Participating in the Homeschool High School Carnival, in fact this is our launch edition! Sharing my thoughts today about:
Like many home educating families we began this journey with ideas, thrilling, inspiring ideas, with plans to set our little corner of the world on fire, along the way our journey has taken twists and turns, some as thrilling as hoped, some rather unexpected. Travelling the journey we have tried to keep the ‘big picture’ in mind, we believe that God has a plan for each of our children, our task as parents is to prepare our children to be ready for His plan whatever that may be. We strive to prepare the children with a broad range of interpersonal and academic skills. Our overriding academic goal for our children is simply, a desire for our children to be thinkers and to be effective communicators, both in the written and the spoken word.
We desire our high schoolers to graduate with a general proficiency in maths, sciences and the humanities, to have a framework to ‘hang things’ on. Our trust in God is the foundation of all aspects of our life, our Catholic Faith permeates and influences our choices from the dignity of each child, to learning approaches, to curriculum, to our vision for each.
We began our home education journey with an ideology that, as our family size expanded and our children grew evolved. Whilst our foundational philosophies of natural learning (unschooling) and Montessori continue their influence, our view has not only expanded to include the philosophies of Charlotte Mason and Liberal Arts but as our children entered their high school years they sought more formal structure and studies.
Our family is very much a reading family, a culture that is easily apparent upon entrance to our home with books as the decorating theme, where someone is likely to be reading. Whilst our children learn from a variety of methods and have their own unique styles, the written word is the predominating factor.
How does philosophy translate to practical? To be a thinker one must have material to think about, to have a general knowledge base and more specialised knowledge in areas of interest. Necessary to effective thinking is logic, to be able to reason, deduct and conclude, effective communication not only requires logical thinking but the ability to articulate well, speak clearly and to write well. Strong writing involves plenty of practice in various styles and topic areas and feedback is most helpful for improvement. Currently our high schoolers are writing on a daily basis, often using a couple of different styles and conversations are a big part of our family culture, ‘logic conversations’ being most popular.
Planning for our high schoolers is simply a matter of keeping our goals in mind. We plan on a term by term basis, this allows for flexibility to follow interest areas and to quickly adapt plans to address skill areas of greater need. When planning we do so in consultation with our highschoolers, whilst some subjects are non-negotiable such as the need to spell and write well, the inclusion of some subjects are open to choice and within some subjects there is plenty of potential for autonomy. For example, although we ask that the children study science, what discipline of science they choose to study and what resources they use are open to their choice. Often their resource choices include living books, biographies, videos and internet academies, occasionally they may select a text book. Whilst study towards skill achievement is consistent, if interest changes within the subject area our high schoolers may choose to change focus. When planning the sciences and humanities, we don’t plan with an overview plan, rather we are guided by interest, working on the assumption that we retain more when interested in the subject matter.
After consultation with our highschoolers at the beginning of each term their course of study is broken into ‘week size bites’, they then budget their time to allow for completion of their study course. One of the gifts of homeschooling is the gift of time. High schoolers need time in which to ponder, to make connections, to explore deeper, to detour off on side trails. It is a pleasure to watch this occur, a teen could begin a study of Chemistry, become interested in Marie Curie, decides to read a whole slew of biographies of the great scientists, returns to Marie Curie and through her develops a fascination with the Polish Resistance to the Russian invasion, then decides to study Modern wars. All the time continuing with his study of Chemistry, delving deeper into each element of the periodic table, regaling his family with interesting (and not so interesting;) facts and snippets about the elements, his enthusiasm is contagious and he entices his teen brothers to join him and they all begin watching periodic table videos, discussing with each other a whole new interest area.
Home education for us is the raising of balanced, thoughtful members of a family who can confidently venture forth when the time arrives to continue to be contributing members of the community utilising their talents and skills to the betterment of society in their working lives, their faith journey and through their own families. Home educating for over a decade brings for us a confidence that learning ebbs and flows. Family life and its cycles, the individual child and their ‘phases’ and outside influences such as available resources all impact on the day-to-day or week-to-week, but the strategies and the focus underpin the mission, and the confidence in the mission remains firm.