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Thursday, March 5, 2009

How we started homeschooling

Yup, I've been busy and not posted much. I've had so much I wanted to write, but no time to sit down! Finally today I got a question, one I've been asked before, and am inspired to start answering it here. I suspect there are many more blogs to be done on this topic!

I'd be interesting in reading your philosophy and how you came to educate the way you do. If you would share the pros and cons of how you see structured learning, homeschooling and unschooling. Throw it at me. I know you have it all in your head and maybe, just maybe, you have it written down somewhere :)

Nah, I didn't have it written down. Until now. As always, it's subject to change. Take what works for you and ignore what doesn't.

how you came to educate the way you do

We started decided to homeschool when my oldest was not quite 4. He'd been attending a wonderful local Montessori school two mornings a week. Towards the end of the spring semester they informed us that they would no longer offer part time places, but wanted the kids everyday of the week, all day if possible. There were so many reasons this wasn't a good idea for us: money, commute time, philosophical differences with the presentation of the program, etc., but the biggest reason is that I LIKED my kid and wanted to spend that time with him myself! I couldn't imagine that it was a good idea for him to spend most of his waking hours away from his mother and family.

I hunted around for other preschools, but didn't find any that I liked as well as the one he'd been at. Being sailors and loving travel, we'd had in our mind that someday we'd like to live on a boat and travel the world. I knew that would mean homeschooling the children, so the concept wasn't new to me. It seemed like "homeschooling" preschool was pretty do-able, even for me.

Being me, I started reading. I found books like LLL's "Playful Learning, An Alternate Approach to Preschool", "The Preschooler's Busy Book" and the "Mother's Almanac" helpful for the preschool years. I'd already read "Whole Child, Whole Parent" when my oldest was a baby, and that greatly influenced my homeschooling as well as my parenting. Another book that helped sustain me is "Everyday Blessings, the Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Those books (and many similar books) saw me through that first year. While my oldest was a preschooler I was still nursing his baby brother, so this relaxed approach really suited us. Nap-time was my time to read. I added to my recreational reading books about homeschooling, education, and child development. One of the first I read was Nancy Wallace's "Better than School". That led me to the writings of John Holt. At the same time I discovered Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer's "The Well Trained Mind", which seemed at the time to be totally opposite in approach to what John Holt preached. (More recently I've discovered "A Thomas Jefferson Education", and "collaborative learning", which come very close to describing how I melded these two methods.) I discovered many other methods of homeschooling, the Charlotte Manson Method, Montessori, Waldorf, Classical, too many curriculums to list. My head was spinning. What to do?

I found a local homeschooling support group and went to a meeting. Immediately after introducing myself I asked "So, what curriculum and methods do each of you use? Do you like it? Why or why not?" I held my pencil to my notepad expectantly. I looked around the circle and saw many blank, befuddled, and amused faces. Not one had a straight answer for me. Well for heaven's sake. What did they do with their kids all day?

In this series of posts I hope to explore my answers to that.

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