02 June 2014

Day 103 / 103 - 10 Lessons in 5 Years

This post is monumental.  I have now been educating my children at home for five full years.  If you want to get philosophical, I believe our children are constantly learning (most oftentimes from us) from the first moments we interact with them and that continues regardless of their age or the academic calendar.  But, as of this spring, it has been five years since my children have stepped foot into a school of any kind, and it has been five full academic years that I have notified officials that their father and I will be the ones solely responsible for their education.

Day One !!

Five years is often a benchmark moment in any employment situation.  If I was approaching five years with a corporation, I would probably be up for some kind of review that resulted in a better compensation package.  Maybe I'd be getting an extra week of vacation.  Perhaps I would have a new clock with my company's logo to place on my desk.  Perhaps I'd have a new job title which would result in an updated LinkedIn profile. 

Clearly, I have none of that.  I have a $400 dining room table set that gets used for meals maybe six times a year.  I have more books than shelves.  I have no less than 100 pencils in my home, yet not a single one can be located when needed.  I have my children in and out of my home all day everyday, which often leads to more clutter and more chaos.  Even right now, as I type this, every piece of my living room furniture that is designed for sitting on is being used as some kind of table to hold stacks of books, piles of rubber bands, scissors (?), a guitar, electronic equipment, and one pen.  Ironically, the ottoman, which is in prime coffee table position, is clutter free.

However, aside from the mess, and the chaos, and the lack of a job promotion, I am a very different person, and educator, than I was five years ago.  My style of instructing has evolved, and my knowledge of learning, educating, and spending all day, everyday with my children has greatly expanded.  I truly enjoy it.  More than that, I love it.  I love it so much that I spend quite a bit of time encouraging others to do it, or at least think about doing it.  If you visit this blog even occasionally, you know I use it to showcase what my children have learned.  As I reach the five year mark of homeschooling, I thought it would be only appropriate to let you know a few things I've learned and discovered over the course of our journey.

 Brace yourselves.  This post is longer than most.

1.  Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

Prior to adventuring into homeschooling, my husband and I served in full-time ministry for 10 years with Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru).  Nearly everyday I made the statement, 'We don't have a job.  We have a lifestyle.'  The same is true of homeschooling.  It's not just what I do, it's who I am.  It defines us -- we are homeschoolers!  Of course there are challenges, but there are many rewards.  Just like with Campus Crusade, the main one was there were thousands of other people who we shared this lifestyle with, and instantly we were partners with them.  I feel the same about those who choose to homeschool their children.  I am allies with them because we are journeying along the same path.  We may differ on everything from politics to religion to educational philosophy, but because we have made the commitment to educate our children at home, we share a bond.  We share a lifestyle.

2.  I Believe Every Parent Can Educate Their Children at Home
I'm not sure this was something I gave a second thought to five years ago, but now I feel pretty strongly about it.  Everyone can do this.  I'm convinced.  It does not take years of training with advanced degrees.  It doesn't even take lots of organization and structure.  Believe me!  It does take a little confidence, a little independence, a love for learning, a willingness to 'look something up' if you are unfamiliar with it, and a vision for who you hope your child will become one day.  All the rest of the details can be figured out along the journey.  The sacrifices that need to be made seem minimal in comparison to the outcome.  Nobody knows or cares for a child more than his or her parents.  Naturally, the parents would make the best educator for their children.

3.  I Believe in the Classical Model of Education

I've written about this before many times.  I will write about it again.  Classical Education depends upon a three-part process of training the mind called the Trivium.  The early years are spent absorbing facts, laying the foundation for advanced study.  In the middle grades, students learn to think through discussion and argument.  In the high school years, students learn to express themselves.  This is the Classical Model.

Oftentimes I have found that people have a skewed view of classical educators. They believe we're classical because we teach History chronologically ... or because we teach Latin. Yes, these might be 'subjects' that we teach, but we are classical educators because we believe in three stages of learning – grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. I am not only teaching my children 'subjects', but I (along with my children) am learning methods of how to teach anyone anything. We memorize new information, we process it, and in time we learn to master it and teach it to others.

Children in their early years have minds that are ready to absorb information. Lots of information. Young children memorize anything (songs, commercials, cartoon characters, etc.) easily and quickly, with very little effort. Their minds are equipped to do so. Middle-school-age children think abstractly. They argue and ask why. They discover how the facts relate as they begin to understand some of the information they memorized when they were younger. Older students have required a wealth of information and begin to apply that knowledge as they express themselves and impart their wisdom to others. 

The trivium encourages me with the truth that I am not just teaching my children subjects, but I am helping them to gather information, to teach them to think, and most importantly to teach themselves how to learn.  I have seen this played out in my children over the past five years, especially as I watch my 12-year-old son transition from the first stage to the second.  I'm excited to see it continue to develop in the future.

4.  I Will Never Have a School Room

I have tried this approach in two different houses in the past five years.  It is a concept that just doesn't work for me/us.  My children and I learn better when we are not constrained to a certain room of the house.  I believe that learning is an environment, and it can happen anytime, anywhere.  Even after many attempts of setting up desks, and tables, and book shelves in various locations in our homes, we found we always gravitate around the dining room table.  I know this isn't for everyone, but it's what we prefer and where we best learn.

