Monday, February 27, 2012

How We Came to Home Education, Pt. 3

To read the first 2 posts on this topic, click:

How We Came to Home Education, Part 1
How We Came to Home Education, Part 2

Why Home Education?
 I love being with my kids. I love cuddling up and reading with the little ones. I love having adventures and exploring with my older kids. I love that we can choose where we go and what we do and how our schedule / routine is our own. I can choose what to teach them based on what I know about my individual kids and I don't have to get permission from anyone to do so. That is a very freeing feeling. I have the satisfaction of seeing them read for the first time or discover a math concept. It's a privilege and I am so thankful we can have this option of home education available to us.

My husband and kids like home education because we can all do things together during the day, like go to In-n-Out for lunch sometimes or take a hike when Daddy's work is not too pressing. It allows us all more time with one another, especially with my husband's unique work schedule.

Like many parents, we want our children to have a clear self-concept of who they are, a strong desire to do what is right and to look for ways to serve others. We want them to grow character traits that will serve them well their whole life through. Those are the most important kinds of an education we seek to offer our kids as a foundation to build more wisdom and knowledge on. Home education is a wonderful lifestyle that affords us the time and space we need to instill these qualities into our children's lives. The math, science, reading, history part is par for the course! Learning happens all the time and is quite natural.

My husband and I are not perfect people. We do not have infinite patience. Through our choice to home educate our children, we have the opportunity to learn those traits and skills we need to do this effectively. We aren't "there", yet, believe me!

We believe in the opportunity that being born /adopted into families offers: to learn and grow through our relationships with each other. Home education is the environment that supports the family in its learning-through-relationships with less outside distractions and interruptions.

We are not 'stuck at home'. "Homeschooling" is an easily recognizable term but not an accurate description. Family-centered, home-based learning fits the bill nicely, but is just not as easy to roll off the tongue! "Homeschooling" opens the world to our children. We are often out and about in our neighborhood and community, and no, we don't call our outings "field trips"--we call it "life as usual" ;-) You can see many photos on this blog of the things we have done and places we have gone that never would have been possible had our children been in the regular school routine.

Lastly, one unforeseen benefit has been that Home is also not just a stop on the way to the next 'thing'. Home is a haven and a place we love to be together. Home education has helped us to build this kind of home life together and enjoy it as a gift.

Finding Our Family Learning Philosophy and Style
As many parents know who have also jumped feet first into the wide ocean of home education, there are many different ways to 'teach your own'. There are lots of kinds of curriculum, certainly, but behind the books are ways of thinking about how people learn best.

I want to emphasize that there is no one "best" way of homeschooling, no matter what anyone tells you. Many parents want to find that 'magic bullet' (or book or curriculum or school of thought relating to educating children) that will make sure their child never misses anything and that they will turn out just as the parents plan.

Sorry if this disappoints someone reading, but just as in life we all learn as we go, and mainly from mistakes, this also holds true in home education. But take heart: there are hidden benefits to be found in that! (You'll discover these as you go along)

There are lots of ways that work differently for different families and it takes time to find the one(s) that will work for you. In fact, your best ways of learning will really be the ones you discover and invent yourself, even if you use a "philosophy" of one or another as a jumping-off point.

We are still (always?) trying new ways of learning and I expect we will as long as we live and breathe! I am just now getting used to that idea, so don't worry if that scares you at first, too. I have days where I feel I have all the answers I need, quickly followed by days where I feel like I need more answers. I have a foundation of what works for us to build on, so I am never floundering entirely, but there is always more for me to learn from others and try out for us, as far as how to learn and what to learn are concerned.

Name that Style of Education...
Learning at home is something that is very different from school learning. Home education is about learning and experiencing and really has nothing to do with schooling.

Even when our oldest was only 2 years old, I began to research all the varieties of styles of home education and learning and choose the ones that I agreed with and liked best. I then put them to the test! Our home education style is influenced by what we as their parents value and what we want our children to be exposed to and experience, as well as taking into account their unique gifts, talents, and also the interests that come and go over time. We borrow from the various methods what we like and have created what works for us over time. We unschooled from the beginning, and over time I have added in 'flavoring' from Montessori and the Moore formula, to Thomas Jefferson Education and Charlotte Mason education principles. We had always included tenets of our Christian/LDS faith through our normal lifestyle of teaching our beliefs to our children, as well.

A little about each...
Each of the bolded headings below contain a link to a website that goes into more description, if you are so inclined to learn more.

