Moms are Always Asking Me. . .

24 Aug

“So, you home-school? How do you do that?”

And ninety percent of the time I look at these incredible women, friends of mine, acquaintances, or total strangers, and wonder how they cannot know- or cannot rightly esteem- the power of their own maternal instincts in the education and nurturing of the children they love. And the ability of their children to guide them- to let them know when they are ready to learn. It really seems that simple to me. Every parent wants their child to love learning, to embrace their potential, to independently create meaning in their chosen path of life, right?  I suppose it speaks to my ego-centricity that I have such a hard time understanding how anyone can NOT come to the same conclusions that I have: That public education, in its current state of  Standardized-Testopia, simply cannot meet those ends. But that’s not what I logged on to write about.  (Really? Really.) Just let me climb down off my soap-box, pull up a cozy seat in the sharing circle and I’ll get right to the point:

This week has been a something of a milestone in our family as it marked the time when Chickadee, had we not chosen to home-school, would have started Kindergarten. And because I can’t pinpoint the time period that began our children’s home education so much as I can pinpoint the time when I realized that we had already begun the journey, the list-maker in me cries out in need of an ‘official’ start to commemorate Chickadee’s ‘first’ day of school. So tomorrow is it.  We’ll go down to the craft store and get a big, blank sketchbook to use as our Main Lesson Book (for those of you familiar with the Waldorf method), I’ll take her picture, and we’ll dive into the weekly schedule (which is very similar to the weekly schedule we already live by, but with some adjustments). So what I really logged on to write about tonight are the two educational philosophies/ schools of thought that we will be using as maps along our learning road. It’s important for family members and friends (and adoring public)  to understand the choice of the homeschooling family, to be supportive and not compare children who are educated in one way with children who are educated in another. I know I can count on you all for that 🙂

1. The Waldorf (Steiner) method of education is based on the work of Rudolph Steiner, a German anthroposophist who died in 1925. For those who don’t know, anthroposophy “holds that the human being is fundamentally a spiritual being and that all human beings deserve respect as the embodiment of their spiritual nature”. (www.waldorfanswers.org) The best resource I have found on the web, as far as clear-cut answers concerning the definition of Waldorf education, is waldorfanswers.org.  In my own words, I would say that the Waldorf method nurtures the spirit of childhood, planting the seeds of curiousity and creatvity in the fertile soil of goodness, beauty and truth.

There is only one aspect of the Waldorf philosophy that doesn’t sit quite right with me, or I guess I should say, just doesn’t mesh with what I know about my own children, and that is the pronounced age-qualified divisions in the Waldorf stages of learning. Birth to 7, 7-14, and 14-21 are the divisons (see Waldorf 101 at www.christopherushomeschool.org -not the best website, but a good article), and bypassing these checkpoints  is strongly discouraged. On the one hand, I agree. Children who are pushed to be too intellectual too early will either end up frustrated and feeling worthless because they can’t cut it, or will burn out and give up without ever having discovered the joy of learning something for themselves. But, on the other hand, shouldn’t the child -the individual spirit that can’t be pigeon-holed – be the guide? Chickadee recognized the letters of the alphabet when she was two. She knew (without any pushing from us) the sound each letter of the alphabet makes when she was 2 1/2. Now she’s five and she likes to sound out words, try writing them, or spelling them with fridge magnets. Chickadoo watches her in fascination and demands to know the meaning of every printed word he can get his hands on. I don’t make them do this, we don’t have practice sessions (unless they ask), but I’m not going to stop them just because I am enamored with an educational movement that says ‘don’t teach children under seven to read.’

So that’s where number 2 comes in.

2. The Montessori Method. You’ve probably heard of this one, named for Maria Montessori, the first woman to recieve an MD in Italy. Montessori emphasizes child-directed learning through a hands-on process of discovery. From what I have read (and I don’t claim to be an expert) , Montessori is actually very similar to Waldorf, but with more of a focus on the child as the guide. Both encourage the oral story-telling tradition as essential to the development of language skills, both use arts and crafts and observation of the natural world to develop what Waldorf calls The Unfoldment of the Child and Montessori calls The Absorbent Mind. Both focus on early tangible math skills, given that math is relevant, functional, and makes sense to the young mind (I have two eyes, ten fingers, etc.).  Check out www.montessori-intl.org for more answers on Dr. Montessori and her methodology.

So, put ’em together and it’s better than peanut-butter and bananas.  And the fact that I get to be the teacher of these two incredible beings, well that’s  the chocolate chips on the side.

I welcome questions, revel in compliments and tolerate criticism 🙂 Love, AM

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3 Responses to “Moms are Always Asking Me. . .”

  1. Dad August 30, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    As you well know, I am an ardent supporter of public education and to reject it so readily seems a bit disingenuous considering that you yourself are a product of the educational system you so easily dismiss. A pretty fine example, I might add. If you wish to homeschool please do so. I have no doubt that you will so a fine job. Just don’t moralize or pontificate about it. Many of the home-schoolers I come into contact with are overbearing, self righteous jackasses, thoroughly convinced of their moral and intellectual superiority to the commoners who sent their children to me for their education.

    • impulse2soar August 30, 2009 at 2:53 am #

      Dad, I realized after I wrote this post that it did sound a bit snobbish. Let me clarify. I do not consider myself superior to parents who send their children to public school, despite the fact that I think the public school system is currently not in good shape. I was merely trying to say that I don’t understand how any parent can underestimate the influence they have in their children’s lives and the ability they have to provide educational experiences on a daily basis. Not every parent has the ability or the desire to home-school, but every parent should recognize their ability to shape the characters of their children. What so many parents see as overwhelming, I see as maternal or paternal instinct.
      As for my public education, I was labeled early as gifted and given access to what resources were available to GT kids in the communities we lived in. But, if you’ll remember, in elementary school, in middle school, and even in the first year of junior high, I never had to work very hard to make A’s. I was rarely challenged to the level of my abilities because the teachers- wonderful, dedicated teachers like yourself- no matter how they wanted to, did not have the time or the resources to adapt every lesson to the needs and level of every student. Those who needed the most help to get through got it, and those who seemed to be doing more than fine, like me, got praised and then ignored. As a consequence, by the time I reached High School and the work finally challenged me, I didn’t know how to work for my grades and reach my full potential. I didn’t know how to study hard and push myself and I became (no matter what you and mom think) a truly mediocre A, B, and C student.
      My husband had a similar experience at the opposite end of the spectrum. He couldn’t keep up with the work in public school, and his learning style and needs were so different that even the best teachers had to leave him behind. If his mother hadn’t been dedicated enough to pull him out and home-school him through high school, he would never have graduated HS, let alone college.
      I believe education should be available to all, and I am well aware that teachers like yourself work everyday to do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt, but if I can provide a one-on-one quality education for my children, molding the lessons to their needs instead of trying to mold their learning styles to fit the lesson, I’m going to do that. And I’m probably going to blog about it.

    • impulse2soar August 30, 2009 at 3:07 am #

      Two more things: 1.Seeing that you despise the No Child Left Behind Act as much as I do, I kinda thought you’d agree.
      2. I Love You Papa Bear.

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