Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Quest for Knowledge ~ My Mother's Relaxed Approach to Homeschooling

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?' "
I know there are so many ways to carry out a homeschooling approach that it can become overwhelming. But as I reflect back over my experience as a student, I know I want to integrate much of the same educational philosophy that my mom has..."God has given children a natural curiosity to learn; the best education feeds it".


Emily, wife of Jeremy said...

Hey Bria. I thought I had lost your blog. Last week I went to the link of your other blog, Healthy Happy Home (I think that was the name) and it was gone! I am so glad to have found you again.

I love hearing about your experience as a homeschooler. I so want our children to love to learn but I fear so much as a new homeschooling mama. I would love to continue to hear the ins and outs of how your mom did/does your schooling.

Sandy said...

So often, that "relaxed" way of homeschooling is just an excuse to have kids "read" their entire education through books. That leaves mom free to do the laundry.

It's nice that your mom taught a little kid the word "vibrant". But how did she teach photosynthesis? How did she teach you advanced science and math? Did you study foreign languages? Pre-calculus? Ancient eastern civilizations?

I don't think it's a good idea for teens to go around "explaining" to adult women that their mama was the best teacher ever. They have nothing to compare it do (the teen writer of the article left public school 12 years ago, in the first grade). She is just parroting what her mother has told her.

It's good that she wants to write, but she should write about things she knows about. When she has some experience with public, private and parochial schools, as well as homeschool, then I will gladly read what she has to say.

Bria Crawford said...


But you're reading what I have to say now ;-)

How did she teach photosynthesis? Oh she did much better than that. She taught me that knowledge is everywhere and she taught me how to use the tools to find out what I want and need to know, not that I am dependent upon one person's dispensing knowledge to me in a way that I will best be able to regurgitate it on a test.

She taught me that things like photosynthesis can be seen, felt and experienced in real life, not just read about from a stale text book. She taught me the importance of learning how Latin can improve my understanding of the English language and make me a better communicator, and she supplemented our study of Eastern civilizations by allowing us to soak in the conversations at the dinner table by missionaries that come to visit.

She taught me that subjects "too hard" for her to explain (if I need to know them) can be learned through a myriad of resources, more than have ever been available to humans before.

So, I am writing about things I know about. I'm writing about a mom who has a passion for learning, who passed that passion onto me, and wanted me to have the advantage of pursing that passion that being secluded in a classroom does not afford me.