Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homeschooling: Kindergarten Edition

This year, I would like to start a series on homeschooling that I will publish every Wednesday. I am in my first official year of homeschooling and I am loving every minute of it! When my husband and I were first married, we decided that we would leave all options on the table for educating our children. Since I have a passion for research and love reading about issues that affect Christians and their families in modern culture, naturally, I began to research homeschooling.

I think that we are beyond the point of no return! We are so convinced that homeschooling is the absolute best (not perfect, mind you) way to educate our children, that we will [u]most likely[/u] homeschool all of them all the way through.

The Lord is always able to change our minds though, and we desire to be open to His will.

With all that said, I would like to tell you a little about the philosophies that I have chosen to incorporate as we homeschool.

Charlotte Mason was a 19th-20th century British educator who spehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifnt her life seeking to improve the quality of children's education. Her methods and philosophies are known as the Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling. She believed in letting a child experience learning as they explored nature, observed art and culture and read "living books." She was a staunch opponent of what she called "twaddle" -- children's books (or adult, for that matter) with no purpose other than to entertain.

There are many more aspects to her philosophy, including, but not limited to, habit training, dictation, narration, poetry, copywork, etc. While many who know me may be surprised that I would be drawn to this type of philosophy, I see the value in what she is espousing, and I desire the result for my children -- a love for learning and a realization that learning takes place every day for the rest of their lives.

Classical education
is a method of education that is growing and not just in homeschool circles. I'm sure that most of you have heard of Classical schools being started. In fact, we have one here in central Indiana! Classical education is based on the trivium -- grammar, logic and rhetoric.

The three aspects of the trivium describe how a student learns in each stage. For example, the grammar stage, which corresponds to elementary school (approximately 1st-4th grades), focuses on memorization. This is based on the assumption that children don't understand the "whys" at this stage, but they love to memorize. So, you simply take advantage of the stage they're naturally in.

The grammar stage corresponds roughly to 5th-8th grades. In this stage, the student learns why things happen and how things work. So they are constantly building on the facts that they have memorized and now understand why the facts are ... facts.

Lastly, the rhetoric stage teaches the student how to express what they now know and understand. There is a large emphasis on writing and speaking for the purpose of informing or persuadeing.

The trivium also describes how most of us learn any given subject. For instance, I had to learn html a few days ago in order to post our homeschool schedule. I was mainly concerned with the grammar stage, and I found an excellent webpage with all html code on it. That was all I needed to know in order to publish my post. I still do not understand why it works, nor can I write fluently in it or explain it to others. That would be progressing to the logic and rhetoric stages. Maybe some day...

These two methods seem to stand in sharp contrast to each other. There are those who say that. There are others that show their similarities and that's what I focus on. They both emphasize livings books. They both want a student to discover how to learn on their own and to enjoy learning. They both emphasize narration, dictation, copywork and habit training. There are many other similarities, but we'll keep it simple for now.

I'll leave you with a few resources should you desire to learn more. Ambleside Online is a free website devoted to the application of Charlotte Mason's methods. Warning: if you join one of their message groups, they are Charlotte Mason die-hards! They will only recommend and follow her exact methodologies and they study her written books as thoroughly as one should study his/her Bible. The information contained on the website is invaluable though and should definitely be perused.

Trivium Pursuit is a website started by the Bluedorn family who are strong advocates of Classical education. They approach it from a Christian perspective. For me, that's very important, as Classical education can endorse very blasphemous and vulgar writings. They have written Teaching the Trivium which is a large and very comprehensive book on implementing and teaching the classical method to your children. I highly recommend this book!

The Well-Trained Mind is another website devoted to classical education. Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer run this site and are also published authors. The Well-Trained Mind is an excellent book introducing the classical method and its' implementation. Most libraries carry this book. Reading Jessie Wise's experience as a homeschooling mom in the 70's was eye-opening and inspiring for me.

There will always be disagreements among strong opponents or advocates of each homeschooling method. I think you need to pick and choose what will work best for your situation.

Two other books that most libraries carry that will help you get started on researching are Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling and Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschooling Curriculum.

See you back here next week!


Catherine said...

I'm so glad you are going to post on this topic! I've been doing a lot of research on different homeschool philosophies ever since we got married and I think we will do a mix of CM and Classical as well. I've read the books you recommended and really enjoyed them. I especially liked The Well Trained Mind.

I don't know if you read The Educational Life, but it's a blog I really enjoy written by a Christian mom of kids under 6 who is doing her first year of Charlotte Mason using some Ambleside materials. Her blog is theeducationallife.blogspot.com

On the subject of making a classical education a classical CHRISTIAN education, Douglas Wilson has written some excellent books such as "The Case for Classical Education" and a few others. We disagree with his theology on some points, but his writing on education and the family is usually good.

I'm so interested to read your series!

Dovey said...

Thanks for the blog recommendation. I'm still somewhat new to the blogosphere and only read what I happen to stumble upon. I would LOVE to read blogs that were dedicated to homeschooling!

I am aware of Douglas Wilson's materials (I've read several of his other books) and am going to discuss Veritas materials at some point. I have not read The Case for Classical Education or Recovering the Lost Tools. They are on my "to be read" list!

I just thought this post could be used to 1)chronicle our journey for my family and 2)encourage other moms out there no matter what method they use. I get so many good ideas just reading about others and talking to others. I'm glad you'll enjoy this!

Jessica said...

Hello again,

Thank you for your reply about Indiana. Our visit was great... and, yes, quite warm! We spent one day in/around Columbus, one day in/around Bloomington, and one day in Indy.

Our move is mostly due to our desire for space (we're in a tract house now), our desire to leave California, and much more (slower pace, to be in a place which will be more conducive to "keeping our children's hearts", etc.)

Indiana's homeschool friendly legislation is a primary reason for our focus there. Also, we love the landscape and the more conservative/patriotic atmosphere.

My husband may soon be medically retired from his law enforcement career here, so it seems to be a good time to make a move.

It is always an encouragement to me to find like-minded moms in your state... and to hear them say that they "love it." So, thank you again for your reply.

Because you are not living in one of the areas that we are looking at, I am not sure that you can answer any of my questions. But thank you, anyway!

On the topic of homeschooling, the single greatest help to me was the Bluedorn's article, "Ten Things to do with your Child Before Age Ten." It has really helped me to look at the big picture. I also have implemented many of the Charlotte Mason principles (short lessons, copywork, emphasis on nature) but we are not following the Ambleside program. I like to pick and choose/mix and match our own. You might like to read this post which details our current curriculum.

Jessica said...

We have finished the Character Building books (although, I think we'll save them for our grandchildren!) and now we are really enjoying Wisdom and the Millers.

Thank you for offering to talk with some of the church members from Bloomington and Columbus. I guess we would appreciate knowing if there are any areas to avoid and why?

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.