Every summer I try to stretch my thinking by reading up on a different homeschool approach. “How many are there?” you ask. Several. Trust me.
This summer the approach is unschooling and I’m just about done with John Holt’s, Teach Your Own. I loved the beginning and then it dragged a bit in the middle because it was full of examples of how children learn without being formally “taught” (as in a lesson plan organized by an adult and imposed on a child regardless of his interest or readiness). Included were letters from people who spent the day baking, managing their business, caring for a convalescent father, or playing the violin all with their children nearby and as involved as they wanted to be. Though they took up a lot of book space, I found a lot of merit in the letters and experiences he shared.
Anyone who has ever taught anything knows that you can’t force people to learn. You can force them to perform, to memorize or to regurgitate, but you can’t force them to learn and transform. When we allow children to participate in our work, we help them feel the value of it and the value within themselves. We can give them the opportunity to learn as I do in my unit study approach, or we can seize the opportunities of the day to continue a thought, pursue a question, and be engrossed in discovery as unschooling does.
It’s all very appealing and seems quite free, but then I have to wonder how do you really get to everything…like the basics? It seems that most questions children have would be related to science or history or social studies, but how many times will they say, “Hey Mom, this book contains a really well-written paragraph. Could you show me how to structure one myself?” I think you could incorporate a lot of math into a day, but can you do it without gaps and in a sequence that makes sense like addition before multiplication? I’m not criticizing unschooling, I’m just left wondering how the writing and math happen without imposing an assignment of sorts on the child?
This is a great book to inspire you not only to encourage your children toward learning as they live, but to look into the whole package of what they are getting when they go off to school. According to Holt (and Farenga), school has very little to do with education let alone transformation. We give our kids better opportunities for both by teaching them as we are going. Good stuff to think about.