(I must thank fellow blogger Kim Bruce for her wonderful post “Why I Don’t Write” for the inspiration to pick up the laptop once again. Her admission that she often did not blog due to her fear of not being clever, inspiring, or interesting enough resonated deeply with me. It seems each of my posts start with a disclaimer asking forgiveness for both the content of the blog, and the long delays between posts. So I’ll dispense with that and get to writing what I’m thinking about, and hope it helps someone rather than waiting for the blog fairy to sprinkle his special dust on my keyboard, which would grant me unlimited scribal wit and several endorsements on my site.)
For the last year, I was a tutor in a Classical Conversations community here in Miami. (For the uninitiated, Classical Conversations is a classical Christian curriculum that supports homeschool families by connecting them with tutors that model the classical method) My kids were already excited about their curriculum choices, which I allowed them to help choose, so I was hesitant to switch them into the new curriculum. So instead, I let them accompany me to my classes, get to know the kids, and help out with my preparation for classes. Now, after having checked out the program from the inside out, I’ve decided to put my two younger children in the program next year. It is a bit scary. After all, our entire homeschool journey started with the outright rejection of any single curriculum. I’ve called myself an unschooler, a unit studies homeschooler, an electic homeschooler, a family learning homeschooler…I have attempted to place so many labels on my educational philosophy that if I were to put them on name tags, my whole upper torso would be covered in “Hello, My Name Is…” stickers.
As we complete our 6th year of “family learning” (That fact is sooo hard to believe), we have come full circle. My eldest, public schooled son has completed his first year of college and my younger two homeschooled children are now nearing the high school grades. It brought me to a point of contemplating our efforts so far. Had they been adequate to prepare them for a treacherous economy and job market? Was my hands-off approach to education helping or hurting them? In all my deliberation, I had to remind myself that no matter what label I wanted to maintain for myself, the priority was that my kids have a complete and strong push through high school to prepare them for anything the educational world and the workforce would demand of them.
So did I run to the Classical method immediately? Absolutely not.
What made me sure that this was a good fit for my high school age kids was not necessarily the accountability or high expectations of the Classical Conversations program, although those were highly important features. No, what drew me was the realization that the paradigm of the Classical method fit my particular view of how I wanted my kids to develop as thinkers. I certainly can’t say I’ve been a diehard adherent of any one philosophy, but I can say that I agree with any educational program whose goal is to end the supposed divorce between real life and knowledge. This particular program allows me the greatest chance to continue to remind my high-school age children that you can’t separate what you learn from how you learn. If they get the former without that latter, they will have no chance in their future endeavors to know how to better themselves on their own. But homeschoolers in general understand this principle no matter what method they choose. Keeping our children’s individual needs in the forefront, and ensuring that they have the proper view of why education matters, virtually ensures that our curriculum choices will eventually prove effective.
Learning, in the truest sense, can’t be limited to a label. Although there will always be differing methods and strategies for each person, the end goal is not to define a philosophy of education, but to refine a mind. That’s something I’ll have to keep in mind even as the requirements of my kids’ education become more and more specialized. They may not remember everything I teach them, but my only desire is that they remember how to learn. If that happens, which I believe it will, our family learning experience will be a resounding success.