Jump to content

Menu

Rethinking my Homeschool, getting away from the Prussian model of education


Recommended Posts

I think most of the members here are probably aware that the US educational system was based on the Prussian model of churning out not thinking individuals, but obedient soldiers or workers. The whole purpose of schooling was to habituate children to following orders.

 

I've been listening to some John Taylor Gatto interviews and speeches and realizing that, having grown up in that system, I haven't evaded it by choosing to homeschool, I've merely emulated it at home! I've divided learning into various "subjects" which we explore shallowly on a daily basis. The curriculum is determined entirely by me and while, yes it includes some valuable topics that aren't explored in the public schools (Latin and an emphasis on Classics) it is imposed upon my child -- she is not an active participant in her education, not a willing partner, but a passive recipient. I decide what the topic will be. I decide when the lesson begins. I decide when the lesson ends. She is simply subjected to it.

 

Wow, when I put it in black and white like that, it really does sound awful!

 

But philosophically, I'm not sure I can get behind Unschooling either. I love that Unschooling recognizes that learning should be joyful and that the child should have an active role, but I just can't get over the nagging feeling that it's a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, institutional schooling as we know it is bad. But does that mean any and all forms of schooling are bad?

 

Is there not some middle ground where parent and child work cooperatively? Where the child's interests can be explored, as fully and deeply as possible, and yet the adult can also serve as guide and mentor, to shine a light for the child upon what is good, true, and beautiful? To ensure a well-rounded education?

 

Well, these are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head the last few days, and I would love to hear others' perspective on these topics. Do you feel that you simply do "school at home" or do you do something fundamentally different? How much of a role do your children have in deciding what their education will look like? How can we be our children's guides and mentors without suffocating them (squelching their curiosity, killing their independent free-thinking nature) with authority-determined directives and imposed mandates?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there can be a middle ground. I noticed that your dd is a 3rd grader. My ds is now in 6th. As he has gotten older I have allowed him to have more authority (which is also coupled with more responsibility) in his day. I do choose the curricula we use, but I will ditch it if is a mis-match. Not immediately, but I will not force it if I can tell it is sucking the life out of him! This year I did a Homeschool Survey. I asked my ds to rate all of our curriculum, list his favorites and the ones he would throw out the window if he could. I asked him to evaluate me (in a limited way) in terms of my strengths, weaknesses, and appropriateness of my involvement. I asked him what one "fun" subject he would choose to do as an extracurricular. I was pretty spot on with *most* of his answers, but there were a few surprises, and I plan to implement some of his suggestions/preferences into our home school next year.

 

However, I would not have done this when my ds was in the third grade.

 

The reality of life is that we all take orders. I do think it is wise to find a proper balance. I could never embrace unschooling...it isn't my nor my ds's personality. I am not trying to "dis" it...it just wouldn't be "us."

 

just my $0.02.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've definitely had some of the same thoughts. In theory, I want our learning to be fun; I want my children to explore their own interests; I want to connect all of our subjects together. Unfortunately, in practice I seem to slide into "do this so we can check it off mode." It's a constant battle for me. I don't think that total unschooling is the way to go though. I think that there are important lessons to be learned in the act of learning about things that we're not interested in. I also value discipline and using time wisely. Adults who haven't learned to do things that they don't want to do have a hard time in life. Just ask my brother-in-law who's had about 15 jobs in the last 13 years.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We follow some aspects of classical schooling in the morning, and more interest-driven schooling in the afternoon. We usually do science and art according to the kids' interests. They tell me what they're interested in, and I try to find engaging, appropriate books/activities etc to use. And actually, we are studying Latin at the request of ds, and we picked up SOTW because my boys are so interested in history. And if my dc are REALLY into a lesson, I never stop just to go on to the next subject. We keep talking or reading or whatever until they feel done.

I don't know what we'll do in the future, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure that people I know who unschool would consider what we do 'school at home" but other people would consider us lax by their standards. My state regulations stipulate certain subjects which must be taught. Within that framework I try to choose curriculum and books that I think work best for me and my children. When they are younger and need me there to help more I try to choose material that works as much for me as the child. When they are older, I try to encourage the child to choose her own curriculum as much as possible. Oldest dd works independently on nearly everything now. She is choosing most of the subjects and some material that she will use for next year. She doesn't want to follow the 4 year history cycle for next year; she wants to do American history so that's what we are going to use. When I asked her what books she wanted to use she said she didn't care so I picked the books based on what I feel might interest her most.

I also do the hs survey thing with my children. It's interesting to see what they come up with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I want discipline & respect to balance the creative autonomy of the two extremes. So while I try to choose curricula that addresses my kids' learning styles, I still choose the subjects that my experience dictates are important.

 

When we read a chapter of history or science, that's followed by questions, conversations, & some choice in follow-up activities. My kids have assigned non-fiction reading time when they can choose from a basket of books related to what we're doing. They've suggested projects that have gotten us off-schedule but that deepen their learning experiences.

 

For the most part, I'd say that the kind of classical education outlined in WTM is a good balance between unschooling & school-at-home. It's not shallow or regurgitated, but there is focus to the child's choices.

 

The more I teach mine the subjects I've chosen, the greater their depth & breadth of interest in things. Otoh, when they've had long breaks from *requirements,* they lose interest in almost everything.

