phi·los·o·phy /fəˈläsəfē/ – a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior
My philosophies of homeschooling, education, and reading greatly impact the decisions I make in our homeschool.
I’ve shared these ideas in several blog posts but have never pulled them out to stand on their own.
Here are the six main areas I have very specific thoughts on:
- Preschool Education
- Early Elementary Education
- Middle School Education
- High School Education
- I do not place my childrens’ education at the top of my priority list. In raising my children to adulthood, my main concern is that they become Godly men of character. I firmly believe that if they have a Godly character they will be good husbands, good fathers, good employees or employers, they will be honest, fair, just, and they will have a love of learning. People with great character tend to be willing to learn new things because they can honestly admit that they don’t know it all. SO… if I raise Godly men of character, they will reach adulthood with a willingness to improve their own minds, hearts, and in turn, their eduction and finances will fall into place.
- I do not purport that what or how I am teaching my children is the best way or the only way, that children should be taught. I am, however, confident that I am teaching them the best way I know how to and in a way that I sleep soundly at night knowing that they are getting a well rounded education. This is not to say that other forms of education are not well rounded… what I am saying here, on my own blog, is that I am comfortable with what I have taught my children and that any kind of education they could receive would come with holes. The holes in my kids’ education might be different than the holes in the educations of children who receive other forms of schooling, and I am perfectly comfortable with that. P.J. Jonas of Goat Milk Stuff explains it so well and said it in a way that I can agree with: “Teaching our children to think is much more important than getting them to memorize tons of facts.” If you want to see what Henry Ford or Albert Einstein thought about this exact topic, please read the blog post of P.J.’s that I linked to.
- Our homeschool is not “school at home.” If you were to enter my house on a weekend you might not be able to tell we homeschool. We don’t have a school room and we don’t expect our days to have the flow of a school day. While this is okay for some families, it wouldn’t work for ours. In Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, Sonya Haskins explains this so well. I urge you to read her book.
- I love to read. I love to see my children reading. I believe kids can learn anything by reading so one of my main goals as a teacher is to get my students to a level of reading that will enable them to pick up a book on a topic that they are interested in and glean what they want to from it. I think my Gardner-Webb University Professors will sing for joy at my next statement: I am trying to develop life-long learners. I want my children to choose to read throughout their adulthood. If I can get them from non-readers, to readers, to lovers-of-reading, I’ll count my job well done. So far, my three bigs have developed a love of reading and they frequently choose to do so on their own.
- The age at which a child becomes an avid reader is less important than THAT he becomes an avid reader. I fully believe that it is better to delay reading instruction if a student is showing clear signs that he or she is not ready than to push through and create in the child a dread of reading. With Bailey, I tested this philosophy (and my own patience in the process) and I found that I was right. I learned how to read at a young age and my first two readers learned easily and loved it from the start. This made it difficult for me to go at Bailey’s pace. I wanted him to pick it up as early and as easily as his brothers did, but my overall goal, to have him LOVE reading, seemed immeasurably more important to me than when he mastered the skill. SO… I waited. I slowed down. When I was frustrated with how slowly he was progressing, I forced myself to remember that making him feel like he was bad at reading, or that he was disappointing me, was not going to help me achieve my end-goal. Over the course of several years Bailey has not only grown in his mastery of the skill but has become a lover-of-reading. I am now confident that my way works, and I will have even more patience with Parker than I did with Bailey because I know this: protecting a child’s love of reading is far more important than getting him or her to master the skill by certain age. This may be one of the most foundational philosophies in my entire bouquet of philosophies because it impacts every single subject we cover. I know that it’s not a philosophy I would really be able to put into practice were I still in the classroom because of the nature of classrooms… everyone needs to meet certain goals on a certain time-frame. This is one reason I love homeschooling for our family: because the time-frames match the student; the student doesn’t have to match the time-frames.
- I regularly receive requests for my opinion about what curriculum I recommend for preschool. I want to be very careful here, because I know a lot of people value formal preschool and the benefits of early education. What I will say is that I HONESTLY believe preschoolers can learn everything they need in the two simple actions of playing and being read to. (In case you missed it, that was my philosophy on preschool homeschool.) Play with your preschooler and they’ll learn. Read to and with your preschooler and they’ll learn. I do not think a curriculum is necessary for you to teach your preschooler so I don’t recommend a single one. That is not to say that there are not great ones out there. In fact, I’m positive that there are great ones out there. But I believe that the preschool years are designed for play and exploration and I do not spend a dime on preschool homeschool curriculum. I also believe that children have 13+ years of school ahead of them and only 5 designated for just being a kid. I say let them be a KID!
- Now, in the interest of full transparency here, all four of my children have gone to a public preschool for one or two years of their lives. That sounds so very contradictory to the previous paragraph, and for that I do apologize. The reasons for each child varied: When my oldest when to preschool at age 4 it was to prepare him for “real school” which we were going to be utilizing. We had no intention of homeschooling, and Hayden was so timid that I wanted him to have a year of “practice” to get him ready for the real thing. For Carson and Bailey, they went to preschool four days a week, just in the mornings. Matt was deployed and this gave me a small break, and a chance to teach Hayden all by himself. Parker went to preschool three days a week for three hours, giving me the time to focus on a few subjects that required the older boys to really concentrate. During that season I found that I was letting Parker watch TV while we needed to focus on school and I decided would preschool was better than watching TV. Sure, I could have come up with something for him to do, but honestly, that was right for us at the time. (Begin shooting flaming arrows now…)
Early Elementary Education
My philosophy of early elementary education is to cover the basics:
- Teach them to read (but the age at which a child learns to read is less important than developing his or her love of reading);
- Teach them math in concrete ways so that later they can understand the abstract mathematical concepts;
- Teach them that history is the story of people and make it interesting.
- Science is great, but I admit I’m not a great science teacher… Co-ops would be a great idea for supplementing what I haven’t covered, and replying on occasional unit studies and investigating nature is easier than it might sound at first.
- Handwriting is more important than I first thought, but it’s not the main thing.
Middle School Education
- My thoughts on middle school education are slim. I was trained in Elementary Education and so I really never studied the specifics about middle school grades.
- We pretty much continue what we’re doing in their subjects from 1st grade through 7th.
- In the 8th grade we give them a year of “practice high school” work. This gives the student a year to stretch those muscles; to learn how to manage time; to figure out just how much more work a year of high school is than what they’ve been doing; to begin thinking about grades.*
- *We don’t do a lot of grading until high school level. Really, we only do grades in Math in the elementary years.
High School Education
- I’m pretty new to this high school thing so please bear with me if this changes over the next few years but basically, I see these years as the years to prepare for college. We are assuming all of our children are going to go to college and will require them to work in our homeschool as if they are.
- Grades are kept for transcript purposes and we grade for mastery. (That means we do the work over and over until they learn it.)
- I believe (as Lee Binz, the HomeScholar says) that we can create a transcript to reflect our school and that we don’t need to change our school to fit onto a transcript.
- Work ethic is huge: they need to turn work in well and on time (the latter is something we struggle with in our homeschool).
- Using the HomeScholar’s The Total Transcript Solution and a college preparation high school plan we are going to work through what is required to enter college over these high school years.
- I’ll add more as I learn more, but for now, this is it.
There you have it! These are the foundational beliefs in our homeschool, educationally speaking. Overall, I think it’s pretty simple and, while I am not discrediting any other philosophies that exist regarding education, we are pleased with the results we’ve seen homeschool so far, basing what we do around these particular ideas. Time will tell…