I’ve had a few people ask exactly what kind of home education we do around here. And the truth is that I’m not exactly sure what to call it! And maybe that’s just it- I hate being pegged as any one thing or being forced to do someone else’s list of things (which, I think, is why I’m chaffing as I look through curriculum for Kindergarten. I just don’t want to do what someone else tells me I should do!). But enough people have asked me to define our homeschooling style that I thought I should really answer them, but instead of me giving you our definition, I’ll tell you about my educational influences and you can decide what to call us.
My experiences as a classroom teacher had the most significant influence on me. The thing I was so disappointed in was the fact that I couldn’t give every single child what I knew they individually needed. This is why I don’t teach group classes in my studio- different kids need different things and there is no way to put a group together that will provide for individual learning curves. I really appreciate the ability to tailor concepts to the student and to put a new idea into just the right words that will make it click in the student’s mind.
These experiences are also the reason I am not a purist in any one philosophy. I don’t believe that any one philosophy can account for the learning needs of every single child- that is why it is important that the educator has a million learning tricks to pull out of their sleeve- a little bit of Montessori, a little Charlotte Mason, even the often dreaded workbooks- a little bit of everything can be perfect for one child.
Montessori is obviously a huge influence for me. This is the basis for our current schooling, though again I’m not a purist. I love that there is a purpose to every work, nothing is “busy work” and everything is designed to require something of the child. It makes my boys feel the importance of being part of our family and taking care of themselves- pouring their own drinks, setting their own place at the table. Everything has a purpose and a place. Everything is important, down to the process by which you do things.
I love the sense of space in Montessori philosophy. Materials are presented on the shelves as lovely options. Nothing is cluttered, and space is clearly defined by baskets, bowls, and mats. This serves Ender particularly well as he is a boy that is very orderly and has a strong sense of how things should be done. This serves Ezra well because he needs to learn a sense of order.
Charlotte Mason is really where my heart lies. My early years were shaped by good books and to this day I fight to find every available moment to read- how many books do I have checked out from the library right now JUST for me? Oh, about 30. I don’t agree with completely eliminating “twaddle” from our reading lives (oh, how I love a good urban fantasy!) but I do think we should limit it for young readers and guide them in making good reading choices. Everything in moderation, I say- fluff books are fun at times just like a bit of junk food. I don’t construct my whole reading diet out of fluff, but I do enjoy it quite a bit now and again.
The importance of nature and being out in the world to experience it is important to me too- I have two little boys that would live outdoors if I would let them. I’ll be honest with you and say that it’s not that eas or natural for me- I’m not the kind of girl that does well with bugs and dirt and germy things. In fact, if I were going to be really honest I’d tell you that germs completely freak me out and I have to fight that on a daily basis so that my kids don’t turn out weird like me. I’m determined to conquer some of my fears, even if it takes a long while. My boys need me to like (okay, tolerate) going outside with them on a daily basis.
Elizabeth Foss. I know, I know- she’s not the author of a method and she should really be in the Charlotte Mason category because she’s such a strong advocate for Charlotte Mason, but her blog, Serendipity, her book, and the 4Real forums have been a giant influence on me. The more I read of her and people who educate in the same way she does the more I find myself nodding my head in agreement. I feel freedom to homeschool in a way that frees me from being forced to follow a rigorous schedule or someone else’s list of what “should” be learned in a given year. I’m no longer afraid of “missing something” along the way.
Other things that fall into various home learning areas? Well, we don’t plan to use a math text until at least 4th grade (with plans to look seriously at Teaching Textbooks at that point) and have no plans to use traditional text books at all unless it proves necessary or one of my kids actually requests a textbook. I have a child who is in love with “filling in the blanks” so we use Kumon workbooks as he desires. We have projects to work on, but not always academic ones (like the giant Wall-E coloring poster Ender has been working on for days now). I follow the interests he shows, but I also present my own ideas for materials and work to him that I think may turn into an interest. If it doesn’t, no problem. But sometimes it opens up a new and interesting possibility for him.
So what are we? Who knows. Too scheduled to be unschoolers, too relaxed to fall with the traditional crowd. Not purist enough to call ourselves strictly Montessori, and maybe not even enough to define our homeschool as Charlotte Mason. Eclectic? Maybe. But I’d prefer to remain un-labeled. I like defying definition.