography is also a great time to work on writing and spelling. Cutting with scissors is a great time to develop better counting skills. Obviously, these are just two examples of how learning one things creates opportunities to learn other things as well.
A big reason I made the choice to homeschool was the desire I had to provide my girls the opportunity to take lead in their learning. Unfortunately, I haven’t always done a good job of giving them that freedom. Instead of asking, “What would you like to work on today?” or even better, “What would you like to do today?” I decided to simply tell them exactly what we’re doing. Some days that works well, but on the days it isn’t working well I’m teaching them that what they want to learn isn’t nearly as important as what I want them to learn. How can I expect them to learn much at all on those days or in those moments when it’s just not something they want to learn? After all, don’t we all learn more easily when we have control over what it is we’re learning?
I write this today because I need the reminder that child-led learning is a wonderful thing. My role in educating my girls is to encourage learning. I am here to support their learning. I am here to assist them as they learn. I’m here to guide them in their education.
Homeschooling is a learning process for all of us and it’s time for me to learn how to let go of those old ideas and give my girls the freedom to learn.
Oh Debbie, this is so insightful and I could not agree more!! Formal education calls it “child-centered learning”; same dif. And though I have tried to allow/encourage child-led learning in my classroom, it so often doesn’t happen; and then I encounter the same “battles” you describe. It seems almost daily when I reflect on those struggles, it was me who got in the way of their learning! What’s more, I have always maintained that one could acquire everything they needed to “learn” through a single theme/topic/subject about which he or she is passionate. As you noted, geography can and should include writing, reading, numbers, etc. A pen pal perhaps in Central America which is x degrees longitude and y degrees latitude and where they use a type of money which is equal to e amount of pennies/nickels/dimes/quarters/dollars and the average family size is t; one can compare clothes/homes/schools/food/animals/environment/sports/games with what we use in the US using a Venn diagram. Graphic organizers are marvelous tools to organize learning. A KWL chart, ay, I think you’ve hit a passion point for me:)
It is so easy to recognize when I have stumbled across something that interests my students. They practically vibrate with enthusiasm. A great example. Yesterday, one of the centers was working with syllables with ‘a’. A group of 4 students were obviously enjoying the ton of cards with “ca, ma, pa, sa, la, ta, etc.” One student showed me how he had put ma + ca = maca. I asked if that was a real word. No, he admitted. I then asked him to switch the order. As he said “ca + ma = cama” his eyes grew to an enormous size; he ran to the center and showed his fellow students maca vs. cama. And still shaking with amazement he said “It’s magic!” Yes, I thought, it is indeed magic.
For a plethora of reasons, public schools have their place in society. However, I fail to understand how any classroom in the public school system can successfully provide a child-led/child-centered learning environment to every child. Kudos to you and all the teachers out there who work hard to allow children the freedom to explore and take charge of their learning as much as is allowable by the system.