Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Homeschool vs. School at Home

If there's one bit of advice I've heard more than any other from homeschoolers, it's the fact that home school is NOT school at home!  Your own reasoning prompted you to keep your children out of public schools, so why would you want to bring that very school system into your home?  Such is done in the method of virtual schooling, to the detriment of students, parents, and the home schooling community. But my focus here is with homeschooling families who begin bringing the classroom methodology, scheduling and general mentality into their home schooling approach.  This may be a natural first tendency, especially if you were public/private schooled, or you've been a school teacher.  It is what you know... what you're familiar with.  But... it is not the ideal for helping your children reach their learning potential, nor for inspiring a life-long love of learning.     


Read Real Books... Not School Books!!


One of the advantages of homeschooling is that we can choose quality literature, rather than schoolbooks. Instead of dry, uninteresting text written by a curriculum committee, we can learn from real books written by an author who loves their subject,  stimulates the mind and ignites the imagination! The difference is night and day! 

Even our recreational books are higher quality than those lining the shelves of a school library. Instead of choosing books based on their point value to pass a test and win a prize, we choose them based on their literary value, and we enjoy them. The market today is filled with diluted children's material. Over the years, quality literature has been extracted from school classrooms and replaced with what I call junk books. If you compare the two side, by side the difference is astounding. Middle School Reading Lists 100 Years Ago Vs. Today Show How Far Standards Have Declined. Our plummeting school standards are undeniable. We don't need to follow suit in our home... we can do better!  

Reading great literature stimulates the mind. It enhances the vocabulary, writing & composition skills, reading speed & comprehension, and the ability to dissect plots, story-lines & characters.(1:12)   Perhaps its removal is why "we've gone from teaching Greek and Latin in high school to teaching remedial English in college." (Joseph Sobran)


The Home Learning Environment

Proponents of the Monetssori Method insist on maintaining an ideal learning environment.  I find it interesting to note that they strive to mimic the "home" environment as much as possible, believing it to be ideal.  Charlotte Mason also  wanted children to "absorb" the home environment as well.  How lucky for us!  This is where we teach from anyway.  To attempt to re-create the institutional setting is artificial and unnatural. 

I love our school room, but we aren't glued to it. You'll often find my boys reading in a tree or inside a fort. I don't plaster the walls with educational posters either. In fact, the very few I find useful I hide inside the closet door! It's first and foremost our home. My goal was to make our school room a happy space to keep all our supplies organized and accessible. Every family should do what works for them, but read this post before making your school room too schoolish




School Scheduling


Your school day will be shorter than the typical public school day simply because it's so much more efficient. You have a small student-teacher ratio, which makes your study time more effective and meaningful. You cover what your children need, not a broad program for an entire classroom. If you hit it hard from 8:00 till 3:00 your children will get burned out, and so will you. It's overkill. Much time is wasted in public school with busy work, administrative paperwork, attendance taking, transition between subjects, time fillers here and there, herding the kids from one place to another, settling down, and group discipline. If you google school time-fillers or busy work, you'll find all sorts of ideas for teachers to use to keep kids "busy." It's been estimated that school children only spend 20% of their time at school "on task." Do you realize that equates to an hour and fourteen minutes? Let that sink in. 

In addition to having shorter, more efficient days, homeschoolers are also free to structure their day however works best for them. The school system schedules its teaching in compartmentalized, timed segments for each separate subject. We can go with the flow! I am a planner and scheduler at heart, but I've learned that we function best without a set time per subject, and I'm not afraid to go down rabbit trails and see where we end up.

We are known to drop everything and chase butterflies. And those days are some of our very best. My boys have learned to classify and identify animals, sketch them, and journal about them with impromptu nature studies like this. And guess what? That was science, writing, and art for the day. It's a lovely thing when we can learn to relax enough to embrace the surprise learning opportunities that come our way, instead of feeling behind afterwards. Schedules are good, but be flexible with them.


