I don’t know why it took me so long to have this aha moment, but it did. It wasn’t until last week that I fully grasped that I am not a homeschooler. I am a home educator.
Then I found a little video of John Taylor Gatto that confirmed what I was thinking. He put it forth in such clear terms that I appreciated.
Homeschooler Versus Home Educator
From the video:
The truth is schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.
Schools were designed…to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulae, human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
John Taylor Gatto, Schooling is Not Education
(See complete video at end of post)
This should have been obvious to me. After all, I left the teaching profession, in part, because although I loved children and teaching, I did not enjoy school. Just last week at a gathering for educators at Barnes and Noble, I was talking with another woman who is both a home educating mom and works in a school. When she asked if I missed the classroom, I gave the answer I always give. I miss teaching children. I do not miss school.
So why have I called us homeschoolers? Because it is the most widely used term. But as I’ve watched our adventure in home
schooling educating unfold, I’ve realized that I really have no desire to “do” school at home. I care deeply about educating Caroline. But I have no desire to subject her to “school” at home.
Spontaneous, Authentic Learning
We’re fortunate that the laws in Michigan are very lax. It is great because I don’t have to document every minute of everything we do. At the same time, I find it challenging to keep track of everything we do because so much of our learning is spontaneous and unplanned.
Two weeks ago, about five minutes before bedtime, Caroline announced that she wanted to make a solar system on large paper. She’s been fascinated with everything space for months now. We said okay. So she went to bed about an hour and a half later than usual. But she created by herself (with a little help from Daddy) a solar system on two large pieces of black paper. The next day she drew in comets, the International Space Station, and many other details she’s learned from spending literally hours pouring over books about space, listening to Daddy read to her about space, etc.
The other night, she found a page from my Fall Activity Pack that was in the office recycled paper pile. It was a measuring with pumpkins page. I didn’t even know she had it (and I hadn’t done it with her yet). She discovered it, figured out what she was supposed to do by reading the directions, and had already started on it by the time David found her. This, too, was at bedtime. I certainly wasn’t going to derail her learning, so we let her finish the page.
So much of her inspired learning seems to take place at the “wrong” time. Just before dinner, at bedtime, as we’re heading out the door, etc. But I try to accommodate her as much as possible. If she is interested in something, I do whatever I can to make that possible for her. This has always been our philosophy, starting when she was little and would ask us to read books. Our rule was to read to her any time she asked, even if it wasn’t the most convenient thing for us.
When the teachable moments arrive, I make the most of them.
And so we do very little “formal” schooling where we sit down and I instruct Caroline directly. We do some handwriting, calendar time, and math pages. I do plan reading activities and books for her to read to me. Beyond that we are pretty wide open. But we are educating every day. Caroline is getting a wonderful education. Will it get a little more formally organized as she gets older? Probably. But I’m happy to let her continue to delight in open-ended creativity, discovering things for herself, and exploring whatever interests her. Her time as a small child is so brief. I want her to enjoy the wonder of the world for as long as possible without endless details and educational pressures and expectations.
Why are children in first grade given high pressured, standardized tests? The answer is right up there in the Gatto quote. It isn’t because it is good for the children at that age. Teachers in the early grades hate standardized testing and know it isn’t a good practice. But everyone in a school must be measured scientifically and so the tests happen. Children who are barely six years old are told that they can’t pass to the next grade if they don’t pass certain tests. What are we doing to these precious children? The stress we are inflicting on them because of these tests is truly criminal.
I think, too, this is why even though there is much I like about Charlotte Mason, I don’t feel especially drawn to using the Ambleside curriculum. I’ve looked at it many times, but it just feels so formal and rigid to me. I look at the heavy books suggested even for Year 1 and think that it isn’t at all where Caroline is right now. Even from a parent’s perspective it looks stress-inducing. There is so much there! Might we someday use Ambleside? Maybe. But there is a heaviness to that curriculum that I just can’t embrace, at least at this time.
Embracing God in Her Education
God has given us a delightful world, full of His wonders. I want to enjoy those wonders with my child. When we get home from a wedding reception after dark, I want her to enjoy getting out a chair and finding Orion and the Big Dipper with her daddy.
God is an immensely creative God. I want my child to embrace her creativity. I want her to have craft materials and boxes and ideas that cause her to be absorbed for an hour with anticipation of what she is creating.
God is Truth. I want to discuss Truth with my child. I want us to talk about Jesus and sin. About the election and God’s hand. About music and beauty.
God delights in the individuality of each person He creates. I want my child to discover who God created her to be as a individual with unique giftings and a purpose in His Kingdom.
All of these have happened in our home over the past week. None of these endeavors were stress-inducing and nor should they be.
Education is an amazing adventure when parents and child are interested in the world God has created for them to enjoy.
Education should not suck the life out of a child.
Education should not be drudgery.
Education should not be fear-inducing.
Education should cause a child to pause in wonder at God and how He is at work in the world.
The following video is about ten minutes long. The presentation of the material is kind of slow, but there is good food for thought there.