We’d planned on schooling through the summer. Well, that hasn’t gone quite according to plan! In truth, we have certainly done school this summer, but we just as certainly haven’t done as much as I’d wanted.
Part of the reason is that we’ve been re-evaluating our homeschooling philosophy a bit. I even went through a brief phase where I had considered just sending them to school. (This may or may not have been during a fit of self indulgent tears accompanied by thoughts like “I’m not a good enough teacher! They’re not learning anything! I’m going to ruin our children!”) I’m grateful that I ended up spending time with two other mothers who had homeschooled in the past, sent their children to school, and subsequently decided to return to homeschooling. Our decision to homeschool was reinforced, and onward we march!
As we get our bearings in both homesteading and homeschooling, the amount of change and reevaluation has been wearying. We are happy with the direction we are moving in, and hopefully we will be able to stay the course without too many major changes in the future. Most of the change has been good, but it’s also tiring!
Up until this point, we’ve been following a loose Charlotte Mason philosophy. Mason’s focus is on fostering a love of learning through giving children “living thoughts and ideas.” Things like nature study, learning through “living books” and great literature. But upon reflection over the last year, and considering how we wanted to move forward, I realized that I was trying too much to match a specific philosophy instead of figuring out our own approach to learning.
I discovered that quite a lot of what I hope for the boys to get out of their education matches up with a Classical approach with a focus on language and reasoning. When researching different “styles” of homeschooling, I had been intimidated by the amount of structure it seemed to require. And as much as I hate to admit it, critical thinking and logic aren’t really my strong suit. I was worried with the amount of higher reasoning required I wouldn’t be able to do justice to a classical education. Turns out, part of the point of a classical education is to move through curriculum in stages based on the natural progression of learning a child takes. So, I don’t really have to worry about critical thinking until around middle school. Phew!
One thing that Charlotte Mason and Classical education have in common is strong emphasis on the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Seriously, what better foundation for an education could there be?!
So heading into next year, our focus will be on language (English, French and Latin…and no, we’re not crazy! I’ll have a follow up post on how and why we made those choices), reading and writing, math, and art/music. And, of course, faith formation is going to take a leading role. We read aloud from the bible daily, we pray together, and we attend Mass, which all check the boxes of what we “should” be doing, but of course, faith is not about box checking! That said, it is time to introduce religion and theology in an academic sense in addition to a faith-based sense by adding catechism studies.
Considering what we’re adding, some things have to go. That’s just how it works. Dropping from this year will be formal science and history. Emphasis here on formal. Frankly, I am not concerned about my kids learning science. When we go to the library they pick out books on dinosaurs, geology, oceanography, astronomy, and pretty much every other science-y topic you can imagine. Their preferred viewings include BBC documentaries on wildlife and the kid’s version of Popular Mechanics. Our three year old can separate prehistoric creatures by sub-order. (No, he is not a genius. Just obsessed.) They do so much science as a hobby that I know they’ll get get the foundation they need to stand on for when they’re in their later elementary and middle school years. There’s no need to be redundant by repeating what they do at playtime as part of school time.
As for history, they pick up so much just through what we read! We’ve read them virtually all of the Little House books, which has encouraged discussion of events happening all over the country during that time. In addition to books we read aloud as a family, there are at least a half dozen historical early readers included with Gabe’s language arts work for this year. Just as with science, they’ll get an adequate understanding of history before it needs to be implemented more formally.
So there you have it. It seems like a lot, but the reality of it is that we’re much more at ease with the direction we’re going in. And at the end of the day, we have 11 more years with Gabe to fit in everything he needs to know, and 13 more with Luke. There’s no need to try and cram it all in this year. If we can hit faith, language and math hard while sparking an interest in the arts and theology, then mission accomplished for the 2017/2018 school year.