Learning at Home – Part 1 – My Current View

Recently… ok maybe not that recently… (sorry Lesli!) a friend asked me for curriculum recommendations for preschool age kiddos. I have been “hunting and gathering” resources myself as Oriyah is quickly approaching the age where setting aside a little learning time each day would be fun and beneficial. I’m not talking about prepping for the SAT at 9 months old but simply having age appropriate lessons planned to help her develop fine motor skills and engage her senses. Personally, I think it’s too late to wait until kids reach age five to begin teaching… their little brains are so receptive and hungry for knowledge from very early on! I thought I’d go ahead and report my findings here on my blog for Lesli and anyone else who may be interested. Before I post those resources I’d like to briefly summarize my *current* view in regards to educating at home. I say current view because it’s all subject to change as I grow as a parent and add more babies to the mix. ūüėÄ

A little background… I was homeschooled and loved it! Before having kids I had no doubt that we would home educate. Baruch hashem for giving me a husband who is 100% on board and supportive!

Homeschooling afforded me the opportunity to become an independent learner… something I took for granted until I saw first-hand the struggles of my classmates in college. My learning experience wasn’t confined to textbooks but included real literature which developed in me an insatiable desire to read good books for pleasure. Furthermore, it nurtured deep bonds with my sibling and parents. Homeschooling is a team effort… is not just something you do but rather it is a way of life! Honestly, I can’t put in words how much I have benefited in every area of my life (not just academically) from being homeschooled!¬† Thanks mom and dad! Suffice it to say… I am openly biased.

That being said… while my personal experience has shaped how I will approach educating my own children, I would do a few things differently.

Here are some of my thoughts:

{Never Too Early}

As I mentioned before its never too early to teach your children! Don’t get me wrong! It’s important to play and have fun – it’s a form of learning! Cultivating spiritual growth over academic growth also takes precedence because ultimately it’s more important for our kids to get into heaven than Harvard. However, we do children a disservice by not engaging them early on. In Judaism, children as young as four begin studying the book of Leviticus! The New England Primer, was a simple text used during colonial times. Young children ages 3-6 would have much of its content memorized by heart at one point in our nations history.

{Textbooks v. Real Books v. Unschooling}

As a new or new-to-homeschooling parent the decision on which homeschooling approach to take can be daunting! There is no one-size fits all plan to homeschooling as every family’s goals and needs are different. My personal taste is eclectic. Textbooks can be your best friend or worst enemy. Textbooks are meant to give an overview and basic understanding of any given subject and they are great for that! While they do present a wealth of information or facts (names and dates) they can’t delve deeply into discussion of why’s/how’s/cause/effect – because they are designed to be an overview. Textbooks are great tools for supplementation and subjects that require lots of intensive instruction and repetition such as math and grammar. Relying only on textbooks puts learning in a box. Using actually literary works and historical documents to teach literature, history, and philosophy engages kids so much more than excerpts and paragraphs in textbooks! Sadly, many kids today don’t like to read but only because they haven’t been introduced to real books (Harry Potter and The Twilight Series don’t count… Sorry folks)! Then there is unschooling… {wink}. I understand the heart of Unschooling to be cultivating learning through hands-on everyday life experience and not confined to scheduled or structured learning times. While I am 100% for hands-on learning, unschooling does present a few drawbacks. It’s very difficult to master English grammar rules and more advanced math by going about your day! I have observed that –¬†parents who¬†are drawn to unschooling tend to be free-spirited themselves and in a lot of cases (not all) do a poor job of giving their kids a solid education. I plan on taking something from each approach and applying it to the way we teach our kids.

