Monday, June 17, 2013

What are we supposed to be learning?

"How do I know we're learning what we're supposed to be learning?" That's a question that I have been asked, time after time, by new homeschool families. This question usually pops up when a family begins to wander from a set curriculum, and begins to explore outside resources. It isn't long before curiosity changes to concern, which changes to fear, which changes to terror! There are so many things that can be studied.

A set curriculum generally follows an outline that varies only slightly from curriculum to curriculum, and school to school. Once a family begins to explore, they discover that there is so much to learn in this incredible universe, that they don't know where to begin, and when they find a place they would like to begin, they don't know if they should, because it's not information that is covered in a "standard curriculum." Maybe it's not important... Maybe they won't learn something they should, and the children will become the laughing stock of the family or the community... Maybe they are studying a subject for too long, or not long enough, or at the wrong age, or at the wrong time of year... So many variables...

In our society, we do not have much opportunity to think for ourselves. Much of our life, beginning when we are very young, is planned for us. There are certain paths upon which we are to stay, so that we are sure we are doing things in the "right way." Wandering away from the usual methods can be very scary, but it can, also, be very rewarding.

Kylia, my oldest daughter, loved British history from a fairly young age, and she devoured every book she could find about the British. She, also, loves studying art and artists, economics, politics, the English language and forensic science. One thing I have noticed that I find fascinating, is that she still remembers so much of what she read about British history when she was 9 years old, even though she was never tested on it, and even though she has not reread the material recently. It seems that when you learn something you find interesting, it stays with you.

Another interesting fact that I have noticed is that, even though Kylia spent very little time studying math during her entire school "career," she still learned nearly all the math she needed just by studying things that interested her, and by staying busy with a million and one projects of her own choosing.

This doesn't mean that you should throw away the textbooks and the curriculum that you may be using. It means that you should use what works for you and for your family.

Our family spent a lot of time going to museums, parks, concerts, classes, libraries, festivals, and all kinds of other events and interesting places, because that was what we discovered we enjoyed the most, and as a mom and a teacher, I could see that both of my daughters were soaking up so much information, and enjoying it, and remembering it, so we stuck with that approach.

Every month, when I assemble the information for this newsletter, I get that feeling of being overwhelmed. There are so many things that we could study or do or experience. Then I start to smile, and I realize that we are so fortunate to have so many options, and that there is no one right way or one right plan. There are thousands of possibilities, and by following through on the ones that interest us most, we are learning things that we will remember for years. And when I see how easy it is to learn things that we want to know, I realize that if we miss an area or two, when the time comes that we need to know it, we can learn it. Need is a great motivation. When you realize that you need to know something, you will find a way to learn it, and it will be easier to remember, because you saw the need.

I hope that as you discover the vastness of the universe and the unlimited range of things to learn, you will find many that tickle your fancy, and inspire that desire to learn that is within you, and within your children. It's a wonderful world!

Always learning fascinating things,



If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ~George S. Patton

Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure, that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” ~William Haley

The modern world belongs to the half-educated, a rather difficult class, because they do not realize how little they know.” ~William R. Inge

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey

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