When we first began homeschooling, I had been used to an eight-hour day of school with information being fed to me. I don't believe I paid attention to a fraction of what we were 'taught'. When we started homeschooling, it was a new venture but I still expected the same approach to education. Mom approached it from the exact opposite (which was ironic because she was previously a school teacher). Instead of making me sit down and do the traditional book work, she let things happen at their own pace.
I'm not saying she just let our education go and let happen what would, but she paid more attention to what I was interested in and tried to capitalize on that. She also questioned the idea of "every child learning a certain thing at a certain time", a concept necessary for grade-categorized systems.
She didn't worry about or force my eight year old brother because he wasn't reading quite like he should. But now at twelve he can read very well and is experiencing the joy and excitement of learning through literature (what Mom believes is the basis of all education), whereas he might have despised it had she pushed him forward too quickly.
I think the way my mother presented education to me as a child had a huge impact on the way I view learning today. Since learning wasn't something I had to do in a certain time frame on a certain schedule, I cultivated a love and want for it on my own. And Mom never said "OK kids now we have to do math." It was presented as an opportunity more than a requirement. (But believe me, she required it ;-))
A game Mother made up to spark our imagination was what she called "Knowledge Quest". Mom printed out a sheet of twenty random questions such as 'What are the Seven Wonders of the World?' And 'How high is Mount Everest?' Whoever answered all the questions first and accurately got a prize at the end. (i.e. special trip out for ice cream) We had to find the answers on our own through books. (We had not yet been introduced to Google) :-) Her intention was not really to get us to answer the questions. She wanted us to "get lost in the rabbit trails", having our curiosities sparked by what we found. And I remember it being so much fun. It gave us kids a thirst for more.
Simple things that we didn't necessarily call 'school' kept knowledge integrated into our day. Here are a few suggestions from my mother that she carries out with us...
- Answer in detail–"As best you can, answer your children’s questions with details, looking for learning opportunities in the simplest of questions. If necessary, tell them you don’t know the answer and invite them to help you look it up. True education is not giving in the answer, it's in showing them how to find it."
- Expand their vocabulary–“Mom, this flower is pretty.” “Yes, it is….it’s remarkable. I love the colors…they’re so bright and vibrant! Do you know what ‘vibrant’ means? It’s just another word for ‘bright’.”
- Reinforce their learning/reading. "Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of “narration”, a retelling of an event or something the child read. Having a child repeat things back to you is a powerful tool for solidifying what he has read, seen or experienced. It also opens the doors for further discussion."
- Ask questions. "A most important part of education is teaching a child to think, observe and analyze. This is best done through questioning in conversation. From the time they are little through adulthood, get your children in the habit of being able to answer “why” or “how”. I like to ask them, 'What do you think about that?' "
Recommended reading: Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child, Kevin Swanson