Friday, April 27, 2007

My Specific Educational Philosophy

In my previous post, I described my basic philosophy towards parenting and education in general. When it comes to teaching specific knowledge, I am a fan of what I call structured unschooling (which borrows from Charlotte Mason and classical education) in the early years, and straight unschooling in the later years.

So, structured unschooling - doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?

While purests would reject it, I believe it fits in with what many unschooling families are doing. Essentially it is unschooling, but the parents DO have a specific set of basic skills and knowledge that they intend to teach their children.

First, the the parent determines what they consider to be essential knowledge and skills. At the moment, for me this is the ability to read well; a good understanding of, and proficiency in, arithmetic (possibly algebra and geometry, as well); and fluency in a foreign language, probably Latin or Greek to start with. As well, I intend to give them a good overview of history and geography, a thorough exposure to the arts, and lots of first-hand knowledge of the natural world. We also want our children to have a firm grounding in the basics of the faith.

Then, the parent makes a detailed list of the specific things to be covered, and ensures that they themselves are very knowledgeable in these areas.

From there the parent determines general goals and flexible schedules or routines - whatever level of organization they need. For me, it consists of a sequential list for each category, and developing a routine by scheduling subjects either daily or weekly, sometimes with a general time of day - first thing, after breakfast/lunch/dinner, before bed, etc.

(Note, this is still largely theoretical on my part, but is based on how I schedule other things for myself that I want to accomplish. For example, whenever it is time for "laundry", I just do whatever is listed next on my laundry master list. The idea is that if I miss a session, the whole thing doesn't fall apart, I just continue where I left off. At the moment, though, TBH, laundry and other cleaning schedules are a bit theoretical, too.)

Er, schedule? This isn't sounding even remotely unschoolish to me - more like school-at-home.

That's true, but there are two big differences:
  1. The children are unaware of the schedule. It is just for the parents, to give them a focus for developing a routine to gently introduce and reinforce concepts, as well as ensuring that everything is covered.
  2. Everything is taught via unschooling principles and methods, such as:
  • teaching through situations encountered in daily life,
  • the use of games,
  • stopping when the child wants to stop,
  • no workbooks/textbooks unless the child wants to use them,
  • not segregating the academic subjects from the rest of life, and
  • ensuring the child has plenty of time for unstructured play.

At any rate, that's my plan. Subject to change, of course, but I imagine most of the changes would just involve the manner of implementation or other specifics, not the core principles. The main requirement is really that the parent is very well versed in what they want to teach their kids, so as to be ready to seize a teachable moment when it happens. Since these are what the parent considers to be "essential" skills, it would be rather hypocritical of them to be ignorant.

In my case, I'd best get on with learning Latin and Greek thoroughly so I can figure out the best way to teach it to Boo and her future siblings. While I will undoubtably be utilizing textbooks to both learn the languages and discover the best ways of teaching them (and there is nothing inherently wrong with a good textbook), I am a strong proponent of delayed FORMAL academics. I don't feel elementary age children need to spend inordinate amounts of time with workbooks or other seatwork, unless they want to. I believe it is better for them to learn through play and daily life. Therefore, it is my job as their parent and teacher to figure out a routine that is conducive to learning and methods of presentation that adequately convey what I want my kids to learn in a way that works for them.

My intention with structured unschooling, along with purposeful habit training, is to get my children to the point where they have both the knowledge and the discipline, as well as the desire, needed to be able to productively take charge of their own learning. At that point, they are ready for true unschooling, and can tailor their own education to match their goals.

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