 

I guess my point is, much of what you listed that you do in your 1st para doesn't necessarily fall under the Prussian model of ed *only.* Those things can be used (like most things) for good OR evil. ;) (Like ds's brand new teeth. Yeeeouch!) :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't have the answers, but I think about these things ALL of the time. Even just the other day when someone mentioned that VA homeschoolers are supposed to homeschool the same # of hours, same # of days as public school, it struck me that this is more about crowd control than education. No, I'm sorry, I won't abide by that one.

 

I did try to tailor Aaron's studies by giving him various history courses, including military history. But homeschooling has always been a struggle between the sort of education I want to provide my children with and the sort the world wants them to have. I tend to question everything, even authorities. I have always been a person who wanted to know why something should be done a certain way. I love reading educational philosphy books. I tend to get quite passionate about my parental rights and about education at the same time.

 

I did put my foot down during the early years and refused to structure the preschool and kindergarten years. I let my boys be little children. I provided many opportunities to grow and learn, but I didn't think of it as school, and I wasn't trying to get a head start.

 

I wanted to add:

 

Nathan, my biological first born, is very self-motivated in his learning/studies. He is a sponge. He is the sort of child I would trust almost completely with educating himself right now with the exception of math and grammar. He truly astonishes me with how much he wants to know and how much he remembers and pieces together.

 

The other day we were at my parent's house. There was an urn in their living room. Nathan said, "Look, that urn must be from Greece -- there are pictures of Greek gods on it. There's Dionysis, Hermes" and so on. My mom said, "No, Grandpa brought it back from Egypt." Nathan confirmed this with my Dad and then went on to explain the lands that Alexander the Great controlled -- including Egypt. He said it made perfect sense that the urn came from Egypt. My parents just stared at him. He just makes connections. He yearns for knowledge.

 

He chooses science and history topics to study on his own outside of "school." He listens to history audio books over and over. He writes and illustrates books.

Edited by nestof3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love Gatto, and try to read/listen to everything I can get my hands on by him. I too struggle, having come out of the ps system myself, to find a way to educate that doesn't mimic "the school system." In some ways I fail and some way I succeed, but I hope with more time and practice to break away from the Prussian model. The problem is that it's everywhere. Every kind of teaching in our society is built around it so it's very hard to break out of the mold.

 

Andrew Pudewa of IEW is a huge Gatto fan as well. If you can, download some of Pudewa's conference talks off his website. They're only $3 for about an hour long talk and his stuff is equally amazing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Dulcimeramy

I'm a huge fan of both Gatto and Holt. I'm equally a fan of a world-competitive, first class home education. My solution, in short, is a draconian morning and a free-wheelin' afternoon. I don't waste the boys' time with dumbed down lessons or cutesy stuff, we just knuckle down and study. They don't mind doing it because they know that when they finish their assignment sheet the day is their own.

 

Our biggest problem right now is Sunday schools. They all seem to imitate the public schools! It is a problem. People do not like it when kids don't go to class. For years I've tried to get along with the Sunday school concept but it seems that my children have either their faith or their intellect insulted at every turn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, thanks everyone for the thoughtful replies! It's just somehow encouraging to know that others are seeking this balance as well. I will have time tomorrow to re-read and respond to your replies (I hope!), but right now, dinner is calling. Thanks so very much, and keep the replies coming! I'm really excited about the conversation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am SO with you on this. I don't believe in the original model of what school is. And yet, I can't seem to "let go" enough to unschool as it's done by the majority of unschoolers.

 

I"m with Bee and Aubrey.

 

I think unschoolers look at me and think "Ah! She's too structured!" and Classical Schoolers (generalization upcoming) probably run from my methods as not being rigourous enough.

 

I would say that without realizing we've unschooled up until now. At this point, I see that my dd 11's personality needs more guidance. Not necessarily structure, but guidance. I tend to have an "ideal", but we are fluid with it. My daughter will choose what she wants to do. For example, we'd like to get Grammar/Math/Writing done on a given day, she'll choose what to do and take the initiative. She seems to work well with that level of responsibility. Today she was clearly getting bored with Grammar, so I asked if she'd like to stop for awhile and pick it up later. Sure, no problem. For science I asked her what she's like to read. Science History or learn about the weather. My daughter has started picking up books on her own and writing her own reports. And some days we'll just take walks and read books and listen to books on tape. Sometimes of an entertaining nature, sometimes not. (But even entertainment taught us about the 18th century!)

 

I just don't think you can stop a child from learning! I make sure we have lots of books on hand and at the same time try to learn and show excitement for knowledge as a family. This has catapulted us into family projects and family learning.

 

Like Aubrey mentioned however, if I just "don't do" school for awhile....it "seems' my daughter is loosing interest in all knowledge. However, I've watched this carefully, she's learning HER way, in her time frame, what she needs to know at the moment. That is very different than the pressure I feel for her to "have" to know a certain subject by a certain time. "She'll have holes in her education!" I fear. Or I think "She's behind!" Behind what? Behind who? Someone in a school system I don't believe in?

 

I think my biggest problem with unschooling is my fear of trusting my childs way of learning. I am getting better. The more I learn to trust her way of learning the more I see it works!! But I don't think I'll ever be a radical unschooler! But I'll never be mimicking a school system in my house, either!

 

Hence my blog name "Eclectic". Relaxed could apply, too I suppose.

 

The other day I was feeling that I was not schooling my child properly. I said "We're doing something educational today!" And my daughter looked a bit nervous and said "Er...what?" I said "You need to take a walk, write in your nature journal, or write about the weather from that book you like, or read that account of the Civil War and write about it, or practice your Occupational Therapy, or design a garden, or learn about seeds, or...or something!" And my daughter, looking relieved, said "Oh, good, I thought you were going to make me "do" school." Sometimes it's just perspective.

