When we were researching and thinking about homeschooling, I was most drawn to unschooling or interest-led learning. But, when we made the decision to bring the girls home to learn, I lacked the confidence to just let go like that. I've seen a trend in the blog world with many bloggers that I follow...after a couple of years, they are able to let go. I still think that kids need to know that sometimes "you gotta do what you gotta do" whether you like it or are interested in it or not. Math will probably always be one of those things for my girls, but I don't feel it's an option not to do it.
I had clear goals for my girls when we first began homeschooling.
- I wanted them to be good writers with a good working knowledge of grammar.
- I wanted them to know where states and countries were located on a map and know the names of the capitals.
- I wanted them to learn the Latin and Greek roots of words.
- I wanted them to study foreign languages.
- I wanted them to complete a math curriculum every year.
- I wanted them to be exposed to all of the periods of history and have an understanding of why we study history as well as some recall of important events.
Allie and Piper have met or exceeded all of those goals and now we are at a crossroads. We could come up with more goals, or we could see where more TIME on their own leads them. I have given this a ton of thought and spent hours reading and researching and I have come to the conclusion that kids need to be able to learn without direction. Children should not always rely on someone to tell them what to do; whether in school or extracurricular activities the generation of kids today is the first to have so little free time to direct themselves. I worry about this. Innovation is not going to come from being overscheduled and told where to go, what to do and how to do it every minute.
My new goal for my girls is to give them as much TIME as possible to explore and interact with the world on their own, to learn about the things they are interested in and to direct themselves. Of course, as any adult knows, there are things in life you have to do whether you want to or not...like pay taxes, clean the toilet and sit in traffic. So, I am requiring my girls to do certain things they may not love because, well, I think those things are important.
As we completed the third of four volumes of Story of the World, I found myself thinking about a history program beyond Story of the World. I am definitely intrigued by The Story of US by Joy Hakim, but I have seen how history has come alive for my girls when they read biographies or historically accurate knowledge. I am leaning toward trying a living book approach to history now that we have laid the foundation.
You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do
I do believe that kids need to understand that sometimes we have to do things that we don't want to do. Sometimes we have to learn things that we don't want to learn. So, I require my girls to do Math and Latin and study a foreign language. We usually start our day with these things and once they are done we are FREE to learn and do as we please.
We have completed several grammar programs and writing programs. Now, however, we are approaching writing differently. I ask the girls to write about any topic of their choice. Anything that interests them. Sometimes they do research on-line, other times we go to the library and get books out on their topic of choice. They write a rough draft, then we meet and discuss organization, word choice, grammar, punctuation and mechanics. By allowing them to choose their topic, they are more engaged with the material and, I hope, as research suggests, retaining more.
Fun & Games
My girls think Logic is fun. They beg to do more and more logic puzzles of any kind. They will ask to do logic workbooks.
When we started homeschooling my big fear was science. I did not understand science. I started with a science kit that the girls had received years earlier as a gift. Suddenly, through doing experiments, I understood science! It was awesome! We have tried different science programs, I always look for programs with at least one experiment per unit. We have liked some more than others. Right now, we are using Thames & Kosmos kits for science. My girls think this is fun. In one of those, "you gotta do what you gotta do" kind of things, I have the girls take notes on what we read. They need to learn to take notes that is all there is to it. We do the experiments, we use the Scientific Method, we discuss and they take notes.
Software & Apps
Our foreign language program is on the computer. I won't say my girls love it, but they are learning from it.
Opening ourselves up to more interest led learning has made me start to view our ipads and ipods differently. We all look for educational apps and games. I am looking at screen time differently. Technology is changing things and kids need to be actively engaged with it. We don't allow hours and hours of screen time, but we have relaxed quite a bit with allowing time to play Minecraft or Sugar Sugar. Sometimes I ask the girls to make a PowerPoint presentation on a topic of their choice, or a vlog. Oftentimes they type their papers or the information for posters they make on a topic.
The thing that stands out as most important to me is TIME. Unscheduled time. Time to explore. Time to just be. Time to be bored enough to create something. I find that the more time my girls have the more amazing their creativity is. They create dollhouse furniture out of tissue boxes, they make elaborate stop-motion videos, they research reptiles on their own, they create intricate worlds in Minecraft, they sew purses and make quilts out of fabric scraps, they write three act plays for their friends to perform, they edit videos....the list really goes on and on. I believe this is where the true learning is really happening and I want to give them as much TIME as possible. I am willing to pare my requirements down to math, Latin roots, foreign language study and researching/writing about a topic that interests them, all of which takes us about three hours a day. Once or twice a week we do a science experiment and read/take notes about that (often at night or on the weekend with Jason) and that may take another hour or so. We also require the girls to help around the house, but the majority of their time is spent doing and creating things that interest them.