A little about my educational background. My mother is a Montessori teacher. She currently teaches 1st and 2nd grade. So I was raised Montessori. She was a SAHM until I was 5 and was making a lot of her materials at the time. So I got to play with them. This is how I learned to read :). I went to Montessori schools from preschool until 5th grade when I was transferred to public school. I got bored with that fairly quickly and didn’t really go to high school. I was enrolled for 4 years, but ditched a lot and really only showed up to what I was interested in. I got my GED the same year I completed my AA. I used to be embarrassed about that until I started reading about educational theory and unschooling and realized that it was the school system that failed me, not the other way around. I’m sure I’ll write a whole post about that someday.
So fast-forward a few years and I have babies now! Decisions must be made. I assumed they would go to Montessori preschool, which they have, and after that I wanted to find a charter school. I didn’t like the idea of private school because of the lack of diversity. I don’t want my kids growing up with all wealthy kids, but want them exposed to lots of people. Eventually, as described in a previous post I decided to homeschool. So now what? Do we do Montessori at home? Jump on the Classical bandwagon or what? We decided to remain eclectic and find our way over the first year. We signed up with a wonderful charter homeschool here in our area and charged ahead with an eclectic curriculum I had picked out after cruising around the internet for awhile. We bought Young Scientist Club science kits, Shiller Math, Explode the Code, All About Spelling etc. Insert active, rebellious child –> yelling mother –> breakdown. Suddenly my previously excited child who loved school and learning and was excited about reading etc hates reading, hates writing and we’re pissed at each other. Ugh. What is happening here? So, we took a break – deschooled a bit. He watched a lot of tv and played on PBSkids.com and I started reading about homeschool philosophy. I read a lot online, enough to know that the hard-core academic and core type curricula need not apply here! No TWTM for us.
I picked up a copy of Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. And wow was my mind blown! If I was attracted to homeschooling before, now I knew I could never put my children in school. (Warning – do not read this book if you don’t want to be talked out of schooling!) Then I read How Children Fail by John Holt and was fascinated. My mom has been bouncing ideas off me and generally venting about miscellaneous children and problems in her classroom for years. I saw so many of those children represented in this book! And hers is a forward thinking Montessori based private school, these things shouldn’t be happening there. So I became convinced that the nature of the school environment forces wonderful, well-meaning teachers to treat children in certain ways that are not helpful to the learning process at all.
So I started reading about Unschooling. I cruised the blogs, watched the youtube videos and joined a couple discussion groups. I was immediately turned off by some of the more dogmatic folks out there and decided unschooling wasn’t for us. (I’m not much of a joiner). So I started trying to find our own way. (I’ve since then found some much less fundamentalist unschool groups and have the utmost respect for this way of life.) And this is what I’ve come up with. :)
Our Family Principles of Education:
1. All Principles are in fact guidelines and are of course flexible -lol
2. Parents and family should matter more than friends or so called “socialization”.
3. Always question authority – even me!
4. Learning is most effective when child directed.
5. A child’s interests should never be put down, but adults should seek to understand them.
6. A child’s primary method of learning (whether behavior lessons or “educational” ones) is through play. Play should be actively encouraged – even if I don’t “like” it or think he should be doing something “more important”.
7. Children don’t know what they don’t know.
8. Therefore, an educators job is to expose children to a variety of age appropriate topics to encourage active learning. This should, however, be done gently and without coercion. Do not be offended if your child has no interest in learning about Egypt this week. Keep your book/craft/website available for when he or she comes back to it.
9. Math and Reading will be learnt naturally when the child is ready if resources are made available. However:
10. A child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn will not be squashed by a few minutes of directed activity a day.
11. Children have the right to say, “No, Thank you.” to directed activity.
12. Treat children the way you would treat an adult whose opinion you value.
13. Long term feelings about a subject are far more important that short term obedience. Brushing teeth in a forced, argumentative, fighting way is far more damaging than a cavity. Staying up late but feeling good about going to bed is better than fighting and threatening. Memorization of math facts is far less important than enjoying math and seeing it’s practical applications. Early reading is less important than enjoying the magic of books.
So I was going to write ten, but like I said not much for rules around here – and I’ve always like the number 13. What can I say, I’m a rebel ;).
So that’s our philosophy in a nutshell. We have ended up calling ourselves Relaxed Homeschoolers. I’ll write about what that looks like in a practical day to day way soon. For now, these are my ideas. :)