Our educational philosophy has led to many misinterpreting the way we homeschool. We have appeared to others to be doing way too much, pushing our kids, or trying to create little geniuses or something silly like that. We have also appeared to be not doing enough in the early years. I wanted to clearly delineate our philosophy to help clear up any confusion in the future.
The driving force behind all we do is the passion for learning. I seek to cultivate excitement, curiosity, a sense of wonder, and a desire to learn. I view learning as an engaging dance of the mind that we are privileged to be able to spend our days doing. My kids might not always agree with everything, but that doesn’t change my focus on engagement and the delight found in learning.
We have long school days, but when you view learning as a pleasure the long days are a positive. I do know that if I pared my children’s days down to the basics then I would take away the most engaging parts of their day. Full days allow us to explore in depth. Thinking, discussing, pondering, and questioning takes time. This is a way of life that makes its way into day to day discussions as well.
In the early years we appear to do very little. The young years are filled with wonder and excitement and playtime is the best way to learn about the world and the best way to introduce early academics. I like to ask my little ones lots of questions to help them ponder about things. This is done in little conversations in our day to day life. I view pretend play skills as an important foundation for future academic skills.
Around age 5 I’ve started my kids on full-time school, but this school-time is a mesh of formal and informal learning. In other words, playtime is part of school time. As the child grows, the informal learning time is replaced with formal learning without much of an increase to the child’s school day.
I’ve also found that I’ve needed to teach a subject in a way that interests me in order to be able to approach the topic as a joy to learn. Sometimes that means switching materials or curriculum or sometimes it means adapting a curriculum to fit us better. If I have joy in the process, it can be contagious. If I don’t like the materials or the method, it is very difficult to pass any love of learning to my child.
I seek to challenge my children as well. When materials are not challenging they are not engaging to the mind. Challenging materials make us think and develop the ability to triumph over something difficult. I don’t go by grade levels on the materials we use. I choose materials that are at the right level for each child to be sufficiently challenged. The typical school methods of assessment take a back seat to discussion and understanding.
What we do is not a magic formula or anything I would specifically recommend to others. Families are different, homeschooling moms are different, and children are different. What we do works for our little family.
I find the words of Piechowski to accurately reflect the way I view learning:
“It is not a matter of degree but of a different quality of experiencing: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding – a way of being quiveringly alive.”