Unschooling is also coined 'life learning', which is the definition my husband likes best. This is a style of education where the child and parent are partners in learning. Learning is recognized as a personal process, not something 'done' to the child. I loved that it lets me off the hook, so-to-speak, as a parent because I do not have to be a 'school teacher' and dole out assignments in order for my kids to have a good education. It frees me to be who I am, a mother (a natural teacher), and offer experiences and support my children's interests in the ways I do best without taking on any additional (non-authentic) roles, and the guilt / 'am I doing enough' cycle that accompanies that.

Since the child is trusted and learning is considered a natural part of life, that parent facilitates learning experiences as the child's needs dictate. This method, or way of life, is sometimes known as 'child led learning', but this is only partly true. It is focused on the child's needs, yes, but parent and adult involvement plays an important part.

The example I gave earlier of our oldest son's interest in monster trucks as a 3 year old and how we supported that as a family is a wonderful formula for how unschooling looks in a family's life. There are also plenty of examples I could give that are more informal ways we as parents have supported our children's interests as their main learning. Sometimes books or curriculum can be used, but as an extension of what is desired and needed, and never instituted without a child's acceptance. There is no forced learning or coercion in this method. Lessons that come from life and the normal course of every day living are considered as valuable as any other kind of learning.

Moore Homeschool Formula....the late Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore developed this concept of home education. They were pioneers in the home school movement in the 1980's. I like their thinking in the way that they give the elements to the basic formula, which can then be adapted to a family's own needs. There are 3 components to their basic formula.

1. Study, from a few minutes to several hours a day, depending on the child's maturity.
2. Manual work as least as much as study.
3. Home / Community service an hour or so per day. (We are just dipping our toes into this)

This formula, I have found, works so well for us because educating our boys has shown us that hours of sit down book work are not effective ways for them to learn, on its own. I also learned this from Thomas Jefferson Education as well, but more about that later. The Moore formula gave me some direction and helped me to think of our learning in a more balanced way, with manual work being placed as just as important as study, for instance. It also emphasized the things that I feel are vital to my kids' learning and building their character, like giving meaningful service.

Thomas Jefferson Education is often considered a leadership education. This is one that I really can't give a brief overview of because there is more to it. I can say the part that drew me in most is the acknowledgment that children are ready for different kinds of learning at different stages of their growth and development.

For instance, there are 4 Phases of Learning in TJ Ed. The link I included in the introduction to this method is to a pdf that goes into more depth for anyone interested. Our kids are in the Core Phase and Love of Learning Phase, which allows me to enjoy and relax being with my kids and not feel that I should be "keeping up" with what the schools are teaching because we are on our own timeline.

As a wise person once said, "One can more patiently tolerate unfinished business when one's priorities are in order." I can patiently wait to share certain learning experiences with my children until they are ready for them because I know that when they are ready developmentally, it will be the right time to learn those things...there will be plenty of time to learn all that is important.

1. Core: Birth to age 8 (Montessori and some Charlotte Mason methods)
The heart and habits of life. This is where the values, character and work ethic are learned typically through play, such as right / wrong, how to relate to the world around them, others & introduction to social skills.

2. Love of Learning: age 8-12 Delight or Interest Driven (Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Unit Studies) This is a stage when a child will want to try it for awhile then drop and move on to new things. They are curious but not capable of deep intensive study yet. The attention/focus time still relatively short. They are enjoying the journey of looking into a myriad of things. An introduction to everything is going on in this phase. They “practice scholar phase” as they transition.

3. Scholar: age 12-16 (Classical/The Well Trained Mind, or, Curriculum approaches)
Broad and deep study preparing for life’s mission. The learner willingly takes on long periods of intense study 8 –10 hrs at a time is typical. Eventually leading up to 5,000 to 8,000 hours of study. They focus on this intense personally driven study 5-6 days a wk for 10 to 11 months per yr. They are self-motivated and somewhat reclusive because they are intent to learn. This is considered “pre-university” study. They use mentors, and willingly seek to have their work reviewed and will do it again until it is excellent.

4. Depth of Learning: age 16-22 (university or professional study)
This is where the learner now goes into professional study, typically at a university. Here is when one has figured out his “life’s mission” and does all he can to achieve it, receive training for it, it’s the Depth of Knowledge process.

