Homeschooling has always been the one thing that we knew we wanted for our children. The type of homeschooling, however, has morphed from traditional school at home to a conglomeration of ideas (opinions!) that will be ever-changing.
The very first schooling we attempted was ABC Jesus Loves Me. Bella and I used this curriculum when she was 2. Declan was then an extremely happy, laid-back baby; he was easy to work “around” while teaching Bella. She easily learned all of her letters and numbers with the fun poems provided on the site. Learning was fun, organized, and structured.
Fast-forward four years and two more children later, however, and it would all be a bit much. If I were still using ABC Jesus Loves me, I would be teaching my 2, 4, and 6 year-olds while also juggling a baby, housework, pets, meals, and trying to be a good wife and mother. I’ve also started to question: should my 2-year-old be told to sit every day to learn something that may not interest her at all?
During my pregnancy with Declan, my midwife mentioned a (then) foreign concept: unschooling. This single idea was the spark for what is our homeschooling today.
Unschooling is an idea that became popular in the 1970’s; the premise is that children will learn through everyday life experiences and will direct their learning when they are ready (interested). Family life is learning. Bella, at age 4, knew the ingredients for bread and chicken stock by watching and helping me. all of our children are learning about life cycles by watching our chickens, worm bins, and wildlife. Unschooling is relaxed and educational… but almost not enough for me.
Here enters Charlotte Mason schooling. Charlotte Mason was born in the mid-1800s. She believed that all children should receive a varied and broad education, one full of classics and Bible taught in a way that made children yearn for more. We are currently using Ambleside Online for our curriculum. We are currently reading parts of 13 different books each week; the 4- and 2-year-olds both listen in and learn along with their big sister! Charlotte Mason schooling is perfect for a growing family: everyone is involved, no matter what age.
The last style of schooling that we incorporate is Thomas Jefferson or Leadership Education. A leadership education is mentoring (not educating) the child and inspiring them to achieve greatness through a good education. It is all about teaching your child how to excel at learning so that they can become a good mentor and ultimately, a leader who knows how to think, not what to think.
How do these three styles possibly work together?
- I encourage free play and participation in real-life activities. Through these activities, questions arise and are answered; sometimes these questions prompt a day-long or week-long study.
- We read a lot of real books: the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Wind in the Willows, Shakespeare, and more! Children DO understand these, and reading more books like these expands their understanding.
- We try to point out problems (in books or real-life situations) as they arise and ask our children what possible solutions are or how the problem could have been avoided.
Our home education is what works for me and my family; it does not need to be my family following a single curriculum exclusively.