{What about socialization?}

This poor horse was beaten to death a long time ago!!! Almost every time homeschooling comes up in conversation people say “what about socialization?” Homeschooler’s nowadays have many outside resources for socializing that the movements early pioneers didn’t have access to such as: co-ops, support groups, choir, outside classes, sports, graduation ceremonies, symphony, and even homeschool proms – for those worried about losing contact with the outside world! The logic behind the “socialization argument” seems a little off-kilter to me.¬† [You mean there are other ways to socialize a five year old than to put him in a class room for 8 hrs a day with other five years olds?!?] It’s¬†healthy for kids to play with other kids. It’s no fun playing good guys v. bad guys by yourself! However, the long term goal of parenting is to raise competent independent adults not an overgrown kid. The average kid on off the street can fit in with his age group but has a difficult time or no desire to carry on meaningful conversations with adults. Homeschooled kids on the other hand, (generally speaking) are much more effective at communicating their thoughts and beliefs, even amongst adults. Homeschoolers are often deemed “socially awkward” and sometimes find it difficult to relate to non-homeschooled kids their age. As a parent who desires to raise my children to walk a different path than most – that’s actually a good thing. I don’t mind if my kids are different because that is the goal of my parenting. I’m not sure how… but I feel my own parents did a marvelous job at giving us a well-rounded social experience. I’m pretty comfortable talking when spoken to and turned out normal-ish. {wink}

{Education = Discipleship}

Education¬†is discipleship. Essentially, whoever is teaching your kids whether it’s you or a stranger is discipling them. It’s an overwhelming thought! For parents who choose to homeschool that’s a lot of responsibility! For parents who don’t choose to homeschool – you have to place your faith (and your kids “faith”) in the hands of a stranger who may or may not hold the same values you do and a government outlined and funded system of education which again may or may not hold the same standards.”Don’t be surprised when you send your kids to Caesar and they come home Roman soldiers.” Raising children to love Hashem, see the beauty of his creation, and acknowledge the majesty of His power through learning is NOT the agenda of the public school system – but it is mine – thus its a no brainer to me. As parents we have the Biblical mandate to disciple/educate our kids and what better place than at home?

{They Will Thank You Later}

Parents often have to pick and choose their battles. When it comes to homeschooling –¬†some kids are mini-mathematicians and others are reading the Chronicals of Narnia for the 4th time by second grade! The great thing about homeschooling is that tailoring the way you teach or the subjects you emphasize to address the individual strengths and weaknesses of your children is an option teachers with a classroom full of kids don’t have. I am the oldest kid in my family… oldest kids are always the test child! Let’s just say… I may have been slightly strong-willed. I hated math. It made me feel so stupid and I was afraid of it – I still am! Looking back… I wish my parents would have been more strong-willed than I was and made me do it. I think outside classes would have probably helped me because I was not a very motivated¬†student when it came to math. I can see they have approached things differently with my younger siblings. The lesson I learned is even if your kids aren’t particularly fond of a subject make sure they get a solid foundation in it and don’t let them get behind. When your kids get to things like advanced math and sciences it’s sometimes good to out-source those subjects or get a tutor. Another lesson I learned is to teach your kids grammar and writing skills! My mom wasn’t confident in her ability to teach grammar and writing so they were less emphasized than other subjects. As I mention in regards to unschooling the rules of English grammar are not something you pick up on in day-to-day conversation… as evidenced by this blog.¬†{wink} My mom has since gone on to become a certified writing instructor through Andrew Pudewa’s world renowned, Institute For Excellence in Writing and serves as the essentials Grammar teacher in her local classical conversation co-op. My 10 year old little sister knows more about grammar and writing than I do! The joys of being the test child! (Mom and dad if your reading this… It’s ok… I still love you!) Parents have the ability to look at their kids strength or natural talents and nurture those! Whatever your kids gifting is whether it’s writing, music, dance … you name it… Don’t let them give up! As much as strong-willed kids like me complain about things like practicing an instrument an hour a day – they will always thank you later!¬† Until you get the gratification of your kids growing up and realizing what an amazing parent your were and thanking you from the depths of their heart for the countless sacrifices you made – I will thank you for them – so – THANK YOU!

I think that about sums up my views on beginning learning at home… next up – a blog post about curriculum and resources for preschool at home!

B”H,

Maayan

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