However, if you are expecting any invitations for dinner, they will come in 2022 when I will be finished homeschooling my children.

5.  I Obtained a Black Belt in Taekwondo 

Then I tested for a second one.  Now, I'm training for another black belt in a different style of martial arts.

This isn't directly homeschool related, but studying martial arts is a hobby I discovered roughly five years ago.  After regularly sitting in the lobby of my children's school, I was encouraged by their instructors to consider training myself.  The invite came at an appropriate time as I was beginning my homeschooling journey.  I was launching into the mindset of believing that anyone can learn anything at any stage of life.  I began to see the tools of learning that are so prominent in the Classical Model of Education play out in my weekly martial arts classes.  I needed to understand the 'grammar' of the sport -- different kicks, different blocks, etc.  Then, as I advanced in rank, I needed to build on that foundation by applying new techniques I was learning -- pivoting my planted foot while executing a kick, turning my hips over when kicking in order to exert power from the hips, not the knees, etc.  Proper technique didn't just occur for me after the initial instruction.  I had to (and still have to) be constantly reminded until it became second nature.  Finally, I've come to a point in my training where I can help and assist others with my application by walking them through some of the basics and skills that I've learned.

In no way have I become an expert in the sport.  But, I have discovered that (just like any subject) I've learned how to learn the basics and begin to help others do the same.

6.  I Use Very Little Curriculum
Honestly, this is quite beneficial due to #4.  If you read this blog regularly, this really shouldn't surprise you.  Rarely have I posted anything we've done strictly from curriculum.

My first year homeschooling, I ordered several products, and I was excited when the shipment arrived.  Within the first two months, I realized that I wasn't going to use any of it.  Most everything we wanted to learn was available right around us.  So, most of the supplies I ordered that year I gave away.  Each year, I've purchased less and less stuff.  Two years ago I spent $82 on curriculum.  Last year, it was less than $75.  Three years ago I purchased a 6th grade math book for my son, who was 9 at the time.  I've worked out of that book with my children for the past three years, and will use it with my daughter for the next two.  I will use the same Language Arts curriculum with my children for six full years.  In five years, I've never once bought notebook paper!  We work on whiteboards almost daily.  Again, this is the system we've discovered works best for us.

7.  I Love History

I don't remember much about History in high school or college.  I know I took a few classes.  I couldn't tell you one thing I discussed and/or learned.  Some of that might be a result of my memory.  Some of it may be because I didn't want to learn about historical events at that time.

Now, I'm fascinated with it.  I love learning about past civilizations.  I love hearing about the events that have impacted civilizations.  I enjoy thinking through the daily life of a Roman Centurion, a Medieval Peasant, or an American Colonist.  Stories about people who lived long ago really do shape our future.  Learning History these past five years truly has been a worthwhile investment of my time.

8.  I Love English Grammar

Do I remember diagramming sentences when I was in school?  No.  Do I diagram them now?  Yes, most definitely.

I have loved learning English Grammar as an adult.  Language is logical and mechanical.  I love looking at a sentence and picking it apart to see how the words fit together.  Studying English Grammar has taught me how to learn and how to think.  I can only hope I'm imparting some of that to my children.

9.  All Subjects Are Integrated

Within my first year of homeschooling I quickly realized how the subjects were integrated. As I began to learn History with my children, I discovered no subject can be taught apart from History. Every advancement in art, science, language, or medicine has been a result of an historical event in time. Geography and History are not independent subjects. How is it even possible to learn the tale of a civilization without understanding where it happened? 

One of the joys of homeschooling is not having to teach subjects in isolation.  I believe my daughter has learned far more math from her detailed craft projects or baking than she has from any text book.  She has learned all she needs to know and more about human anatomy from her dance classes.  My son learns about advanced civilizations and world leaders from video games.  I've often said there could be a complete educational curriculum written entirely from his Boy Scout requirements.  He has learned math, science, history, geography, current events, home economics, and health from earning merit badges.

Integrating subjects leads to  a more organic learning environment.  Plus, it makes learning fun !!

10.  We Haven't Owned a Television in 5+ Years

Again, this isn't only directly related to homeschooling, but also to a minimalist lifestyle we also desire.  Six years ago, our television wasn't working properly so we weren't watching it much.  I reached the point where I was tired of dusting it, so we parted with it.  We never replaced it, and it's been glorious.  Easily, I have several more hours a day than most people.  We have many other electronic devices biding for our time, so it has been nice not to have one more screen time battle in our home.  Being without a TV has easily assisted us on our homeschooling journey.

Naturally, there's so much more I can share about our journey.  If you have been homeschooling for awhile (or even for a few months), I'd encourage you to think through all you've learned and discovered thus far.  It will help keep your vision afresh.  For us, it's been a fabulous five years.  I'm eagerly anticipating the next five.

And, I was wrong in my very second paragraph of this post.  I have received a new memento for my desk dining room table.  It's perfect.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for linking this up. What a blessing you are giving your children by homeschooling them. Blessings - Colleen