 

I've been verbose. And scattered. Forgive me, but you've brought up something I think about and struggle with throughout the day!

Edited by Maria/ME
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there is a difference between the school model and what we do at home. Yea, we have books and lessons that must be done. I do ask each year what they would like to learn or delve deeper in. Some things they don't get a choice in. But if they hate it, I do try to find a better way.

 

We don't have a bell telling us we must stay in this book until it dings or must put up our work because it's time to move on. If they show interest, really like what we are doing, then we stay there. If math takes 10 minutes, we move on. If they all ready know something when we come to it, we skip it. I think that helps make the distinction between the Prussian model and what we do at home. That's why I have 6th grader in Algebra 1 and 2nd grader taking art lessons. They were ready and we moved to it instead of insisting they wait till the "correct" time. Some days we only do science, others only history knowing that we will get to the other stuff and get it checked off. But today we're going to do the stuff we are really interested in.

 

And I have just have to hope that will be enough of a balance. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a huge fan of both Gatto and Holt. I'm equally a fan of a world-competitive, first class home education. My solution, in short, is a draconian morning and a free-wheelin' afternoon. I don't waste the boys' time with dumbed down lessons or cutesy stuff, we just knuckle down and study. They don't mind doing it because they know that when they finish their assignment sheet the day is their own.

 

We have been slowly experimenting with a similar concept. My dh has encouraged me to divide our days into "zones". In the school zone, I have the kids do the more traditional must-dos like maths, grammar, and some more intensive science/ history (basically emphasizing aspects I think they should have better mastery of than they are getting in just a read or listen-through). Then there are other zones for reading (this is there they must read x number of pages or chapters of assigned reading but then are free to read whatever they want in the time left), creative expression, outdoor/ non-screen play, and self-education (which can be anything from reading a book on a topic of interest, doing an experiment, trying a new recipe, or practicing sketching or gardening or whatever).

 

I tend to like the structure of more schooly school and my dh tends to be more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, so this is a nice balance of both. We have not been doing this long, and it is not our normal mode. We are introducing it slowly to see how it works for us, and my dh is better at implemeting it and getting "results" from the kids than I am, but we are all enjoying it on different levels... enough to continue with the experiment and see how it goes. This developed as an effort to demonstrate to our children that education can be a lifestyle rather than just something you do. Hopefully we will be able to find some practicality in our theory.:001_smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for bringing this up. I haven't read Gatto or Holt, but I will definitely look into it.

 

I think there is middle ground between the Prussian model and unschooling, especially since unschooling in practice can take on so many different forms.

 

I have studied Charlotte Mason by reading the 6 volumes she wrote on education and for us, right now, Ambleside Online seems to work best for us. I know a lot of people just see AO as a good booklist, but the booklist is just a small part of implementing a true Charlotte Mason style education.

 

I have also looked into the Thomas Jefferson Education, but I just don't know how it would work (socially and developmentally) for my daughter in our current society, as they recommend delayed academics and then intensive study in the teen years.

 

It just seems so difficult to teach my dd to be a thoughtful person, a free thinker, someone who loves to learn, when almost everyone around us seems to be going the opposite direction. I wish I had more answers...

 

Thanks again for bringing this up.

 

Take care,

Suzanne

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For 3rd grade, our formal learning was only 2 or perhaps 3 hours long. While I did choose the subjects, the lessons were short (Charlotte Mason style) and were heavy on "living books". At 6th grade it is still fairly short (more to the 3 hour end now). The lessons are a bit longer (though still shorter than a 50 min. class session) and are still heavy on living books. And at 6th grade, my ds has more autonomy on how he arranges his school day as long as he gets it done.

 

The bulk of my dc's learning is done informally. I put out interesting books from the library and they mysteriously disappear. We just got back from a walk. Ds11 wanted to know about base 6 (in math) because of a Star Wars book he read. Then he and his dad had a long discussion about base 2 and it's use in computers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think part of it is in the name. I think it would be helpful if homeschooling was universally called "home tutoring" instead of homeschooling. I think of myself as a tutor for my daughter instead of a homeschooler, although I do tell people we homeschool when they ask about school.

 

I tutored for 15 years before I started homeschooling, and I've also taught several remedial reading classes to large groups in a "school" type mode.

 

I think what we do as homeschoolers is really closer to tutoring than classroom type schooling.

 

Good tutoring teaches essentials and yet considers the needs and desires of the individual student.

 

After years of teaching phonics, I've gotten where I can teach the same information in about 1/4 the time it took when I started tutoring. I'm very efficient in tutoring phonics and spelling, both for my remedial students and with my daughter. With my daughter, we work on school type subjects when we formally "do school," but we are very efficient, and I also try to make it fun when I can.

 

The rest of the day, there is a lot of informal learning and Google searching going on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Dulcimeramy

I really think the main point to remember is that kids are people, too. They are not to be force-fed, manipulated or frustrated. They came with their own brains and their own proclivities. We can teach, guide, and lead. We can insist on boundaries and standards of behavior. We can provide and encourage. As parents we have the right to try to impart our faith and beliefs, IMO. I don't think we have the right to shame or belittle them if they don't instantly get in line with our own thoughts, but we do have the right to teach them.

