We have a busy, hectic home. It is loud and there is a lot of unsolicited nudity. At a time when many parents look forward to sending their children to school, we are keeping ours home. We may be crazy, but we have thought it out.
It is a real blessing to have so many options available to us to educate all of our children. Having so many options also creates a lot to consider. We’ve found many reasons that make us want to homeschool. There are practical concerns as well as educational ones.
We are dissatisfied with the structure of a child’s day in the classroom. I understand many parents are – this is nothing profound. The expectations of a child to sit still and focus for extended periods of time is unkind. The limited time now given to recess and unstructured-play is unacceptable. Young children don’t have long attention spans, their day should be spent mostly in free-play pandering to their imaginations. This is the time when their senses are filled with all the things that will later fill their minds.
The simple fact of classroom management makes field trips and projects much more difficult. Lesson plans are rigorously planned and can’t be changed without consequences. Ryan already works long hours teaching at a local high school. If the children also spent the majority of their day in school, used the evenings for homework and weekends for projects our family life would take a huge hit.
In these regards homeschooling has so many advantages. Lessons can be tailored to our child and their attention span. Lessons can be scrapped or switched easily to fit a child’s interest or simply because of environmental factors (i.e. it’s storming, let’s talk about how lightning works). At home, we can spend most of the sunlight hours outside at parks or visiting family rather than spending hours at a time indoors in structure and control.
These classroom and scheduling problems are also major complaints of many parents and parents work very hard to combat this. Homeschooling is a viable option for us, however, to avoid this common struggle.
Schools are full of educated and caring teachers, people who’s profession it is to impart learning to students. Well-meaning as I may be, I am not professionally trained. But, unlike teachers in the classroom, I do not need to know how to simultaneously teach 25 children to read; I just need to teach my child at home, in their most comfortable environment. The student to teacher ratio alone gives us an advantage. There is a wealth of knowledge and support as well to homeschooling parents to fill in the gaps of our own education and help us become better capable of teaching our children.
We have looked at a few different homeschooling programs, I even tried my hand at putting together a curriculum myself. We really want to use a classical method and we’ve settled on The Angelicum Academy for this fall. The classical method uses the syllabus and structure based on the Medieval model of education. A child’s education is divided into three phases roughly coordinating with their natural development: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.
A child first learns, essentially, everything they can, both in their bodies and in their environment. Gymnastic play and dance are important elements to introduce the child to the abilities of their own body. They experience as many different environments and are encouraged in unstructured play to interact with as much of the world around. Taking advantage of their natural curiosity and sponge-like minds, they are taught to memorize as many lists, facts and poems as their mind can absorb.
From this stage, the child moves into the Logic phase. This is roughly around the ages of 10-12 when the child can begin to use reason. Now they start to apply the knowledge the have learned and begin describing the world. The goal of this stage is to understand and comfortably use formal logic. Their reading becomes more advanced as they seek to expand on their elementary knowledge of various subjects. They begin to explore all sides of things, taking advantage of their natural argumentativeness.
The final stage, Rhetoric, corresponds roughly to the mid-teen years. The student understands much of the world, as well as how to discuss and explain it. They are now ready to delve into philosophy and speak of truths and un-truths. They understand language and the ways in which it is used to impart truth as well as misconceptions. They understand also the theoretical knowledge of those subjects they have chosen to study more closely. They can now express themselves clearly and logically. They can put forth arguments and dissect fallacies. This ability can be applied to any area of study.
The ultimate goal of classical education is to produce a well-rounded, educated adult capable of complex thought. A successful classical education builds a firm foundation for future learning.
This is what we want for our children and we hope homeschooling will help us achieve just that. This fall will be our first real step into teaching. If you think of us during the day, say a prayer for us, will you? We are jumping into the deep end teaching Evangeline with three smaller siblings at home. Below is a list of books we’ve read that have helped us to understand and choose both homeschooling and Classical education.
- The Well Trained Mind by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer
- Poetic Knowledge by James S. Taylor
- The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
- Top Ten Myths in Education by Larry E. Frase
- The Lost Tools of Learning, a speech given by Dorothy Sayers