Charlotte Mason Education
I fell in love with CM education principles because it was basically what I grew up with, before I went off to school at the ripe old age of 6. We read 'living books' and explored nature and I loved music and art and beautiful things. It is the education I wish I had been able to continue, had I not had to attend school and is one I strive to offer my children.  It is basically a liberal arts education for children, and goes into more depth as the child ages and his or her needs change. This helped give me the direction that I found lacking in unschooling at times. Unschooling was like the "get out  of jail / school free card' and showed me how to trust my child; CM was helpful in formulating a vision of  how I wanted to create the kind of home environment I wanted for my family. It's a lot of beauty and appreciation. It's actually hard to put into words. It has to be experienced. It is an education of the mind and the heart. From the website:

"The goal is to bring a wide variety of meaningful subjects to the children via literature, masterpiece artwork, poetry, and various other humanities. Along with these inspirational additions the core subjects are in no way neglected but they are approached in such a manner as to foster the love of learning."

Another vital aspect of CM education is the idea of "habit training." Study for even just a few minutes a day helps a child, or any person, form the habit of taking time to think about something, to ponder and mull an idea over in one's mind. This, over time when done consistently, becomes a part of one's character.

The last thing I will say about what I like about this approach to learning is that it allows for the child to enjoy their childhood! It brightens it with beauty without burdening the child with too many facts to memorize or time spent at a desk or table when they yearn to be running and playing. Plenty of time for bookwork when it is developmentally appropriate!

Montessori is one of those methods that can be interpreted differently for everyone. I do not use this method to-the-letter, but just as the other methods, as I find things that appeal to me and implement them. From the site linked to:

"All parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends are "homeschooling" children all the time whether they are aware of it or not! The most important life lessons, including love of academic learning, come from the home, not the school."

I love this description. We definitely use the family-centered approach with so much extended family nearby!  Michael Olaf Stephenson's experience as outlined on the website linked to here is a great "word picture" of what a Montessori education can look like, from youth to adult.

How do the philosophies we embrace translate to our everyday experience? 
To illustrate, I created a year theme with focus points each month for the 2011-12 year.  The emphasis was  character traits to build on using hands-on projects. Living books offered another perspective, but other than time for the older boys to learn the basics of reading and writing and help them develop a habit of study for a few minutes each day, I am leaning away from doing much "sit down" work this year and learning though literature will not be the focus this year.  Cub scouts and the LDS youth program "Faith in God" serves as another enriching experience for our oldest son. All the children have benefited by participating in a small family-run homeschool co-op at the beginning of the year.

Home Education is a Blessing
I know that the Lord has guided me and my husband and walked with us on this journey of discovering homeschool / family-centered education. I am so grateful it came across my path so that my children could benefit from it right from the beginning. Although we began right at the start of our children's education, it is never too late to pursue home education!

The Lord has blessed me to come across the 'golden resource of people' through blogs, books, websites, groups and families I've met over the years who have influenced me and taught me as I sought them out. I am so grateful for all the families who have "gone before" and shared their experiences so that mothers, like me, could be taught and influenced in this way!

I wasn't and am not just "one of those people who is cut-out for homeschooling". God truly has taught me what I need to know, when I needed to know, about my children and their needs and how to meet them, or find resources to help me. I know He does this for anyone who asks prayerfully, in faith.

Since all parents are their child's first teachers, God gives us everything we need in order to bring them up in light and truth, as we ask God in faith and then seek to follow the counsel He gives to us. That is true, no matter what educational path you choose for your family.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5–6)

As you can see from this series of posts, it took me time to gradually grow in confidence and ability to do this. He can make any weakness strong, if we rely on Him with faith. He has expanded my understanding and helped me to grow as a person to be able to spend this kind of time with my children. I trust in Him and I know that with Him, all things are possible.

If this is something that speaks to your heart, that you desire to know more about, consider it carefully. It can work, and well, but it is something that needs to be examined carefully and is a whole family decision and effort. It can work for most families, but whether or not it can work for you and yours is up to YOU, as each family's needs and circumstances are unique. I do know that if the desire is there in one's heart and when one's motivations are in the right place, the good Lord does provide. Be prepared for small miracles and expect to be surprised!

This journey, for me, has been a marvel. I have met and talked with a variety of interesting people, both in real life and online, and been privileged to have a peek into their families' lives and how they learn while living their daily life. Days continue to roll by and I really have to wonder, where will this lifestyle take us? What adventures/mistakes/crazy things/quiet times/new interests await us in the coming days and years? Who else will join our family and add to the beauty and bedlam of family life? Only time will tell!

I thank you for being a part of our journey as I express it on this blog and welcome your kind comments and thoughts, and yes, even your questions! Why not share about how you are inspired in your own child's education?


  1. I love reading how and what others do for homeschooling. it's such an adventure. We're still discovering our methods. Thanks for sharing yours.

  2. Wow, this was such a great and informative post Eve! Great for those looking into homeschooling I reckon.


Thanks for your comment today! I love reading your thoughts, too. :-)