 

However, If we truly believe that children are fully human, we will not subject them to degradations that we would never endure as adults. Asking permission to use the bathroom, for example, or being forced to pretend to learn from materials that are of no use to them in any way. We won't insult their intelligence. We won't fear the light in their eyes when they realize they understand something on their own, and we won't delay their pursuit of further knowledge based on arbitrary grade levels or skills lists. All these evils come from "schooling" and not from the process of education. We are raising individuals to be free thinkers so that no matter what happens to their bodies, their minds will always be free. We aren't raising people to meekly take their place in someone else's plan for them. At least I'm not.

 

If we respect our children, I don't think we'll harm them by using whatever homeschooling method fits our own preference. As long as we remember that we are doing this in a spirit of love and freedom, we will teach the child. Anytime we find ourselves teaching the material instead of teaching the child, we ought to re-evaluate our goals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think part of it is in the name. I think it would be helpful if homeschooling was universally called "home tutoring" instead of homeschooling.

 

Aaron came home from public school in the fourth grade. I have homeschooled the younger ones since birth. I tried really hard NOT to call it SCHOOL. I really don't think of it as school. I think of it as one more thing to learn -- particularly the things my boys would not reach out to learn on their own. I think of it as learning together -- of time together.

 

Alas, I call it "school." There's nothing wrong with that; I was just aiming to create an atmosphere with my words, but I think all has worked out fine nonetheless. My boys love so many "educational' things and do not tie them in with "school." Just tonight, I was listening to History of US Volume 2 on audio while organizing my scrapbooking ribbon. Ben was in the room next to me. When I paused it, he asked me why I stopped it. He said it was really interesting. This is the one who says he likes history except for the SOTW part (though he loves the mapping). He asked if he could listen to it on his own sometime. :) Nathan, however, listens to SOTW over and over again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think the main point to remember is that kids are people, too. They are not to be force-fed, manipulated or frustrated. They came with their own brains and their own proclivities. We can teach, guide, and lead. We can insist on boundaries and standards of behavior. We can provide and encourage. As parents we have the right to try to impart our faith and beliefs, IMO. I don't think we have the right to shame or belittle them if they don't instantly get in line with our own thoughts, but we do have the right to teach them.

 

 

I have been working on this in my parenting as well. The other night, my mom told Ben he was being a grump (he was frustrated b/c he couldn't figure out a Lego part), and we all agreed. Ben said to grandma, "Quiet." My husband was agitated by this and said, "Boy, don't you talk to your grandmother like that."

 

I looked at Ben, and the light went on. He was retaliating because he felt shamed. I took Ben into the kitchen and told him that I understood he was embarrassed that we were all agreeing he was a grump but told him that he needed to know he could not tell grandma to quiet herself. He started crying with relief saying he gets embarrassed by all the things he does wrong and gets mad at people when he feels embarrassed. I felt like it was a good moment for me as I was reminded that Ben is a person -- not just a lowly child to be ordered around -- a person with feelings. Public rebuke is a humiliating thing for any of us.

 

Ben did apologize to grandma.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think I have anything of value to add except for to say that this is a wonderful, instructive conversation (thread) for me. I fear I'm too heavy handed with my own dc sometimes. I do so want them to love learning; I really need to rethink my own philosophy.

 

I'm :lurk5:.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alas, I call it "school." There's nothing wrong with that; I was just aiming to create an atmosphere with my words, but I think all has worked out fine nonetheless.

 

I also call it "school." But, like I said, I teach her like I tutor, not like I teach my large classes. (I try to be a bit flexible and have fun in my large group classes, but there are only so many tangents you can follow and questions you can answer when you are teaching to a group. You can lessen the Prussian in a class, but some part of it will have to be there or it won't work.)

Edited by ElizabethB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to try to respond to your post with my thoughts, but they aren't so organized as of yet, so please be patient!

 

The way I see it, mankind has always had two ways to spend its time - at work or at leisure. Work is fairly well-defined, but leisure has a fairly wide range. But when we define learning as work, or work as drudgery we have already lost half the battle.

 

I've been reading McCullough's John Adams and it struck me that Adams laments early on in a letter to a friend that he is too easily distracted by daily life to truly study. And John Adams did not have the t.v., talk radio, Google, or homeschool message boards to list in his distractions! I believe (and President Adams confirms) that human beings, by nature, will often take the easiest route. And learning is by no means the easiest route, particularly in our culture.

 

So while the unschooling concept might work for a few, it doesn't really do the trick for most. As homeschoolers, we must find a middle ground - a way to keep our students attention on learning, while keeping it off the myriad distractions of our time. So our model may not look Prussian, and it may not look Classical.

 

I don't think it is a bad thing to take the best of Prussian, classical, unschooling and other methods to sculpt a method that is appropriate for a particular student in a particular time. Each serves a purpose, and it is up to us to determine how to apply that purpose to a particular student with his own particular needs.

 

In the end, I'm not sure that saying, "This education is too Prussian," or "This education is not classical enough," is valuable. It is only when we look at the style of education in light of the personality, strengths and weaknesses of the student that we can make a judgment of its value.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's important to separate the principles from the methods. You can definately utilize some of the methods used by a "Prussian model" while not actually imparting Prussian principles because of it. :) I see nothing wrong with determining what my children are going to be taught about - with the goal that the tools I use (specific books, projects etc) might spark a desire on their part to want to know more and become self-learners particularly as they grow older.

 

Deciding what our children will be reading and learning about doesn't equate to making them into non thinking individuals. Failing to teach them to think, to reason, to study....that is where the Prussian model is flawed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been working on this in my parenting as well. The other night, my mom told Ben he was being a grump (he was frustrated b/c he couldn't figure out a Lego part), and we all agreed. Ben said to grandma, "Quiet." My husband was agitated by this and said, "Boy, don't you talk to your grandmother like that."

