I’ve had a lot of questions lately about our laid back style of schooling. So, I am going to do a little series, “When the World is Your Classroom” to share about some of our methods and philosophies.
I tend to be an out-of-the-box kind of person. Not in a unique and creative way, but in a more annoying, don’t-really-fit-in-anywhere kind of way. None of the defined homeschooling methods really describe us, so I just say that we are eclectic and laid back…with a leaning toward unit studies, unschooling, and Charlotte Mason. And probably some others thrown in there as well.
There is one thing we are not and that is traditional. We don’t use traditional textbooks or structured curriculum.
This fact has earned me many raised eye brows and dropped jaws over the past couple of years, so I thought I would take some time to explain why we chose this non-traditional route.
It all comes back to our philosophy about education in general. I have shared before about our mission statement and vision for homeschooling, Here are some of the beliefs we hold that led us to a more laid-back style of schooling.
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. ~Albert Einstein
Learning should be fun
My number one priority, academically, for these early years is to instill in my children a love of learning. I believe that is the single most important thing for a child to learn in these early years.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats
If I push and push, I can teach them a few things. Maybe even a lot of things. But if I inspire them with a deeply ingrained love of learning, there is no limit to what they can learn. And that passion will carry them far beyond a few facts and figures. I believe if the desire to learn is present, all the facts and figures will take care of themselves, naturally.
School is never forced for us. I facilitate, but we are very child-directed. Because of this, my children will spend a morning doing worksheets, playing educational games, and exploring the world around them. I check off those boxes of things they needed to learn, and they will tell someone who asks that they didn’t do school that day.
To them, they didn’t do school, they just had fun. But they were learning what they need to know, which I consider a win-win.
That’s not to say we don’t believe in and teach the value of being disciplined, we do that as well, just not with textbooks.
Learning is Natural, Textbooks are not
Babies are born with a natural curiosity. Learning does not have to be forced. I have seen so many children begin their schooling with this curiosity and passion for learning, only to have it quickly snuffed out by lessons that are dry, boring, and forced.
My boys do worksheets as they desire, and it is an amazing thing. Some days, they don’t want to do them. So I don’t make them. Other days, they ask, completely unprovoked, if they can get out the workbooks. They have been known to do an entire workbook in one sitting! By allowing them to have this bit of freedom, schooling remains fun for them. And we still stay “on track.”
The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. ~Robert Maynard Hutchins
Learning Should Be Practical and Applicable
We believe that learning should be practical and applicable. We live in an area with a large Amish population. Their children attend Amish schools only through 8th grade. Yet they are very smart. They are successful tradesmen and entrepreneurs.
Among the general population, there is a growing trend of young people going back to trade schools rather than pursuing a traditional college education.
Because it is practical, and applicable to the student. We believe that our children will naturally seek out the knowledge and skills as they are necessary for them. We don’t believe in forced fluff and busywork. It doesn’t make sense to us to deny our children’s natural curiosity and teach, instead, things that aren’t any more relevant to them just because someone said so.
Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. ~John W. Gardner
Learning Should be a Life-Long Venture
We believe that learning is a life long venture, and that it can’t possibly be contained to school books and school hours. So, we don’t want to even try. We’ve been watching Little House on the Prairie lately and on Laura and Mary’s first day of school, the following exchange took place between Laura and her mother:
Laura: Mom, how long is all this learning going to take?
Ma: We start learning when we’re born, Laura. And if we’re wise, we don’t stop until the Lord calls us home.
I have found that so often among students, they see learning as something that happens with textbooks, and ends with the school day or when they graduate. We want our children to associate learning with life and not with school.
Learning Should be True-to-Life
Building on the fact that we believe learning to be a life long venture, we believe that our boys’ education should prepare them for that. We want to teach them now how to take initiative and learn as adults, and not depend on a textbook to tell them what they should know, or learn, or be interested in.
They say that we are better educated than our parents’ generation. What they mean is that we go to school longer. It is not the same thing. ~Richard Yates
As adults, we should be constantly learning. But if we’re honest, most of our learning doesn’t come from textbooks. It comes from the wisdom of people around us, living books, and it comes from doing. We believe that education is more effective when it is hands-on. We are in a unique position to allow our children to learn through experiences rather than textbooks. We believe it is both more fun, and more effective.
For example, which would you be more likely to remember? Reading a textbook lesson about tree tapping and maple syrup, or engaging in that process yourself?
I am not suggesting that everyone give up their textbooks. My boys have a love of learning. Is it because we have fostered this attitude, or is it something unique to them? That is hard to say. But because of their natural excitement for the simple things, this method of home educating works really well for us. I’m not saying it would work for everyone. However, I do believe in these principles.