What I’ve borrowed from different homeschool philosophies

I sometimes feel like Aesop’s Bat; not really one thing or another.  Especially with homeschool philosophies.

When I read ‘Home Education Magazine’ I think, this is great; the journaling by parents, the responsiveness to a child’s individuality, using the library and real life so much, getting to be creative as a teacher – then I read a sarcastic statement about people who believe in original sin, and I think, how on Earth can anyone know a child well, live with children, and NOT believe in original sin?  Curiosity is a great motivator, it’s led me to explore many things to riddiculous depths, but not everyone is  internally motivated, and some people are lazy.

When I was in 5th grade, struggling with math, but also loving math and wanting to get into the pre-algebra program if at all possible (my grades suffered when I was bored, try convincing someone that you should be bumped up to a high level class with only low B’s though) my mother handed me John Holt’s book about why children failed in math.  I’m not sure which title it was, it was published in his “let’s reform public education” phase, not the “forget it, school your own.” phase.  The observation that seemed to fit me was paradoxically about boys.

Boys often are told, “you are so good in math , but  your handwriting is so bad, that your columns get mixed up and you make silly mistakes.  Please make it neater.” and they hear how smart they are in math.  Little girls often get compliments on their handwriting and computational correctness, which doesn’t have the same ringing endorsement of smarts!  I was a little girl with dreadful handwriting – that’s probably why I am now a woman who likes to type.  And why I minored in math in college.  No spelling errors to annoy a prof. or papers to write!  So anyone else who takes John Holt seriously (like the unschoolers) seems to have a grain of sense.

BUT it’s also like he takes the unusual learners, the very very gifted kids, and makes them the norm.  Like the Whole Language folks who norm the entire program based on the 25% of kids who learn to read just by being read to.  What about the other 75%?  What about the lazy kids?  Why is it so beneficial for kids to interact with adults passionate about (whatever) and not their own parents who are passionate about them?

Whenever I’ve tutored, I’ve noticed that it is easy to love the children, and look down on the parents.  I got a taste of this when my son needed speech therapy; his tutor was ever so slightly condescending about my problems with him; until she’d worked with him for 3 months and found herself saying “your paper is not out the window, look at the table where your paper is!” Just like me.  She was more respectful then.  I felt vindicated.  Then guilty, so I made her some sweets.

This phenomena is partly the “novel adult” syndrome.  Kids will often work harder and enjoy working with a fresh, new adult. And behave badly for parents.  John Holt interacted with other people’s children, and didn’t have any of his own.  Hmmm.

My friend the Classical Homeschooler is very informative and inspiring.  She is my “Elmer” as they call your first mentor in Ham Radio (no I don’t have my ticket, but my husband is an extra class).  Anyway, back to classical education; I love Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Books, I love her blog.  I love the exciting resources from the Veritas Press catalog – and my boy is studying Latin with his Grandma, who actually knows Latin from when she went to school.  We also use Spell to Write and Read from Wanda Sansori,  which may not be “classical” but is structured and teacher centered.  I may even be able to spell when we are through.

But my school kid is not falling neatly into the grammar stage – he’s been bugging me with logical questions forever, and wanting to make up his own stories way before the rhetoric stage – and he was a late reader.  At least he memorizes wonderfully.  It gives him an edge over the too perfect little girls in Sunday School because he always knows his verses (he and the girls are at the stage were they need to take a few years off before they can play in groups together, one on one is fine, but they are mean to each other in crowds.  There are no boys in his class right now.)  I always dreaded memorizing, though I did fine in plays.  It turns out that if you just re-read the whatever it is you are memorizing Every Day, you’ll know it.   At least if you are 10 years old.  So how would we fit into a Classical system?

Besides, I can’t imagine myself following one of those massive reading schedules, I’d rather make it up as we go, and record what we did do, then look over the log, and add in any blinding gaps than follow a schedule.  What if something wonderful came up and it was off topic then I lost it or forgot it later?  What if my boy is fascinated by sling shots and wants to look up ancient weapons, should I make him wait until we do Paliolithic stuff again?  I can record what we did, but I hate long term planning.

Which leads me to Charlotte Mason.  I read Pocket Full of Pinecones, both Levinson books, and another one by Karen Andreola.  I did pick up on the short lesson idea and the living books idea, but we haven’t done a whole lot of nature study, or picture study, and I forget to ask for narratives, let alone write them down.  Well, when the Story of the World asks for a narrative, then I do too.  But the Schedules…

One totally freeing thing about Charlotte Mason for me has been the idea that you can go ahead and read books randomly, and help the child make sense of the ideas on a time line or book of centuries, so that they do make connections.  That way if you want to read about Thanksgiving or Plymouth, and it’s November, you can still get books out of the library.  If you aren’t following a schedule, then you can read the books other people also want, just when they don’t need them.  1) I hate that much planning 2) I don’t have any more shelf space to buy books.
We do have a pocket chart to keep track of what we have accomplished and what needs to be done.  I’ll write about that someday.

Montesorri?  Well, i try to have things in easily reached boxes or baskets, and teach the kids to clean up after themselves, but so far they still need to ask me where everything is.

Lapbooking? I cut the boys memory verses out from their take home papers, glue them to a collection page made of construction paper, and keep it in a wall file nailed up near the card chart.  The big son likes his clothes line timeline that he makes paper charms to hang on.  The little son wants me to make him lapbooks.  That’s about as far as we’ve gotten.  Though I have made a labbook about the Spell to Write and Read rules.  To help me get them strait.  i want to do the parts of speech soon too – but I think it stinks that the article is not a part of speech in English, it’s such a pain in French and so helpful in Koine Greek, why not let it be part of the 8 parts of speech?  Grammer is too arbitrary.

So there I am.  A little of this, a little of that.  Not how I imagined I’d do this when I got started, but having fun anyway.

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