Thursday, March 29, 2012

Steering by your own compass


When people find out that I was homeschooled, they usually ask one of two questions:

And .... did you like that?

What method did your mother use?

The folks who ask the first question just seem perplexed and unsure of what to say, how to figure me now.

The folks who ask the second question are homeschoolers themselves, usually.

My answer to the second question is this - my mother must have tried just about every method at some point. I had Oak Meadow for 1st grade, and I've been unschooled, done unit studies, done the Classical, Latin-Based model, and many years where we had a blend of them all. As we got older, we had more and more of a direct say in our own educations, and high school for me was basically a list of required subject matter and standards being handed to me and then being left on my own. When I had worked my way through it and decided I had mastered it all, I told my parents it was time for me to graduate.

And, it was different for each of my siblings. Because the real philosophy is what works this year may not work next year, and what works for one child may not work for another.

Now, I also have to explain what method I use to homeschool my own kids. I had been saying "eclectic", or "we don't really follow a method", but then I flounder a bit because that doesn't mean anything to folks. More and more, I'm saying "we do the Thomas Jefferson Education".

TJEd has these 7 Principles of Excellent Teaching:

  1. Classics, Not Textbooks
  2. Mentors, Not Professors
  3. Inspire, Not Require
  4. Structure Time, Not Content
  5. Simplicity, Not Complexity
  6. Quality, Not Conformity
  7. You, Not Them
It also has 4 phases of learning: Core Phase, roughly ages 0-8; Love of Learning Phase, roughly 8-12; Scholar Phase, roughly 12-16; and Depth Phase, roughly 16-22. Overall, I agree with the method and it is open and personalized enough to still follow my principle of tailoring everything to what seems to be working now for each child. We still steer by our own compass, but it doesn't hurt to have some charts to consult at times.

And with a "real" method to tell people, they just stop asking. Maybe they didn't really care in the first place. Maybe it was like the question "How are you?".

Well, I was stressed this morning because I encountered a difficulty, but then I was elated when I managed to meet the challenge. Now I have a small ache in my back, so I'm hoping not to have to stand too long here, and I really need to eat soon because my blood sugar gets low in the late afternoon.

They weren't really asking for that. "How are you?" or "What method do you use?"

The answer is "I'm fine".

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