I have spent some time talking to a frustrated homeschooling mom of two young boys. She's new to homeschooling and has made it known that she needs help. You see, she, like many new homeschool moms, is tied up in traditionalism. She and her dh think they need to do it "by the (text)book". As in the public school text book. They have set up "school at home". I don't fault families for doing this, it's only natural to do what you know. But what if we what we know simply doesn't work? Sometimes we have compliant children and we don't even know school at home (not to be confused with homeschooling) is second best.
Let me illustrate: With school at home, the school day looks like this:
The children enter the school room and sit at their desks. Mom has her own desk. The pledge is said every day (after all, it's said in public school every day). A Bible story might be read, after all, it is homeschool. But then, quickly back to the public school style: A history lesson is read from a dry (and possibly biased at best, liberal at worst) history book. A fill in the blank workbook page or two follows. Now it's time for reading. Students read their passage, only an portion of the real story mind you, from a workbook. More fill in the blank questions. And so it goes with the rest of the day's studies-science, health...each subject. Mom would like to join in the kids' games in the evening but she's so bogged down in grading all those worksheets and preparing for the next day that she can't. And she resents it.
Okay, here's my totally objective, not-biased-a-bit-view of a better way to do things:
We join around the dining room table. Our school books shelf is behind me. It's filled with great chapter books, hands on math supplies, and a few workbooks. I have the day's books stacked in front of me, with a colorful pencil can beside them (do you know how many times we lose our pencils in one school day?!). Ash and Hope sit to my right and left, respectively. Beth is playing around us or coloring at the other end of the table. Jaybird is napping or playing nearby.
We start with a Bible story, after all this is homeschool. We then discuss the lesson and pray for our school day. We used to say the pledge, but they all know it now, so we don't. We move into our math text books (see I can use a text book!). I help them get started and make sure they are progressing well. When they've done a few pages (Hope has done about 10-she loves her math books!), we read science together. We're doing Apologia's Elementary science and love its Charlotte Mason style. So we read and discuss the very fun botany lesson while the girls dictate "notes" from the reading. Hope draws a picture about what I'm reading while Ash writes out definitions and examples she wants to remember. She likes this part and started it without my prompting. Sometimes we have easy activities to do-like see how far two different wind-dispersed seeds can go.
Two days a week we focus on our history reading. For Ash this is a lively textbook (gasp!) from the famous Landmark books. Sonlight supplements this text with many historical fiction books. Ash reads hers on her own during her down time and I read the read alouds in the evenings. For Hope, its an Usborne book on past culutures (what they ate, how they worked, where they lived...).
The other two days of the week, we focus on Language Arts. Both girls have a passage (or words for Hope) to dictate and answer questions about, which we sometimes do orally. We also do creative writing assignments and Ash just started a research project. Somewhere in there I do a quick spelling lesson with Ash. Girlie now reads me a little story and she reviews her letter sounds and simple grammar lessons.
This is all finished in about 2 hours-give or take. Whatever we do, you can bet there's a lot of discussion so I can make sure the information is in there.
I don't believe in school that makes kids sit at a desk (or table) all day filling in worksheets. I think children should be children and enjoy their play. I think they should be challenged to do big things-build big forts, enter 4-H contests, write encouraging notes to people who need a friend, drill their math facts, read chapter books (not twaddle, either--good, rich, well written, stimulating literature), and memorize scriptures.
I'm not an unschooler--we have structure. But I am relaxed (compared to the mom in the first scenario). SL is challenging and our entire family loves it. I don't think education should be boring. I think it should be enjoyable. That will teach our children to be life-long learners! That's what I want-a child who grows up not knowing everything, but who enjoys the challenge of learning something new. God may call my child to do something I could never teach her--but she'll have confidence in herself that she can learn anything she wants, and even enjoy doing it.
These are precious years I'm investing in my daughters' childhoods. I want them to be filled with memories of cozy evenings curled up on the couch reading great literature, not frustrating days of fill in the blank worksheets.
What has shaped my view?
Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
and Charlotte Mason Campanion by Karen Andreola