Thursday, March 3, 2011

So, What Works?

One of my readers left this comment on Homeschooling Mistake #3 and I wanted to share my response and see how you would answer her:

I just decided to home school my preschooler (her older sister attends regular public school, but I want to get the younger one prepared) What do you suggest instead of a focused classroom type set up? I don't want to do unschooling (as covered in mistake 4) because it know it won't work for us, so I planned on doing something similar to what my older one does in her kindergarten classroom. If it doesn't work in a home school setting, what does?

Here is my reply. I'm afraid I said a little more than I initially intended:

 I want to devote a whole blog post to this, because it's a great question that begs to be answered. For now, let me just say that I'm not trying to bash everything that is done in a typical, classroom setting. For example: standing in front of a 100-number chart and counting out loud is very helpful. But do you really "need" the 100-number chart to do school? No. You can print one off the computer and put it in the child's folder to have them use daily. The same goes for calendars, weather graphs, and etc...
My point was that so many families "need" these things posted all over the wall, to "feel" like they're really teaching their children. But you don't. The unschoolers have this right: every moment of the day is an opportunity to teach your children. Whether you're counting to 50 while beating the eggs, singing geography songs in the car on the way to the grocery store, or just laying down on a blanket in the backyard and marveling at God's creation-- every moment is a teaching one.

You don't need to spend lots of time and money on teaching equipment in order to teach your little ones. Moms that go overboard in this, frequently end up quitting, because the task is just too enormous. 

Any thoughts on this from other homeschoolers?

Other posts in this series:
Homeschooling Mistake #4
Homeschooling Mistake #3
Homeschooling Mistake #2
Homeschooling Mistake #1

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homeschooling Mistake #4


I'm afraid I must have stepped on some toes in my last post, so I'm going to even things out a bit and squish the toes on the other foot now! While I definitely disagree with a parent's "need" to re-create a classroom environment for their children, I also have problems with the current trend towards "unschooling". For those of you who are new to this concept, allow me to use this quote and explain:

"This [unschooling] is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term "unschooling" has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn't use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear."

Now I'd like to dissect this statement. In the words of Pat Farenga, unschooling is:
  • Interest-driven: But if you were to study the Scriptures thoroughly, you would see that Discipline is found on almost every page. Self-control, mortification, dying to self, and etc... are all forms of discipline. These are important to instill in our children from a young age, for God's Word also declares that "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child." So why should parents bend to their whims and interests, when their desires are not mature ones?
  • Child-led: If a child that is left to itself brings its mother to shame, (Proverbs 29:15) then how can we condone teaching methods that encourage just that?Are we commanded to let our children train themselves, or is it our job?
  • Natural: Scripture is very clear that the natural man is at enmity with God. Even "innocent children" when left to themselves, are nothing more than miniature, totally depraved sinners. Giving in to their "natural inclinations" is not the job of a parent! We are told to train them up in the way they should go. That word "train" indicates going against their natural inclinations. We lay down tracks for them which we compel them to follow. We don't just sit back and let "nature" take its course!
  • Organic: I got a kick out of this one, as the mental images of children shaped like carrots made me chuckle, but I think the definition which best fits this is: simple, healthful, and close to nature. So, despite the way this sounds, I don't have any problems with Organic Homeschooling! It should be simple, it should be healthful, and it should be close to nature-- recognizing that God created all and rules all, for His own honor and glory.
  • Self-directed: Back to the first three points! If children must be taught discipline, if a child that is left to itself brings its mother to shame, and if the natural man is at enmity with God-- then how can you expect a child to be able to direct themselves correctly?
  • Doesn't use a fixed curriculum: I must agree with this point. It has been my experience that one company's Science book may be outstanding, while their History is lousy. Each employs a different teaching method that can be helpful or frustrating. But equally frustrating is the parent's task to wade through the different curriculum and pick out the best one for each subject! Frankly, it can be an enormously staggering task, so I do not blame the parents that pick one curriculum and stick to it for twelve years! I could never do that, but I do understand how others could.
  • Freedom for the child to learn (at least as much as their parents can bear): OK, this one makes me laugh! But it's sobering as well, for to me it paints the picture of a child who surpasses his/her parents in knowledge and prances about, spouting off in arrogant pride. Do we really want to raise a little know-it-all? Or a jack of all trades but master of none? And are their little bits of knowledge more important than godly character and discipline?

In summary, unschooling may be popular because it is a drastic swing from institutionalized schooling, but is it really helpful to our children? And, more importantly, is it consistent with God's Word? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

Other titles in this series:
Homeschooling Mistake #1
Homeschooling Mistake #2
Homeschooling Mistake #3