Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re-visiting My Educational Philosophy

I'm approaching my 2 year blogiversary, and a recent post by an Australian homeschooling blogger linking to my very first post (thanks for the link love and all the kind words!) got me thinking.

My inaugural post was entitled "Our Educational Philosophy". It was written seven months into our trial year homeschooling our oldest for pre-k and a few months after we made the decision not to enroll her in a traditional school for kindergarten. This first year was spent mostly on figuring out if homeschooling was right for our family and once we decided it was, figuring out how we were going to do it. It was heavy on the planning, and relatively light on the actual teaching part.

Fortunately, 4 year olds don't need that much in the way of formal academic instruction in general, and mine already knew most of the traditional pre-k stuff like the alphabet, counting, shapes, colors, etc. I did do formal phonics with her based on Romalda Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading (adapted to be less reliant on fine motor skills) but the other subjects were done informally.

My point in relating all this is that when I wrote up my educational philosophy, it was based primarily on my ideas about education rather than actual experience. Not that it was done lightly- I had read extensively on the subject and carefully considered a wide variety of viewpoints before trying to formulate my own philosophy. But the $64,000 question is how do I feel about it now that we're halfway through our second year of formal homeschooling?

Back then, I wrote:

"Our primary goal in homeschooling is to teach our children to love God and to serve Him in everything they do. We teach science as the study of His creation; mathematics as His order for the universe; literature, art, and music as the fruits of His inspiration; history as His plan for humanity; health and physical education as taking care of His precious gift of our bodies; and religion as His instructions for how we should live our lives here on Earth. We strive to provide our children with the tools (spiritual, academic, and practical) that they will need in their future vocations."

I still agree with everything here. However, I have been more successful in integrating our faith with certain subjects than with others. History and math in particular I need to do a better job expressing how they are part of God's design.

"We seek to foster in our children a true love of learning so that they will continually seek out new challenges and avenues for growth. We wish to encourage creativity, thinking 'outside the box', and approaching problem-solving in innovative ways. We believe this is best accomplished through integration across subjects; hands-on experiences; exposure to great literature, art, and music; discussing topics in-depth; applying what has been learned to novel situations; lots of variety and freedom to explore; and a balance of teacher-guided and child-directed activities."

Again, I still agree with all this. I've found the integration across subjects to be more difficult than I'd imagined. I got all these promising-looking materials to teach the history of math, science, art, music, etc. but my DD has not really been all that interested. Ditto for trying to do arts & crafts projects related to what we're studying. This is where the "encouraging creativity and thinking outside the box" has come back to bite me in the rear because she wants to do it her way (cue Frank Sinatra) rather than following the directions.

"We believe in tailoring the curriculum to the student's individual abilities, interests, and learning styles while still providing rigorous academic instruction. Our goals include the ability to read, write, and speak fluently and persuasively in English using proper grammar and spelling; strong quantitative skills and the ability to analyze data; familiarity with science, world and U.S. history, geography, and civics to be an informed citizen; computer literacy; and a thorough understanding of Scripture and Church doctrine in order to lead a moral life."

I definitely still agree with this. However, I realize now that I neglected to include some important goals. A big one is a thorough knowledge of economics and personal finance. Our country is in turmoil right now because too few of its citizens have a strong understanding of those key topics. Another important area is home economics and other practical skills. I'm not necessarily buying into the whole "training our daughters to be keepers of the home" thing (though certainly I'm not knocking women who've embraced the traditional female role and would have no problem if my girls decide to spend some time as homemakers when they grow up). I'd just like all my kids (including my son) to be able to cook, do basic sewing, and other household tasks.

"We draw upon the wisdom of many educators including pioneers like Charlotte Mason, Dorothy Sayers, and Maria Montessori as well as contemporary ones like Raymond Moore, Susan Wise Bauer, and Laura Berquist."

I am definitely still an eclectic homeschooler, with strong Classical and Charlotte Mason leanings. In addition to the above names, I've also found helpful information from Catherine Levison, Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn, and even some books geared at "unschoolers" by Mary Griffith and Mary Hood (these are full of ideas for experiential learning).

Overall, I think my original educational philosophy has held up relatively well. We've definitely made progress towards our goals. We could be doing better in some areas such as ensuring our family's faith is integrated across the whole curriculum rather than just certain subjects. It's been a learning process for me as well as my kids, and I'm sure that it will continue to be so in the future.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

It sounds like your educational philosophy really didn't change much. It's more that you've gained a good deal of practical experience that makes it work.

Congratulations on your second blogiversary!

Anonymous said...

I especially like your perspective on "keepers of the home." It's refreshing in light of all the unscriptural and oppressive theology I keep bumping into as I get acclimated to the homeschooling community.

christinemm said...

Great post. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts and how things have already changed.

Perhaps you will find, as I did that when they get older, into middle school grades, and are being taught to a standard of quality work and are challenged, that suddenly the 'joy in learning' and all that jazz goes out the window (regarding some subjects). I blogged on that recently how to put it plainly, it just gets harder (the content) and when learning doesn't come easily to a child they can get angry and then it is 'not fun'. It is not an acceptable option in my family to just not teach the topics or skill sets that are 'not fun' or that put a strain on my mother/son relationship. I feel like I took on the role of teacher so that includes holding a standard and helping my kids learn perseverance.

Lastly, I love Catherine Levison's books too. I was inspired by her all day workshop to jump into the CM method, and now I've eased back (largely due to learning styles issues and accommodations for a learning disability). I wanted to point out, not sure if you want to edit it, you misspelled her last name in your post...if others want to look her up they may then struggle to find her stuff. It is Levison not Levinson. She also has a website with free articles online.

Have a great day.

Crimson Wife said...

Thanks for catching that typo! My mom has a friend with the last name of Levinson so my poor sleep-deprived brain must've mixed the two up.