 

I looked at Ben, and the light went on. He was retaliating because he felt shamed. I took Ben into the kitchen and told him that I understood he was embarrassed that we were all agreeing he was a grump but told him that he needed to know he could not tell grandma to quiet herself. He started crying with relief saying he gets embarrassed by all the things he does wrong and gets mad at people when he feels embarrassed. I felt like it was a good moment for me as I was reminded that Ben is a person -- not just a lowly child to be ordered around -- a person with feelings. Public rebuke is a humiliating thing for any of us.

 

Ben did apologize to grandma.

 

This is a great story, Dawn. I'm usually too self-absorbed to notice the reasons for my kids' behavior, but when I do, man. This huge wave of gratitude washes over me. Thank goodness that *this* time I stopped. Hopefully I haven't run over them too much.

 

Good job!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just read a fascinating book on this subject called Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Montessori is so interesting because it is entirely a different system of education.

 

The author places traditional school in historical context and shows how two ideas are behind it: the school as factory and the child as blank slate. The book examines many aspects of traditional and Montessori schooling and tells us about relevant research and what it shows. I think this book would be very interesting even to homeschoolers who are not interested in the Montessori method, as I am, because it examines traditional school and will surely strengthen your choice to keep your children out of that setting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just read a fascinating book on this subject called Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Montessori is so interesting because it is entirely a different system of education.

 

The author places traditional school in historical context and shows how two ideas are behind it: the school as factory and the child as blank slate. The book examines many aspects of traditional and Montessori schooling and tells us about relevant research and what it shows. I think this book would be very interesting even to homeschoolers who are not interested in the Montessori method, as I am, because it examines traditional school and will surely strengthen your choice to keep your children out of that setting.

 

That does sound interesting. I'm now #2 of 2 holds for the book at our library.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed - this is a fascinating thread.

 

We come from a slightly different perspective: DS actually started school in Germany - which makes the American version of "Prussian Model" look lame.

 

When we moved to America, DS was disgusted by PS; he felt it was disorderly (children misbehaving, teachers having no control over the classroom), and that the general attitude was not conducive to learning. He was accustomed to an environment where no one dared misbehave (in terms of fighting, sassing a teacher, bullying on a playground, etc.). From the model he had learned, the expression of ideas was fine, but the derision of others was not. He was extremely unhappy with the American model of Prussian education.

 

When we started homeschooling (5th grade), we had the standard "worthless year while getting our heads on straight", and then settled into a "history from the beginning" model. He values HS because he can have the orderliness he craves (personally, I feel all children do: otherwise they feel that they are bouncing around the atmosphere), the quietness to do his studies, and the freedom to explore personal interests without either being told that a particular item "isn't in the prescribed curriculum", or being mocked by "peers".

 

Something I don't believe he realizes is that, had he stayed in Germany, although he would have had the order and quietness to do his studies, his freedom of subjects would have been severely curtailed at the Gymnasium level (sort of like American high school).

 

So, yes, good and bad.

 

 

asta

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I heard John Gatto speak at a conference a few years ago (six maybe?). He named Classical Education as his ideal model for education.

 

BTW Gatto is on the advisory board of Kinza Academy, which is modelled on the classical approach, and from what I've been led to believe, is very compatible with WTM.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great thread!

 

I don't have a lot to add except that I do think there is some value in having kids study subjects they might not be interested in or choose to do on their own. One reason I want to homeschool is to be able to adjust the method to the child's needs. And to be able to let them follow their interests somewhat. But I also think left entirely to themselves that kids won't choose to study things that they need.

 

I think back to college for myself. I was in an honors program that waived all requirements. You could take upper level classes as a freshman which was great but it also enabled me to choose not to take a lot of things that didn't interest me. I didn't take any history or foreign language. I double majored in Chemistry and Biology which were what I loved. And I took a lot of upper-level English classes (but skipped the intro Survey class). Looking back the thing I regret most is not taking some of those classes. It was just hard for me then to see the value in taking things in which I thought I had no interest. I think it would be even easier for a younger student to avoid things that they don't like, but that are still valuable to learn to be a truly well-educated person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Virginia Dawn

 

The way I see it, mankind has always had two ways to spend its time - at work or at leisure. Work is fairly well-defined, but leisure has a fairly wide range. But when we define learning as work, or work as drudgery we have already lost half the battle.

 

 

 

 

Mark Twain said that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do ...Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. :)

 

In that sense, our home education is work. Learning how to work is part of life. I am obliged to do certain things every day as a wife and mother, and I expect my kids to do certain things every day.

 

On the other hand, I have a lot of freedom to choose when, where, and how to do my work and I give my kids a lot of freedom too, within limits. I don't have anyone examining or testing my work, so when my children are younger I don't give them tests. Instead I encourage them to compete with their past performance, and to measure their own improvement. But I realize that it will not always be this way, so as they get older, I do require them to be more structured and past certain tests of competency and knowledge.

 

The Prussian method of schooling was developed because of a need/ desire for control over the masses. The biggest problem with the method, IMO, is the absence of questioning. Authority is always right, no matter what. Humans are the only creatures that ask questions, refusing them that right is stripping away their humanity. There can only be the need to take away that right if authority is afraid of the questions or the questioners.

 

I think teaching our children how to find the answers to their questions themselves is the greatest thing we can do as home educators.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading the book "Know Can Do", I have become convicted to do:

Less More instead of More Less

 

I put a book review on my blog linked in the siggy, but basically this book has nothing to do with education. It is about the reason we go to seminars, workshops, etc. and love the teaching but fail to ever put it into practice. I think it translates perfectly to education though. I found it very similar to LCC's recommendation to really master subjects, not just breeze through them.

