If you follow my Facebook page you know that this post was coming. Now that Stefan is 7 I feel like we’re true, legitimate homeschoolers. Not that we weren’t before, but things have definitely shifted a bit lately in terms of how we do learning at home. I’ve been considering how in the world to write out my current philosophy of how children learn and what fits our home and life right now in a single post. I’d rather have you over for a cup of British tea and discuss it in person, but here goes my attempt. 😉
It’s a personal passion of mine to read about child development and education. How children learn isn’t just something I need to know in order to homeschool effectively, it is something I love learning about. So I read a lot. Articles, books, and other moms’ experiences are all part of the equation. I love it so much that I have to hold myself back from discussing it with people, because not everyone loves the subject quite as much as I do.
I’ve learned so much over the last few years from following other moms that I think it’s time I start sharing more about that part of my life here. If something catches your eye and is helpful, great! I consider it an honor to share how we are trying to implement learning into our daily lives.
But please understand that I am always learning and growing and trying new things. I feel like as soon as I write down how something is working it will likely change because we’ll be in a new season or any other multitude of possibilities. So this is simply me growing and learning and sharing tidbits of it along the way. Okay? Thanks, friends! 😉
Drawing at the Botanical Gardens that are literally around the corner from our home!
Now to a philosophy…
I feel like when the question of educational philosophy comes up, you are almost expected to pick one. Not only do I find it hard to box myself in that much, but I also feel like that sometimes lends itself toward accepting one philosophy as being the absolute best. That’s always a bit dangerous because every child, family, and situation is different. I’ve found a lot of valuable input from every end of the educational spectrum (Unschooling, Leadership Education, Charlotte Mason, Classical, etc). So rather than choose a single philosophy, I’m going to share a few ideas that influence how we learn in the day to day.
A little nighttime reading
- Delayed formal academics.
Based on a lot of reading, I have come to the conclusion that, in general, we are pushing kids too young. There is a lot of emphasis in the preschool and early elementary years to push kids to read earlier, know more facts, and in the process they lose a lot of free time just playing and exploring the world. Some kids are ready for this, but many aren’t. While we do a lot of learning every day (including daily reading practice) we had decided to not do “formal” academics until sometime in the year that Stefan turned 7 (based on my reading on child development and a shift that seems to takes place around that age). I planned to follow Stefan’s natural shift, and interestingly enough almost to the date of turning 7, I watched it happening before my eyes. He was (is) ready for more. I had things ready to go for when that happened and so we have moved almost seamlessly into a more structured way of learning. It’s been completely fascinating to watch! Just to note, I do think Olivia will move into this much sooner mostly because she is watching her older brother and enjoys learning right along with us. I’m not for holding them back if they want to move forward, but in these early years I certainly don’t want to push ahead before they are developmentally ready. It’s a fine balance for sure, and I think every child will be different.
- Lots of free play. Because my kids are still very young, there needs to be lots of hours of free play. The time will come soon enough when my kids will be spending the bulk of the hours of their day studying and learning, but right now isn’t that time. They need lots and lots of play both indoor and outdoor.
- Integrated subjects. As we move into more formal academics I am seeking to try to give my kids an integrated approach to learning. (This is where I appreciate the Classical approach). I see a huge benefit in studying history, science, art, literature, etc, in an integrated format. Isolated subjects are arbitrary and I think there is great value in studying time periods and what is happening in each of those areas at the same time. I hope I can give that to my children.
- Literature-based. Here is where I lean very heavily toward Charlotte Mason. I think children learn best from real living books. They can grasp ideas and concepts much better in a story than in a little box on a page of a curriculum. So reading aloud and individually will continue to be a huge part of our learning.
- Children have ideas. Again this is a big concept in Charlotte Mason’s works. Children are capable of having and relating to big ideas, not simply facts. This is where I differ a little from some people’s idea of Classical education (I say some, because Classical education has become quite popular and with it a variety of ways it is applied can be found). I think young children are capable of a lot more than merely memorizing a lot of facts that they can then later attach big ideas to. I’d rather discuss the big ideas right now and this follows closely with my love of using great literature to accomplish that.
- Interest-led. Going along with leaving lots of free time to play, there is an aspect of learning that I want to inspire and engage my kids in, and there is room to let them have their own interests as well. How exactly to find that balance will, I think, be constantly shifting as they grow and change and as our life situations changes, etc. But I don’t want to so overcrowd their educational life that they have no room to explore things on their own.
- Hands-on learning. Whether it is taking them to museums (or castles!), or making things at home, so much of learning becomes real and alive when we can relate to it in the physical world. I want to move away from just “textbook learning” and give them as much hands-on experiences as possible. (Admittedly, being in Europe makes this part very interesting!)
Hiking in the Highlands
Those are the big ideas behind how I frame our learning. The day-to-day flows from those big ideas and I plan to share those as we go along. Sometimes there is textbook learning, sometimes it looks largely like play but it’s definitely learning, and always there is reading.
So what is my philosophy? Well, if I must… 😉 Charlotte Mason, Classical, and Unschooling and how they all intersect somehow someway. If that isn’t confusing, I don’t know what is. But trust me, it is a pleasure to learn in our home, and I might be learning more than anyone.
Do you one or more educational philosophies that you lean toward?