Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Classical Balancing

I'm essentially a "classical" homeschooler. That hasn't changed. Yet, this blog is about unschooling. Is there a contradiction there? That's a big question, something I've been thinking about quite a bit.

First of all, I believe the methods are largely determined by the goal. My goal is for my kids to reach heaven. That rules out any educational method that fosters self-will or its manifestations, like pride and sloth. I don't want my kids to receive a great academic education and use that as an excuse to pat themselves on the back and look down on anyone else. I don't want my kids to be driven and perfectionistic. I don't want them to be arrogant. Neither do I want them to be impulsive, to follow the appetite of the moment, to be sterilely curious and intellectual thrill-seekers.

What I do want:
  • I want them to love God and progress in virtue.
  • I want them to set high standards for themselves but be patient and meticulous about how they reach those standards.
  • I want them to be motivated to learn, not jaded and uninterested by anything that seems that it could be difficult.
  • I want them to have an ability and desire to continue to learn and grow and improve.
In pursuit of these goals I've gone on some false starts and reached some dead ends. But it's always been in the service of these things.

This summer I read "Homeschooling with Gentleness" which is a brief read but makes a case for a Catholic approach to unschooling. -- personalistic, family-ordered, with the final goal being a good education. I had been growing concerned about some trends I was noticing in our homeschool. I felt I was putting my role as Mom on the back burner. I was not discipling so much as administering. I had little energy to spare for listening to the kids or following their interests or encouraging them to expand their horizons. We weren't talking much, and I was always in a hurry.

Plus, I realized I had three teenagers who could do standard household chores pretty well but weren't learning as many "deeper" life skills as I had wanted them to, because things like that take some quality time and I felt like I always had to be on to the next thing.

So those are the things I am looking towards unschooling for:
  • Pursuing personal interests, making discoveries.
  • A mentoring relationship with my kids.
  • Some joy and time to just sit and watch or listen.
  • Some real-world, not-specifically-academic experience.
  • Self-direction, self-understanding
  • A voluntary choice of the better over the worse, with learning and everything
I think lots of people can have it both ways -- structured lessons AND motivated kids AND lots of time left for mentoring and enthuasiasm -- but I seem to balance by going to one side then the other. These days I'm on the "informal-learning" side of the balance. .... thus, unschooling. If I can find a way to make it work with my goals permanently, I'll stay there. Right now I'm using, I guess, the "tools" of unschooling while the "goals" and even psychology is quite classical.


Love2Learn Mom said...

I really appreciate your thoughts on this matter - it seems to reflect a lot of my thinking process as well. It seems that some general requirements with quite a bit of flexibility in the details has been working pretty well for us and helps ensure that we get around to certain things that we need reminding of.

The way we've been doing it recently (since reading Suzie Andres' book, as a matter of fact), was tightening up some simple requirements each day - a certain amount of time spent on some basic subjects or approval from me of having done "enough" (with a lot of choice from the children as to the details - for example, the younger children have to bring me a science book to have read to them, while my oldest has picked out a specific Science topic she wants to work on for the rest of the year, and I'm requiring that she make a "commonplace" book about that topic - which happens to be rocks and fossils).

Always, as ever, trying to find the right balance, but I think each fresh start brings us close to what we need as a family.

Leonie said...

I think the balance idea is a geat one. I often find that we want to place ourselves in one camp when, in fact, we can have our own camps - with ideas from all the other camps combined.

Thanks, Willa!

Love2Learn Mom said...

Oops,I meant to say "closer to what we need as a family".

Decatur Area Homeschool Network said...

I read your reflections with interest, Willa ! Thanks for posting.