 

I am trying to be more conscious of this as I am planning our educational goals. I do believe though that home education in itself lends to the development of leadership qualities. As my ds's have gone into the youth group at my church where there are no other homeschoolers, I have seen a difference in their behavior in regards to others. They are less interested in fitting in and are much less peer dependent. Though we can definitely strive to do a better job at home education, I still believe that being allowed to learn at one's pace without the stress of peer pressure, attention seeking and other ills just inherit to any institutional setting is better in the long run.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there not some middle ground where parent and child work cooperatively? Where the child's interests can be explored, as fully and deeply as possible, and yet the adult can also serve as guide and mentor, to shine a light for the child upon what is good, true, and beautiful?

 

Absolutely. Education is not an either/or. It's not "either you spend all your time following someone else's plan or the child does whatever they want all the time." My kids do school in the morning, working on stuff I have chosen. By 11:30 they are free to spend the rest of the day exploring the stuff they choose.

 

While I am no fan of schools, I don't buy into the idea that anything a parent or teacher wants to teach a child is immediately suspect simply because the idea didn't come from the child. My kids have LOVED their K and 1st grade years and have enjoyed almost everything we've studied, even if they wouldn't have (known to) come up with the idea themselves.

 

Tara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This also reminds me of conversations about careers. There is a contingent of people who imagine that life is miserable if you're not "following your bliss" -- sure, it's great if you get to be Oprah, but it is possible that a person a) has multiple interests, and b) does some of them as a hobby or side activity instead of to earn money. As in, it can be a perfectly fulfilling life if you are a nurse who likes to arrange flowers and do so in your own home and as presents to friends, instead of needing to combine the two or choose between them.

 

I think children should have a good deal of "free time" -- not the same thing as idle time -- wherein children pick their activities. Someone who likes to read, can read. Children can read books about their personal interests (be they hot sauce or hot rods) in that free time. Someone who likes to play sports, can play sports. Or knit. Or repair cars. And so on. I don't imagine homeschooling as designed to control a child's every move or thought.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to thank everyone again for all these responses. I had actually feared that this wouldn't get noticed, but it sparked quite a lovely conversation! I have taken so many gems of wisdom from this thread. And I am also feeling reassured that I haven't done quite as badly as I feared. :) While I do have required subjects and study time, I also have really tried to honor my daughter's interests, give her ample free time, and adjust my teaching to better suit her needs. As long as I keep doing those things, I think we're probably a lot closer to that "balance" I am seeking than I even realized.

 

Thank you all so much for your insights!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Alas, I call it "school."

 

 

You know, I had never thought of this before. I call it "school" too. I think my dd pick up on the negativity of that. She went to K and hated it. Maybe if I just call it educational time.

 

I also appreciated the story about your sons embarassment and lashing out. I embarrass my dd all the time. Of course, she's 11 and my existence is embarrassing, but still, I need to continually remind myself that she is a individual with feelings. With thoughts, ideas. She is NOT an extension of me. And while I can guide and discipline, I do not have to "rule it over" her. Yet, we live in a society that constantly reminds us that children are lesser beings. A blank slate as someone mentioned.

 

This isn't just about parenting. It translates to "school". And how we treat the "institution" of school, even in our own home. How we treat our children, how we teach them. Remember when teaching our children was just an extension of parenting? LIke when we helped them learn to walk. We helped them learn. Guided them. Why isn't education like that? Why must it be a formalistic/routine approach? Why can't it be like teaching them to walk? The pressure we feel because of the way society functions, and we try to go against that. The fear of our children being "behind".

 

Well, I"m not being very clear in my thoughts. Sorry.

 

This has been such a great thread, such food for thought, I've enjoyed reading and re-reading some of the comments!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, I had never thought of this before. I call it "school" too. I think my dd pick up on the negativity of that. She went to K and hated it. Maybe if I just call it educational time.

 

I also appreciated the story about your sons embarassment and lashing out. I embarrass my dd all the time. Of course, she's 11 and my existence is embarrassing, but still, I need to continually remind myself that she is a individual with feelings. With thoughts, ideas. She is NOT an extension of me. And while I can guide and discipline, I do not have to "rule it over" her. Yet, we live in a society that constantly reminds us that children are lesser beings. A blank slate as someone mentioned.

 

This isn't just about parenting. It translates to "school". And how we treat the "institution" of school, even in our own home. How we treat our children, how we teach them. Remember when teaching our children was just an extension of parenting? LIke when we helped them learn to walk. We helped them learn. Guided them. Why isn't education like that? Why must it be a formalistic/routine approach? Why can't it be like teaching them to walk? The pressure we feel because of the way society functions, and we try to go against that. The fear of our children being "behind".

 

Well, I"m not being very clear in my thoughts. Sorry.

 

This has been such a great thread, such food for thought, I've enjoyed reading and re-reading some of the comments!

 

No, you are clear. These are things I think of quite often. I think it's great to question things, to fine-tune things, to think outside of the box. My Dad once told me that I read too much -- he would also probably say I think too much. This was mainly a response to the way I question things and how I try to find alternative methods to things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, after all these years, if I could do it again, this is what I'd do.

 

K - 3rd grade: about 20 - 30 minutes per day of phonics, reading practice and basic math. The rest of the day would be playing, projects, reading, reading, reading, nature hikes, museum trips etc.

