Friday, August 7, 2009

Learning Through Living Books

Most homeschoolers come to a point where they must, in their own mind, take a hard look at what traditional educational systems embrace as their philosophy of education. There are so many differences between a traditional classroom setting and a homeschool setting, that what is seen as success for a traditional educational system may not be the same measure of success used for the homeschool setting.

For understanding of these differences, let us make a contrast. In a traditional school setting, how can a teacher know if he or she has adequately covered the material and taught it in such a way that the students understand and can use that information? Usually by testing. How can a teacher teach 30 students of different learning styles adequately in one classroom? By teaching them success within the system as their primary goal, and learning as the hoped-for result. How can a school district be held accountable to parents for doing a good job? By being able to show a scope and sequence on paper that “everything has been covered.” These traditional schooling systems clearly have limitations, and are held within the confines of these limitations by their size and their need to have the best “chance” to “educate” most of their students to come out with a fairly uniform student outcome.

By contrast, a homeschool parent has the opportunity to personally interact almost constantly with their limited number of students, judging student performance and understanding by interaction and discussion, not just testing, and can educate according to the student’s learning style, adjusting when necessary.

The base question then comes back to the same one the school system must address – how do you convince yourself and others you have done a good job? Or – better said – how will you measure success? The school system must judge its success by its scope and sequence, and testing scores. However, would you say that this is your definition of a good education?

Most homeschoolers find their goals for education rise far above that. They want their child’s education to have an outcome that includes a child that can:

* Read and write with mastery of the English language, with skills that will help them in their chosen profession.
* Demonstrate competence in mathematics in accordance with their skill set, progressing to a point needed for their life’s career.
* Not only absorb information, but discuss that information, be willing to make guesses or judgments when asked for, draw reasonable conclusions, defend a chosen position, and/or to interact with confidence and humility in an educational setting, with the idea that those skills will be brought into their future career.
* Put together information in such a way as to make it practical to a life situation, i.e., not to simply know something, but to use it with confidence.
* Be motivated, in and of themselves, to pursue excellence in studies and in many other areas of their lives.
* Develop the understanding that self-discipline, perseverance and a hard work ethic accompany any pursuit that is worthwhile, and be known as a person who possesses all three of these character traits.
* Link up ideas or facts from different disciplines and draw from those experiences or facts a reasonable conclusion, a new idea, a prediction of outcomes or a careful evaluation that leads to reasonable action or responsible inaction.
* Demonstrate care for the fine and wonderful things in life, putting off evil, and pursuing goals that enrich the lives of others or mankind as a whole.
* Communicate effectively with a wide variety of people, be able to work effectively with them, as part of a team or an accountable individual, and to decide when to put the needs of others or community ahead of one’s own selfish desires.
* And most of all, to become an adult that truly enjoys learning, not for the outcome of passing tests or doing well for the approval of another, but for the joy it brings to him, and for the satisfaction of a well-developed curiosity.

With these goals in mind, we may perhaps sum up our definition of a good education as a child who has discovered the joy of learning and is pursuing it with excellence.

By this definition, we need to foster a different attitude toward our homeschooling than that which is necessitated by a “traditional” schooling system. Schooling with the idea of good testing grades or covering everything is a goal that falls short of most homeschoolers’ measure of success. Although we certainly must provide to our children the basics of the three “R’s,” and in these days, a good education in technology as well, our primary goal is to help them to be self-motivated learners. Start with joy and you will be able to pursue your other goals of education. Once they take joy in learning, they will be motivated, and will learn the value of the education itself. With time, they will add self-discipline, confidence, and perseverance to their joy.

No student and no curriculum will ever hope to teach every child everything he would ever need to know for their future. If that were true, we’d never need any job training. Instead, a student needs to learn mastery of the basics and a joy for everything else. Then, he will be motivated and have the skills needed to succeed in life as a confident, continuously learning individual.

How does the literature approach fit into that goal? By offering students wonderful and challenging books that are discussed and enjoyed together, many of the skills a parent wants to encourage are fostered every day. Heroes and villains in these books demonstrate outcomes of choices and give opportunities to talk about the values important to the student’s development. Cross-curricular materials help students link up ideas with other pertinent information to help them draw good conclusions and develop confidence in their own skills and ideas. Constant discussion and use of information will help students make judgments, interact respectfully, work as a team, and become a good conversationalist. Tailoring the work to fit student strengths and weaknesses will allow a student to develop well-earned confidence, as well as a good dose of perseverance in a difficult subject, and self-motivation, self-discipline and personal accountability overall.

As homeschool parents, many of us need to rediscover the joy of learning, and be able to communicate that to our children. We need to know that we can “journey” along with our children and learn with them – discovering new joys for ourselves. What to do? Make sure you have a solid curriculum for the three R’s, then -- find a curriculum that offers joy to you and your family. Take joy in the moments and challenge your student to think – really think -- in new and wonderful ways every day!

Article Was Written By Winter Promise

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