Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who are we and what are we doing?

It's funny, when you are so immersed in homeschooling that you forget that 95% of everyone else out there has no idea what it is all about. Our family, friends and neighbours all know what is going on...sort of. I have to say most people we run into, just in passing, seem not too shocked or offended by such a notion. Still, when probed, people really want to know what it is we are doing. Especially when they hear that what Alex and Izzy are not doing is school at home.

I am very fond of books (and now the internet) so when I first entertained thoughts of homeschooling Alex, I did my homework and then some. I am a planner by nature and thought, falsely, that I could plot this whole venture right out.

Of course, I found that there are those who do this for religious reasons (though they, as a group, represent fewer and fewer of the new recruits). There are the unschoolers who follow a child's lead and trust that it all comes together in the end. There is no fixed agenda and you follow the interests of the child. Some people do do school at home, either by following their own version of the provincial curriculum or by sending away for correspondence studies. The classical homeschoolers believe education has has two important aspects. First that it is language-focused and, secondly, it follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of facts, and finally equipped to express conclusions. To the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. There is a lot of emphasis on the major works of the western world...from the ancient Greek poets and philosophers to classical British authors and playwrights. Lastly, there are those of us who fall into the ever popular eclectic homeschoolers. We take a little from column a and a little from b, c and, maybe, d.

So where do we fit in? Well, we are pretty close to being unschoolers at the moment. I still offer material to the kids, though, and initiate a lot of things I think they will be interested in. I will also have them sit down at the table and do some work - like practicing writing. Though that constitutes less than an hour or two of our time each week. We have no fixed agenda for when we do 'school' work and if we happen to miss some table work, oh well. I haven't looked at the Ontario curriculum online in over a year and have no inclination to do so any time soon. We tend to just run with whatever catches our fancy at the moment. So far, in the past 16 months, this has included running obsessions with the Titanic (and big boats in general), engineering and architecture, inventors and their inventions, outer space, flying, the human body and weather. Oh, and Alex taught himself to read too.

I anticipate changes though. I think the biggest asset to homeschooling is flexibility. Just like when a certain subject becomes boring and dropped, styles of homeschooling are not set in stone. I know, for my own piece of mind (and eventual university entrance viability) we will move towards more structured curriculums. For now I have a five and a half year old who is well beyond what the government educational model demands of him and happy. At this point, it is a case of why fix what isn't broken?

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