The title on this blog proclaims “Courageous Jane Homeschools … fearlessly and without regret.”
It’s true, I don’t regret homeschooling my children. It has been amazing and wondrous to see them learn from me, and on their own. They’ve learned, regardless of my failings. They’ve learned, even when I wasn’t teaching. They’ve learned when I wasn’t looking. They’ve learned on the days they thought they weren’t having school!
I can remember one time when someone asked Annie how she likes homeschooling (and I suspect the person asking thought she was going to say she hated it). Annie answered with “I love it. We hardly ever do school.” Ha! That’s seriously what she thought.
It’s true that we don’t do much that looks like a typical school day from my own childhood or what my kids see as “school” on tv. We don’t do a lot of learning through textbooks. They haven’t had to keep notebooks full of notes. You would be hardpressed to find a typical schoolroom-style textbook in our house. But we have tons of learning materials at our fingertips and they can tell you all manner of interesting facts.
I have always felt that what I teach my children should be useful in some way. Sometimes the usefulness is in the fact that it’s building their brains, making connections, helping them to understand the world at large. But just because something is great for growing their brains doesn’t mean I feel they need to have it memorized for life. Some things are useful to have memorized, such as math facts and how to spell words and where certain countries are found in the world. Others are less important in my eyes.
I’m remembering the brief period of time when we experimented with an online public school as our choice of homeschooling methods for Annie. One of the chapters she was to learn was about “biomes.” (For those unfamiliar with current educational terms, we grew up calling them “habitats.” Why has the word changed from habitats to biomes? Does the word “Biome” somehow make the idea more clear than the word “Habitat??”) I won’t address that method experiment in this article, but I’ll admit: I haven’t made my kids memorize the names of the different “biomes” of the world, where you would find each, what their characteristics are, or what animals you’d find there.
That’s right. I haven’t made my children memorize them, do reports and create examples of each, and pour all their knowledge of biomes back out onto a worksheet and a test. Will they suffer for my apathy? I think not. We study a lot of different subject matter. They know how to find information. They are working at learning to explain their findings to others. The difference is they are learning those skills using information they find interesting. (If you find facts about habitats and/or biomes interesting, forgive me if I’ve offended you!) FYI: as I type this, I’m finding that the software I use to type this article doesn’t even recognize the word “biome!” I knew it! Someone just made that word up!
I have no regrets about following our own path. We aren’t learning the same things as their peers at the same times, but we ARE learning (and I do mean we), and I am confident that my children will go on to become successful adults. I don’t have the luxury of knowing what professions they might pursue someday, but I know this: if their profession requires they know anything about biomes (or habitats!), they will know how to find that information, how to memorize it if it becomes important, and they’ll know how to present that information to others, either verbally or in writing, if necessary. That’s what the test will be: not “Do they know it?” but “Can they know it?” and “Can they share that knowledge with others?”
The title of this blog also says “… with an eye to the future …” Here is my real-world vision: if my child becomes a mechanic, he/she will need to know how to learn how to fix many different vehicles in an ever-changing industry, and should be able to explain to their customers (or boss, or co-workers) what is wrong with a vehicle, what needs to be accomplished to fix it, why one fix is better than another, which fix is more cost-effective, etc. The world needs mechanics — knowledgeable, ethical mechanics. If my child might become a mechanic someday, I want him/her to be prepared to be one of the best! Can you see how this scenario can fit any profession? Hairstylist, chef, seamstress, nurse, doctor, teacher, parent, engineer, artist, carpet-layer, farmer, police officer, librarian, market researcher, grocery store manager, church pastor, tree trimmer, pharmacist. The list goes on, but the skills are the same.
I don’t regret following a different path, and I try to do it fearlessly (always a challenge for this girl!). I don’t follow this path simply because I think it’s a superior path (sometimes I do believe that), but because I believe it’s the better path for our family. I have a gazillion reasons why we have chosen to homeschool, and spending our days learning in a way that’s different from traditional schools is one of our reasons. I’ll address other reasons later. For now, we’re heading back out to learn something else that’s useful and interesting!
What did you learn today?