 

4th - 8th: 3 hours or so of "curriculum". Math, writing, a four-year sweep through history, and some more structured science; the rest of the time for extras and projects and "fun" learning.

 

9 - 10th: A pretty full-on high school curriculum.

 

11 - 12th: More high school curriculum, but think of all the "electives" and some of the English and SS classes as able to be accomplished through large senior-level projects.

 

For example, the cooking around the world project my son is doing. I'm getting "project" curriculum hours, "English" curriculum hours and "social studies" curriculum hours out of the work he's doing on that one project.

 

 

We could have had way more fun at the beginning of this journey, and I'm determined to have more fun here at the end.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with many others, this has been a very interesting thread.

 

When people ask me why we homeschool, I usually tell them that I enjoy the freedom to tailor-make an education that addresses my children's strengths and weaknesses. Like so many of you here, I think that comes when we capitalize on their strengths (kind of like the child-directed thing), and when we work on their weaknesses ( the "yes, you need to work on this even if you don't like it so well" part). I've enjoyed reading on how everyone else is trying to find this balance too.

Edited by Zoo Keeper
I cannot type worth a hill of beans. . .
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel like we have a nice and pleasant homeschooling life that is nothing like school but more like life. We don't "unschool" but we live a life that keeps us growing. We read daily. It takes various forms and we have an interesting book web going in our family that seems to boggle most people's minds. Everyone in the family has a commonplace book and we have a family gratitude journal and a prayer journal. We all have friends and family that we write letters and emails to. I have a blog and my dd just started her own. We all have our own nature journal and our family does a lot of nature walk and museum trips. Most any other science we do is completely unschooled. Math uses a curriculum (Singapore) but they create their own goals and set their own pace. Math and grammar are reinforced with games, living books, and videos instead of worksheets and drills. I do puzzles in my logic problem and sudoku books and they do theirs in Logic Countdown books (and usually it's once a week when we are stuck waiting for the other child to do a lesson). We study history chronologically with living books and movies and family timeline book but we don't have a preset pace. I don't assign projects or require projects but I am more than willing to get the materials or help if someone wants to do one. We have famous paintings as our computer background, classical music is listened to in the mornings as we eat breakfast and then we "discover" those songs in the movies we watch. As a family, we love to take walks (usually with the dog), go to museums, watch movies, discuss politics, book and current events, play fantasy football and follow our favorite sports teams, work puzzle books, bake goodies to give to others, do conservation projects, and play games and jigsaw puzzles. These things are a family lifestyle.

 

We are not an "unschooling" family. I use Charlotte Mason methods incorporated into a family lifestyle for what I want I want the kids to know. Everything else is unschooled, etc. I could not be an unschooler at this time, especially a radical unschooler. I am on several unschooling message boards and I disagree in several areas: I don't let my kids quit activities on a whim but I will make a contract that if they do this amount of practice daily for this many days and still want to quit, they can quit. It never fails that the extra practice help them improve and get over the hump. I do pick out the majority (but not all) of our books but if no one likes it by 3rd chapter, we abandon it (or if one kid likes it and one doesn't it becomes a string in our book web). I pick out curriculum and they do it. If they don't like something, they can respectfully tell me and explain why they don't like and I will most likely change or alter to suit them. However, "I don't want to/feel like it" or "It's boring" are not valid excuses. "Boring" is too ambiguous for me to understand properly lol. Chores are a part of life and we all do a bedroom, a bathroom, and a living area. We all help with grocery shopping and cooking and taking care of the pets. We can make it joyous by racing the timer, singing songs together and working as a team or we can make it miserable by everyone complaining because they had to sweep a tsp more dirt than the other person. I am not living with ants and mice because their individuality may be squashed by having to clean their room but I don't require white glove inspections either lol.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, after all these years, if I could do it again, this is what I'd do.

 

K - 3rd grade: about 20 - 30 minutes per day of phonics, reading practice and basic math. The rest of the day would be playing, projects, reading, reading, reading, nature hikes, museum trips etc.

 

4th - 8th: 3 hours or so of "curriculum". Math, writing, a four-year sweep through history, and some more structured science; the rest of the time for extras and projects and "fun" learning.

 

9 - 10th: A pretty full-on high school curriculum.

 

11 - 12th: More high school curriculum, but think of all the "electives" and some of the English and SS classes as able to be accomplished through large senior-level projects.

 

For example, the cooking around the world project my son is doing. I'm getting "project" curriculum hours, "English" curriculum hours and "social studies" curriculum hours out of the work he's doing on that one project.

 

 

We could have had way more fun at the beginning of this journey, and I'm determined to have more fun here at the end.

 

 

I sure wish I had been exposed to this thought/idea earlier on in our homeschooling journey. I probably wouldn't have listened tho! I was very caught up in "have to's" and "shoulds"! But I agree, I can start the fun NOW!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there is a middle ground. I think there are skills that are important to learn, but there are different ways of approaching them. There is also lots of space for following a child's passions. In addition, the organisation of work can be handed more and more to the child.

 

I insist that the boys cover various subjects, but I listen to their requests as to how that is done: curricula, media, etc. Hobbes is studying Ancient Greek only because he is interested in it. I am putting effort into it, even though I had not planned on doing it, because it's what he wants to do. Calvin is passionate about Greek myths, so we are spending a lot of time on a classical civilisation exam course over the next two years which concentrates heavily on the myths. At twelve, Calvin organises his whole week: I write him lists of things to be done (including his passions) and he decides how and when they are completed. Hobbes organises his own English and maths for the week.

