Over the past month or so I’ve been trying to organise my messy thoughts. This is nothing unusual. Everything about me is usually in a state of disarray. But to me, this was more important than my usual scatty mumblings.
When we first started home schooling, my children’s eagerness to learn knew no bounds. We used ACE, a work book curriculum, and they thrived….until about twelve months down the line. They had learnt to count, add and subtract and most importantly they had learnt to read. Apathy began to set in when they found there was a daily onslaught of work pages, followed by more work pages. My instinct was to ditch the curriculum and go our own way, using history as our base. It probably took another ten months for me to have the courage of my convictions and do just that. The children were six and seven by then and we haven’t really looked back since. Their desire to learn returned immediately. Add that to their innate enthusiasm about everything and anything and I had a recipe for home schooling bliss.
Life changes though, and the people along with it. The children are growing up, and one by one are slowly moving away from the make-believe dress-up play, which had always been such a delight and had brought our studies alive, to more individualised interests. We all still enjoy learning together and all three love our hands on activities, but they have more opinions now about what they do and don’t want to spend their time on. A year or so ago, I was teaching three very similar children, but over that time they have developed into three very different children, each bringing their own ‘something special’ to our home school table. It now seems such a waste not to harness these variances. To keep them tied to my own plans, means we see more of me and less of them. Yet this does them a disservice. They have so much more to contribute now, so many ideas and variety. I love it!
Over the Christmas period, T12 made the most wonderful plans for our garden. He drew a to-scale model, using much maths to do so; built a to-scale Lego model of his plans and then proceeded to search the web sourcing the least expensive way to erect poly-tunnels and buy seeds. He wrote lists-price lists, bed lists, pest lists, veg lists. He wrote copious notes about his plans so he wouldn’t forget all he had researched. Most of all he did it all without direction, help or school planning from his mother. He was absorbed, enthusiastic and actively teaching himself all he needed to learn. There was something about this whole learning process. An ease. For him, for me, for Gary. All he required was a sounding board and the promise of financial help to realise his vegetarian dream. I decided there and then I wanted more of this.
This term the children chose individual projects to work at each day. I’m here to help as much as they need, but really I’ve been astounded by how successful it has been, and how ‘into’ their projects they all are. Their plans far surpass my own, and their excitement about their own ideas far surpasses the excitement they feel towards mine. They are beginning to take full ownership of their education and it has been truly special to watch.
And I think it is these observations which have encouraged us as a family to refine and simplify our definition of what it means to be educated. Our priorities are for the children to be numerate, literate, with a good work ethic and eager to learn. In fact eagerness to learn is probably top of my list. I’m not sure you can hold a person back from learning if their desire to do so is strong. The question is how to harness this eagerness, this passion for learning?
Please do feel free to join in the discussion and leave a comment. I thoroughly enjoyed reading what everyone had to say yesterday and it gave me much food for thought!