Saturday, October 30, 2010

Educational Philosophy

In an effort to make this blog authentic to the first year of homeschooling...

I have been reading a lot lately about teaching styles.  It seems that many homeschoolers are very interested in picking a philosophy: Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Classical, etc.  I can see where finding that niche would make sense, make you more comfortable and give you a starting off point.

But I have to say that I never gave it much thought.  I was familiar with various educational philosophies and I think it would be prudent for anyone considering this path to familiarize themselves and be aware that there are many different educational philosophies and styles, ideas about learning, when and how and why to teach certain things.  Maybe because I have taught before, in an environment that was very unique or maybe because I worked with the girls every summer for the last several years, I really didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out which educational philosophy I favored.  Truth be told, I think each of them has wonderful valid points and I would love to incorporate components of each in our learning.  I love the idea of art, music and crafts to teach abstract thinking that is so inherent in the Waldorf philosophy.  I agree with Charlotte Mason's idea that atmosphere, discipline and life are the primary components of education; I love the idea of copywork and/or dictation to teach proper spelling, punctuation, word usage, writing.  I agree with the Classical idea that first a child needs to know the facts before they can think abstractly.  Although it's not so widely discussed in homeschooling circles, I have always felt there was something very valid in Maria Montessori's belief in self-directed learning.  I've always favored written assessments of the merit quality of a student's work over simple letter grades.  I've always liked the idea of exploring and natural understanding rather than rote memorization.
Charlotte Mason

I guess I knew from the beginning that I would be eclectic.  I love the idea of presenting history as a story and starting at the beginning of time and working chronologically through the events, so we are taking a Classical approach to history.  I love the idea of improving writing skills and penmanship through copywork and/or dictation, so we take a Charlotte Mason approach to those subjects.  My children spend a lot of free time on art, which is completely self led, but I like to peruse Waldorf sites for ideas.  Nature is a big part of our lives as well and I think something that should be a focus.  We use a rather self-directed Writing program.  Our spelling program was designed for dyslexic children, but teaches spelling through word association, a concept that I find very interesting and worthwhile.

I did not spend a lot of time trying to pick an educational philosophy, but I have been spending a lot of time trying to really get a feel for each of my girls' learning style.  A needs to move while learning, so she is kinesthetic, but she is also visual.  And she LOVES Life of Fred.  P is what Cathy Duffy would call a Perfect Paula...she wants to please, she does everything, she puts a TON of effort in and she does very well, but I really can't decide if she is more of an auditory or a visual learner.  I do know that she loves anything to do with the computer, so Teaching Textbooks was a natural choice for her and I can see us looking into other computer led programs as time moves on.

One thing I did anticipate, but because of my incredibly frugal nature I am really trying to minimize, is that starting out, you end up having to change the way you do things, even your curriculum when it just is not working.  We've used a certain Spelling and Phonics program for the last three summers (my girls were in public school up until last June) and we figured we would keep with that, but once we started to use curriculum designed for homeschool and saw how open-ended it was and how free we were to take things to new and different and exciting places...we quickly dropped the confining Spelling and Phonics program and I went back to the drawing board and found something much less confining, Sequential Spelling.  Life of Fred was too difficult for P, but I wasn't sure I could handle teaching two different levels of Math everyday, so we looked into other options and P chose Teaching Textbooks and now the subject she didn't like in school has become one of her favorite subjects.  Whenever possible, I let the girls have a say in what we do, whether it is what book to read or which curriculum to use; I believe that if a child feels that their opinion counts they will become more invested.
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is being able to figure out what works for your child, being able to figure out what they need when and tailoring their education to meet their needs.  At the same time, you can decide that you want to expose them to certain things or that you feel logic is something that you want to teach or Latin or philosophy or any of a number of things that are not typically taught in public school.  Maybe you love diagramming sentences (I do!) or you feel that they would benefit from dictation or a homeschool parent, you have the power to give your child exactly what they need when they need it.  A lot of work?  Yes, but it's fun too, because you are WITH them and you SEE them grow and advance and BLOSSOM right before your eyes!