I really enjoyed listening in on the call to Donna Goff today. She raised 7 children and homeschools using several of the same philosophies I have incorporated into our family's learning journey, including Charlotte Mason, Dorothy and Raymond Moore and Thomas Jefferson Education. I enjoyed reading her websites, some of which are featured here on my 'Instead of School' page, under the heading 'Resources'.
Two of the most important things I realized for my family as I listened to her sharing ideas and what she found works well for her are as follows:
1. I want to improve my Chore Chart system to be more of a family time of doing work.
Background on the Why's of the Chore Chart system:
Previously, the Chore Chart system has worked well thus far in that it has helped me to focus routinely on doing the tasks that need to be done each day and helped me invite the children and my husband along (when he is here) better than I have done before using it. Instead of doing it all myself while everyone hopped on a TV/computer/electronic device in the morning, I have invited every person to do a specific task and made this a family effort of keeping dishes/laundry/meals in rotation rather than a "Mostly Mom Thing" that the family only participates in when Mom has a breakdown and "can't handle it". I wanted to feel like the sane person I know myself to be and I want to teach my family that women are not cry babies! In short, this has been a tool to assist me in being assertive about household work for the family. I have been known to recite the story of the Little Red Hen a few times aloud when a child refused to pitch in...
In addition, my children are learning useful skills that will serve them well in their own families later on and healthy habits to take care of themselves. This is part of "Habit Training" , a term coined by Charlotte Mason.
What I gleaned from the Summit about chores:
I love how Donna said that whatever time it is done, morning or afternoon, the family gets together and works until whatever needs to get done is done. I like that because each person can choose which task they would like to complete as opposed to being 'assigned'. I liked it also because that gives time for me or my husband to work alongside a child and show them how to do a task (like clean a toilet or sweep a floor) and that it is all just part of the cleaning time regularly. Of course, most days we just do what we need in order to get the day started and save projects for a time when we can do them.
I like the chart I have going right now in that it still serves as a visual reminder for all of us of what needs to be done to function as a family each day.
How will this look different for us from now on?
Whereas before I would work side-by-side with each child until they learned a task and then expect them to do this on their own, I will consider doing this more with children age 8 and up and do more tasks together with all the younger children instead of trying to have them do them alone.
We'll make the beds, get dressed, put away laundry, feed the dog and the other basic tasks more or less together (5 and 3 year old) consistently rather than trying to teach them to do these things alone.
I see that they still need the time with me and it will make fun memories for me and them rather than wasting the time and feeling disappointed with them not being able to do the tasks alone.
I can tell it would be more productive to wait until they are old enough to have them do more tasks alone consistently, as they will be able to accomplish the basic tasks alone as they mature, as my oldest has demonstrated.
So--together time with the littles it is! And now I feel like I can embrace that and not wonder if I should be doing something else. Love that! I am certain the effort will be worthwhile and though not always perfect in execution, I believe it is the effort that counts. I have faith it will make a positive impact on each of my children in the ways they need in time.
2. I can finally and completely let go of the thought that children
under the age of 8 "need" academics.
I was trying to think of how I could fit in preschool-age activities, like coloring or matching shapes or water play or art experiences, into the daily morning Table Time (which is geared more toward my oldest with some writing and narration and learning a primary song).
I have recognized that I have felt a bit sad that I haven't been able to give my 5 and 3 year old the same kinds of experiences as my first child had, coloring and "preschool-ish activities" and doing projects with just Mom. The part of me who attended public school even still wondered from time to time if they might be "missing" something important if the young ones did not receive a certain amount of special projects just for them each day.
I have been feeling discouraged because I know that in the course of a day, there really is not time to fit "it all" in (time with the little ones in the way I think they need and separate time with the older ones). Many times it is all of us together listening to classical piano music on a CD while I cook and someone chops a vegetable nearby. Or painting at the art table while I read aloud. Or even playing computer games while I read aloud!
(This has been great lately, and I know many mothers will wince
when they read that, but, hey! It's working for us!)
But I am accepting that as a family-style learning environment in a home, that doing a project with older and younger siblings together does have advantages and that it is NOT necessary for the younger children to have what the oldest had. That is key. It is not Necessary! In fact, there are certain advantages that school children do not receive in a classroom like a child in a multi-age family who learns primarily at home does.
Hearing Donna talk about young children not needing the school experience of academics validated what I already know in my own heart and allows me to just embrace having my 3 year old along for the ride! I also feel free to release any remaining doubt and fear or misconceptions about what kind of learning experience a young child needs.
Just hearing someone like Donna who has been there and knows what has worked
really makes a difference.
I understand now. Play dough at the table while Mom reads aloud, writing in foamy shaving cream on baking pans, helping Mom do dishes or holding tools while Dad fixes a bike. All those things don't happen according to plan on a set schedule and according to a 'trusted format', but the cumulative effect over time is enough!And it sets the stage just fine for a dive into study later on, when the individual child is matured and ready. I think of it like a rose blooming or a butterfly emerging from his chrysalis. It can't and needn't be forced--it will happen when the time arrives.
What it looks like:
Most days, I get the day started and little ones dressed and fed, sit and do Table Time with the oldest and then snack and read and rest with the two youngest. Some days I might take a walk up to the park or around the neighborhood with the children. We all enjoy this bit of nature and fresh air. Later in the evening, after dinner, I might read to my 5 year old while he plays a computer game (he loves "Charlotte's Web" and asks me to read more to him, so I know he likes this) and later play a board game with my oldest. It is wonderful to be able to figure out how to find at least one Meaningful Moment with each child each day. Those kinds of days are precious to me and I trust my children are getting enough out of them, learning-wise.
Listening and pondering today has further served to solidify my confidence in the flexibility and fluidity of family-centered learning and I marvel at how so much really can be accomplished, in such simple ways. I realize I don't have time and resources to give my kids every single classic piece of literature or art experience I would wish for them, but by continuing to build a stable home foundation and offer them experiences daily and weekly, along with what they discover themselves, I realize all this weaves together to make up the beautiful tapestry of their own learning and it is "enough". Each day is a new and unique adventure.