By the time Emma was three, my husband and I were quite certain we would be homeschooling. It could very well have been earlier, as I do not remember a definite point when we decided this was our direction. Certainly by the time she was three I was already reading homeschooling blogs, homeschooling books, and pondering deeply what it means to be an educated person. I was fortunate to find some wonderful homeschooling blogs and to fall in with a group of intelligent homeschooling mothers who met regularly at a park. Here I listened as moms chatted, helped each other, and thoughtfully considered various educational ideas, materials and opportunities. I was edified and encouraged in my pursuit of the true, good and beautiful, challenged, as the saying goes, to light fires rather than fill buckets. And then I moved. I still had all my wonderful blogs, but I became acquainted with a different type of homeschooler. The focus for this type of homeschooler is to just get stuff done. Follow a program, fill out the pages, and get it done. No pondering resources, designing and tweaking programs, trying to choose just the right book for a time period or subject... all those conversations and thoughts I love. Granted, this type existed where I lived before, but since I was so immersed in the other conversations, I never really took much notice. And don't get me wrong - some of these families have become friends, good friends even - and I am not trying to denigrate what they are doing in their families. But it is a method I cannot embrace because I do not think it brings my family closer to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Cindy Rollins recently tossed off a wonderful tip on her blog that encapsulates how I feel about this approach. As a long time homeschooler with a number of homeschool graduates under her belt, she can look about her and speak with wisdom and courage.
Here is a hint for homeschooling: Only use workbooks to save time for better things. Workbooks should buy you time; if they do not, get rid of them. They are not worth it. Do you want your child to build up moment after moment of workbook pages over the course of their short time at home or moments of the true, good and beautiful? It is appalling for me to see that whole methods of homeschooling are built around filing workbook pages for the year. Here there be dragons. Efficiency is not your friend and never will be if you are pursuing a classical, Christian or Charlotte Mason education.
This is why I spend hours reading out loud to my children every day. (Have you listened to Andrew Pudwea's talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators? If you haven't - do it now! It is excellent! - follow the link, sign up for a free login, and go to their free downloads page - or go here to listen in the browser) This is why we read only good books and we spend a lot of time in narration and discussion. This is why we don't do canned and formulaic writing assignments. This is why we have a morning time filled with readings from all sorts of wonderful sources - from the Bible to poetry to music - as well as recitation. I want those short moments to be filled with living ideas that spark living thoughts and living connections, not read this dull paragraph, fill in the blank, finish the sentence, and circle the right answer.