Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Label Shall I Choose?

I love education books, homeschooling books, educational theory get the idea. I am certain in my own personal theories (based on personal experience or not). I generally fall in the Classical / Charlotte Mason camps, concerning homeschool practices.

Earlier this month I read a book on "unschooling" just exercising my curiosity about other methods. What I read (some of which has already stirred up varied reactions in my post on phonics / whole language) astounded me.

Instead of being some variation on Charlotte Mason, these parents seemed to think they ought to always follow their child's lead and never, under any circumstances, induce a child to study something he/she is not "drawn to" or interested in. This quote is indicative of the mindset:
"We have no restrictions on television watching - except volume! I don't feel there is any point to restricting their viewing. I want them to learn to self-regulate, not to be dependent on me to tell them what they should do. Also, it would be antithetical to my unschooling philosophy to prescribe or proscribe any source of information." "Amy, Idaho" quoted by Mary Griffith in The Unschooling Handbook
Well, I want my children to learn to self-regulate too, but I don't set them in the midst of all our Christmas candy and let them gorge until they've had enough. Prince Charming and I - gasp - actually set limits on certain things. We do this not because we enjoy spoiling every one's fun (although I have been accused of this) and not because we're absolute control freaks (again, I have been accused of this too) but because these are our children. We love them more than anything else in the world. We believe part of our job is teaching them to set parameters and showing them how we follow rules ourselves. (Contrary to childish wishes, we never grow up to completely "boss our own selves")

I could get into how this all relates to the doctrine of man and doctrine of God, original sin or spark of divinity, etc., but I can sense your eyes glazing over already. Suffice it to say: I disagreed with most of what this book advocated. And the part I agreed with? We're already doing it.

See, that's the pertinent point. Not only do my children have a proscribed curriculum (chosen by me to fit each individual child) we also do all the fun stuff they encourage in this book. Board games? Real life experiences? Lots of books, movies, and computer games? Art projects? Science experiments? Um, yes. We do all that and much more. We just don't depend on it for all that we hope and expect our children to learn. (Charlotte Mason called this time "masterly inactivity", by the way. Which is: kids allowed to be kids, but with a purpose.)

Maybe I'm a Classical Educator / Charlotte Mason acolyte in the mornings and Un-Schooler in the afternoons? So, if you're looking for a label for what type of homeschoolers we are (other than just crazy, that's a given), this sounds about right to me.


Karabeth said...

I don't think that the way the term "unschooling" is used now is the way Raymond Moore intended it when he wrote his books eons ago. Or perhaps I just misunderstood what he said. No, I don't think that happened.

Raymond and Dorothy Moore, for those who don't know, were the encouragement behind the rationale to homeschool back in the Dark Ages. I don't ever remember them advocating letting the child decide when to do what. It was more like "have the child help you do whatever you're doing at the time" thereby teaching him lots of life skills before he ever got to the books.

I tend to agree with the Moores' philosophy, at least the way I understood it. Parents work and lead the children in it. Parents play with the children and everyone has fun together. Parents decide when a child is ready for book learning (leaning more toward the middle elementary years as opposed to the current pre-K end of the spectrum tht puts performance pressure on everyone). Nowhere did he advocate children ruling the roost.

I'm getting off my soapbox now. Since you opened the door to the topic I thought I'd vent here as opposed to carrying it over to my own blog.


Amy said...

Wow. I thought I had some 'unschooling' tendencies.... but not the way they put it!

My first label was CM, and then I discovered Classical and have enjoyed reading about that method too. I plan to combine a lot about the two of them.

What I have pictured as 'unschooling', as it applies to us, is jumping on board when he (my 5 yr old) shows interest in something, while continuing with most or all of my regular plans. This extra interest often leads to a lapbook or some other project.

Besides that we just play a lot, read a lot, and hardly ever watch tv!

Anonymous said...

In regards to your calendar--that's the problem of a looseleaf calendar I guess. It sounds like your Januarys are switched--it's a 13-month calendar and January of NEXT year starts on a Friday. I thought that I had checked to make sure I had the right Januarys where they were supposed to go but I must not've. Sorry! :)


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