As long as we’re on the subject of Not-School…

In CategoryHome Schooling, Navel Gazing

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about my educational philosophy. I sense a shift within myself, and am trying to figure out what exactly is happening and put it into words. 

I was homeschooled myself, from 8th grade onward. At the time (1985), it was illegal in my state – I vaguely remember my parents talking in low voices about people being arrested and their kids being taken from them. My mom did not want us to even be seen outdoors during school hours. There were not a lot of curriculum choices available back then. We used A.C.E., like the local Christian School; and I also remember hearing about Abeka.

They shielded us from what had to have been a lot of stress; because it’s only now, looking back on it as a parent that I can imagine what that must have been like. I suppose we were almost pioneers, though I have no memory of feeling like anything monumental was happening. 

Strangely, even though pulling my sister and me out of public school was a huge decision and almost unheard of at the time, I do not think they put very much thought into the actual education itself. We were given our workbooks and left to our own devices. My mother was not what you’d call a natural teacher, and anytime I struggled with the material (which was abysmal, in my opinion), we had relationship-altering arguments. 

It’s a wonder that I chose this route for myself, frankly. 

Obviously, I want to give my kids an entirely different school experience. One filled with togetherness and traveling and good books and the natural learning that happens through adventure.  I see my role as being part facilitator, part teacher; providing them with a banquet of possibility and giving them the freedom to choose what they wish and gobble up as much as they want. 

Good grief, I sound like a crackpot. 

But I FEEL this weird yearning within me – it’s in there, growing, nagging, and generally on my case constantly.  To do more, give more, be more for my kids. 

I have a friend who tells me I am going to end up an unschooler. But I don’t think so. For one thing, I don’t like that word. “Unschooling” sounds too much like “nonschooling.” For another, I am not the kind of person who can be all “yeah, they’ll learn how to do algebra when they want to” or whatever. Nobody wants to learn algebra. My people will learn maths, and how to read and write well, the end. 

But other subjects? I don’t see why history, science, geography, literature, art, music, sports, and everything else can’t be largely interest-led. Surely I can give them the power to study what they are interested in, within guidelines that I set. 

The thing is, I don’t really know HOW. How do I implement this idea? How do I balance a quality education that at least partly satisfies my need for checking-things-off-a-list but also gives my children the freedom to pursue their own interests – without squashing their desire under a pile of worksheets? 

Most importantly, can I do it so it doesn’t interfere with my teevee viewing?

Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time…that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or geology or astronomy. The question is not, how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education, but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? 

Charlotte Mason