If you've followed our blog for very long, you might have noticed our ever-evolving methods. In preschool, I fell for the "more-faster-better" mindset of early education. I was so mesmerized by how fast A. learned that I thought the best thing to do was set up a little version of school at home, teach formal lessons, and keep spreadsheets of what was learned.
By Kindergarten I'd seen the error of my ways, began slowing down, and became more conscious of the need to nurture A. as a complete human being and not just a mind to be filled with information. We began exploring Waldorf and Montessori methods and incorporated both into an eclectic style of home-education.
For First Grade, we used the complete Oak Meadow curriculum and, while we both enjoyed it, I felt as though my own creativity was being squashed a bit by my conflicting desire to go by the book. I also noticed that A.'s natural pace is pretty fast and that she, like I imagine all children, becomes board when she's not challenged. I learned that I needed to balance nurturing with inspiring. The beauty of home-education, of course, is that we can curtail each day to keep interest high and encourage that innate passion for learning.
For Second Grade, we're flying without a net for now -- although I am considering purchasing the Oak Meadow Second Grade Syllabus and using the lesson plans for inspiration. I'm also reading the California Content Standards through Third Grade and thinking up ways to reach those goals without worksheets or too much desk time. I'm not married to the standards, however, and do plan to take great liberties with them.
I'm discovering that, if left to her own devices, A. will draw, paint, read, observe nature with her binoculars, write and illustrate little books, play piano, invent games (she's particularity fond of creating board games with intricate rules and pieces), and, of course, engage in imaginative play. I'm trying to cultivate a more relaxed attitude and trust that learning takes place naturally; however, I am also admittedly so conditioned by my own education that, for me, it's essential that we stick to a flexible schedule and work towards specific goals. I guess you could say that we're eclectic, partially child-led homeschoolers still slightly fearful of taking the leap into purely orthodox unschooling.
We're studying Homer's Odyssey right now. We found a great edition titled, The Adventures of Odysseus by Barefoot Books and we're using this myth to inspire inquiry into all of the other subjects -- including math. We're working with fractions right now and have had some great discussions about how fractions, like myths, are small parts of a greater whole.
We made salt clay yesterday and worked with fractions -- slicing the "pie" into half, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths, looking at equivalent fractions (two eighths is the same as one quarter, etc.) and exploring the four functions with fractions. I gave A. some informal instruction in this last week and made a point to compare fractions to the musical notation with which she's already so familiar. A. is keeping a Main Lesson Book and has drawn circles and pies and toyed with some simple equations (If 1/4 plus 1/4 equals 1/2, then 1/2 divided by 2 equals 1/4).
Later, we used our salt clay to make Greek-inspired "pottery" and spent the early evening painting our creations with geometric shapes and black silhouettes (we'd planed to paint scenes from the Odyssey but quickly discovered that painting on clay is much more difficult than we'd imagined).
Every year I ponder the same questions, explore the same fears and worries --- mainly, can we do this without that formal institution called "school?" Every year I come back to the same answer. That answer is yes; however, it does require, as Holt explains, faith that children can and will learn on their own. I'm working to loosen my grip a little each day -- while still encouraging self-discipline. I think Holt said it best when he called it faith:
"Call it a faith. This faith is that man is by nature a learning animal. Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to "motivate" children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."