Is there a difference between pushing and providing a good education? I can’t count the times I have been told or had inferred that I was doing too much or pushing my kids unnecessarily. What is too much? What would pushing look like? In my opinion, pushing would involve making your child do something he is not ready to do. What does too much look like? To me it is the normal public school schedule. Children are in school 6-7 hours a day plus time in transit. Then they have to come home and do homework. If you add outside activities to that the kids are always on the go.
So why do many consider that I push my children or that I do too much? We typically spend 5-6 hours learning each school day and we are covering these topics this school year:
Phonics or spelling
Big list? Many think so. At the same time many assume that everything is approached through boring school activities. Not true. Sitting down at the table working is a small part of our school day. Check out this video to see what a school day is like. During that day my kids played music instruments, sat down on the couch to read to me, did math lessons involving coloring or using a chalkboard, went on a hike exploring nature, one did a language activity on the computer, one completed a grammar lesson in a workbook, they followed along with an CD in their Greek book, listened to Italian music as they completed a mosaic art activity, listened to me read a book aloud, one typed on his blog, one did a music theory program on the computer, they did spelling practice (one son uses a marker and whiteboard and the other likes to use paper and draw pictures about the words he spells), and did handwriting practice from a workbook. I hate being bored. In my opinion, school should be anything but boring. I continually ask for feedback from my boys to see what they do and do not enjoy. If something becomes loathsome – we change it.
As far as pushing goes, grade levels are just a way to describe your age. If a child is ready for something that is not at his grade level I am not going to stop him. If he expresses interest in a topic he loves and wants to learn more and more I will provide more information even if it is far from his grade level. It would be pushing if the child gets frustrated at the complexity and is forced to stay at the place where he will experience failure.
My philosophy is simple. Learning should be fun. Learning is lifelong and most learning comes through doing or experiencing. I am not a big fan of sit-down-at-the-table-and-complete-your-workbook learning. I do believe that has a place for the Kindergarten + aged student though. When I was in fifth grade I had a teacher unlike any I had had previously. He gave us a list of our assignments at the start of the day and when we were finished we were free to explore and learn in the back of the classroom. He had a bunch of hands-on activities and educational games there. I usually finished my schoolwork in a couple hours and went to the back of the room. It was then that I really started to learn. I can’t remember anything that I learned from my schoolwork during that time, but I still remember what I learned at the back of the classroom.
As I type this my younger son is typing on his blog about his favorite countries. He is writing a long list of European countries. My older son is playing a space orbiter game and this week is Spring Break for us. During our school days we try to incorporate fun into learning. And in doing so I find that my boys are more likely to incorporate learning into their fun. I am a big fan of unschooling especially during the preschool years, but also know it fits best with our family when it is part of our approach to education instead of the only approach.
So how can I do the “too much” without it being too much? It is all in how you approach the subjects. I know a great majority of homeschoolers my children’s age spend 1-2 hours on school everyday. We could do that too, but it would be like my fifth grade class. If we spent 1-2 hours doing the necessary coursework and then called it quits we wouldn’t have time for all the hands-on learning. I don’t want to miss that. I don’t want my kids to miss that.
Am I pushing or providing a good education? I believe you know my answer. As a homeschooling parent the buck stops with me. There is no teacher or school system that is responsible for my child’s education. I seek to give my children the best education possible. Whether that looks like “pushing” or “too much” to someone else doesn’t change my responsibility. Whether that looks like “pushing” or “too much” to someone else doesn’t matter. I will continue to do “too much” and seek to find suitable curriculum and interesting methods to make learning fun.