Remember that you're not a school... you're a family!

"Many of the tools for school (worksheets, multiple choice tests, true/false tests) are effective ways of working with a large group of unrelated people within a constrained amount of time to get them through the same amount of material in nine months or less. Using their tools to home school is like using a chainsaw to butter your bread. They are dealing with kids whose parents didn't come home last night, kids who got off to school with a smack and a curse, kids who have been brought up in an environment as stimulating as a piece of white bread. They are dealing with 20-30 kids with varying interests, abilities, and backgrounds. They are dealing with a climate of suspicion making it impossible for them to kiss a child, give out a tylenol, or defuse a tense moment with a group prayer. 


You don't have most of these issues to deal with. Even those of us with adopted children from difficult backgrounds have fewer than 20 of them, and we have them 24 and 7. You can curl up on the couch with a good history book and your sweet children and read together and talk about it and you will have covered as much ground in literature, critical thinking, vocabulary, and history in half an hour as a public schooled child does in a week. You may not have pen and paper work to show for it, but the work of the mind happens in the mind, and it is what happens in the mind and heart that constitutes education." (quoted from "An Educated Mind")

Going Off Book



You're not stuck with just textbooks and workbooks! They're not the only way to teach a child, nor are they generally the most effective. They were developed for a classroom setting, and largely only cater to visual learnersWhen textbooks and workbooks are the main teaching source, children fall into the "read, review, regurgitate" mentality and are less likely to be inspired to a deeper curiosity or love of the subject. Creativity is also minimized, causing such a disservice to children as it is their pathway into the highest level of learning.  

Hands-on experience and real life learning surpass textbooks any day of the week! Just because it doesn't happen on paper doesn't mean it doesn't count! Learning experiences, field trips, etc. count as school days too! Don't let your curriculum be your master... it's just a tool in your belt. We get to teach our child, not just a curriculum.


Testing
Test-taking is a skill that our kids need to have... eventually. They certainly don't need testing or grades in grade school, when a simple discussion is all that's needed to  gauge their learningYou can find out how deeply they're connecting with the subject through conversation, particularly if you know the right questions to ask. Narration is a great tool to have in your belt, and far more valuable than multiple choice and fill in the blank tests, which only require them to think at the lowest levels. It can be done in a a variety of ways, all of which you'll notice require a higher level of thinking than a worksheet or test. Another option is utilizing a focused channel for their creativity, such as notebooking or lapbooking, and your child will not only show you how much they've learned but they will retain it better too, and even enjoy the process.



The Learning Lifestyle
I think one of the biggest factors in achieving homeschool success is approaching learning as a lifestyle. When this is the case, you naturally appreciate learning opporunitities that come along, whatever form they may take. Any person is a teacher and any road is an opportunity to learn. We are here to guide our children to the best ones. 

As parents pursue their interests, and include children in various projects, the children begin to see their parents as learners too... not just educators. "More than half of the educational battle is won when your child discovers his own desire for learning." (1:46) It's my belief that a desire to learn and a love of reading are the two underlying components of an educated person. Neither one can be forced, they must be inspired.   

Parents Know Best


Often, parents feel the need to do things in their child's education that just aren't necessary.  This may stem from the perceived family, friend, or public expectations, or what the "experts" say.         


What is an expert? The dictionary definition reads: "a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field."  So, in the particular field of your children, the expert is you! ... Do the authors of Good Books really know more about your children then you do?  Does Scripture exhort authors of Good Books concerning how to raise children, or does it exhort parents?  God has given the job of resident expert to you, and not to a stack of Good Books." (1:16)  So trust your gut, go with the flow, and make your way down the road less travelled. 


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Works Cited:
1. Bill & Diana Waring, Things We Wish We'd Known: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling
" (You'll notice that I cite many references to this book. It is a compilation of veteran home schoolers' advice and comes highly recommended.)
2. Cheri Fuller, School Starts at Home: Simple Ways to Make Learning Fun.
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