 

Laura

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I insist that the boys cover various subjects, but I listen to their requests as to how that is done: curricula, media, etc. Hobbes is studying Ancient Greek only because he is interested in it. I am putting effort into it, even though I had not planned on doing it, because it's what he wants to do. Calvin is passionate about Greek myths, so we are spending a lot of time on a classical civilisation exam course over the next two years which concentrates heavily on the myths. At twelve, Calvin organises his whole week: I write him lists of things to be done (including his passions) and he decides how and when they are completed. Hobbes organises his own English and maths for the week.

Laura - How did you arrive at Calvin organizing his whole week by the age of twelve? I'm really just asking. That seems like a great goal esp when his passions are included, then he learns to discipline himself to complete the week, the favorites and the not so faves, right? Do you have recommended reading? If it's a culmination or aggregation of much parenting, philosophy, and education concepts you've been exposed to, is there any crash course available? (I'm trying to kid...) I appreciate any leads - :001_smile:

and yes, interesting thread, I am subscribed!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Greta, thanks so much for starting this thread! I have truly enjoyed reading every reply!

 

I do have a question. For those of you who are doing a less structured program- not necessarily unschooling, but less rigid- how do you report your curriculum and progress? I would love to let dd choose more of what she studies. She loves languages. Latin and Spanish are *fun* for her. She enjoys history and astronomy. She loves to read anything from science textbooks to historical fiction. Alas! We live in NY, where the regulations regarding what must be taught and what must be reported to the school district are strict (to put it mildly.) We have a list of topics that must be taught and reported on quarterly, as well as the requirement that our curriculum choices be approved by the school district. This leaves precious little room for flexibility, and I often feel that we are almost forced into the Prussian system, even though we homeschool!

 

Is it possible to truly walk away from "schooling" when you live in a state with so many regulations and so much paperwork? Should I fudge on the reports and teach the way I choose? That just seems so dishonest, even though I totally disagree with the way NY treats homeschoolers! But if my dd were learning more through self-directed studies, and not just filling in the workbook-type lessons for a portfolio that will probably never be examined...... Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? What says the hive?

 

-Robin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do have a question. For those of you who are doing a less structured program- not necessarily unschooling, but less rigid- how do you report your curriculum and progress? I would love to let dd choose more of what she studies. She loves languages. Latin and Spanish are *fun* for her. She enjoys history and astronomy. She loves to read anything from science textbooks to historical fiction. Alas! We live in NY, where the regulations regarding what must be taught and what must be reported to the school district are strict (to put it mildly.) We have a list of topics that must be taught and reported on quarterly, as well as the requirement that our curriculum choices be approved by the school district. This leaves precious little room for flexibility, and I often feel that we are almost forced into the Prussian system, even though we homeschool!

 

Is it possible to truly walk away from "schooling" when you live in a state with so many regulations and so much paperwork? Should I fudge on the reports and teach the way I choose? That just seems so dishonest, even though I totally disagree with the way NY treats homeschoolers! But if my dd were learning more through self-directed studies, and not just filling in the workbook-type lessons for a portfolio that will probably never be examined...... Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? What says the hive?

 

-Robin

 

Can the requirements be worked around without being dishonest? For example, record lists of books she reads and later assign them categories--if they could fit into several, put them in the one needed most that quarter?

 

I believe I read somewhere that higher reporting requirements are actually correlated with less achievement, not more. Probably because time that could be spent planning or doing work is instead spent complying and reporting.

 

Luckily, so far I've lived in states where you don't have to do much to comply.

 

Here's another idea for working around the requirements--do what you want for the first 2 months of each quarter, figure out the optimal way to report what you've done, then quickly do what is needed to fill in the gaps.

 

Can you word your curriculum choices more broadly to allow for flexibility? Or be more creative with the portfolio?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't read all the other responses so I don't know if this has already been covered.

 

I recommend a book called "The Disciplined Mind" by Howard Gardner. His key argument is that "K-12 education should enhance a deep understanding of three principles: truth, beauty,and goodness." He definitely uses the less is more approach. As a word of caution, the three examples he uses are the theory of evolution, the music of Mozart and the lessons of the Holocaust. However, he is describing a way of looking at, and thinking about the world, the specific examples can be changed as appropriate.

 

I didn't necessarily follow all his suggestions, but his book freed me from thinking I had to cover every subject equally and let me really delve deeply into a smaller set of topics.

 

 

I really understand your question, it's not about how we teach so much as why we are teaching them. How do we want our children to live and think and see the world. In my situation we ended up with a mix of unschooling and deep subjects. For example, instead of the 'inch deep mile wide' approach to history, we tried the 'post hole' approach. Digging a deep understanding of one facet or time period of history at a time and then allowing the rest to web out from there. I first encountered the post hole idea with Ruth Beechick (her books on education contain Christian content).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We have that middle ground. I call it classical education, but it is really more about a continuum wherein my young children are taught by me what I feel they need, and as they age, I slowly transfer responsibility over to them, culminating in them leaving my home as lifelong learners.

 

I have seen people err in two ways most commonly: (1.) transferring this responsibility too early, and (2.) never transferring it.

 

We teach learning as a life skill in several ways, also: (1.) we school 6 days a week year-round, (2.) each child maintains "individual interests" which are areas they are studying on their own, (3.) we model it constantly, and (4.) we discuss frequently the value of curiosity and intellect.

 

So far, so good, as I have never had a child complain about lessons once (and I expect more than just about anyone else I know.) They are all excited learners who also have the tools necessary to learn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...