Monday, December 7, 2009

Always learning!

Workbox system or no, children are learning ALL the time! As long as all of their time is not taken up by t.v., video games or texting, children are natural learners. Is the learning they do "on their own" any less valuable than learning done in a workbook or a classroom? Heck no! I would argue that learning they do on their own can actually be much more valuable. For one, the things we take the time to figure out and learn on our own and directed by ourselves, we tend to remember much more readily than facts we learned by someone else's wishing, direction and taught generally in that person's learning style not our own. The learning children do just by being curious kids can be more valuable also because that learning is incorporated and reinforced in their daily lives and activities.

We are raised in a society that really only values tangible education: grades, papers, tests and degrees are all ways we validate learning in our society. Parents think they need to get their 3 year olds a workbook and flash cards or they will never learn their colors. Parents feel pressured to put their little 4 year olds in comprehensive pre-school programs or they will never learn their letters and thus will flunk out of kindergarten. Schools are now sending tiny little children in early grade school, who are in school all day long, home with homework every night. Kids are required to do more standardized tests to "prove" how much their school has taught them. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Work, work, work. Results, results, results. Has all this improved the over-all education and intelligence levels of your average American? No, actually it hasn't. But we still push and still pressure and still load our kids down with more and more work.

I am so thankful to have the freedom to homeschool my children. We have largely been "unschoolers" up until this point and I have seen my children learn and grow and attain knowledge I never would have even thought to direct them in learning! And, honestly, they know a lot more about certain subjects (paleontology and other sciences for instance) than I ever learned in school or had the opportunity to learn about. For the most part, my children are free to learn as much as they want and as thoroughly and in depth as they desire. They have learned history, geography, spelling, reading (yes, how to read and the love of it), many sciences and some math all on their own basically. I have kids who devour every book or magazine that enters this house...and redevour them again and again. I have kids who do things like make a life-size replica of a baby woolly mammoth (skeletal system, organs, skin) for fun. I have kids who work well together and know how to get along with little kids, older kids and adults. I have kids who are able to just be kids and not worry about trying to be little adults. Would I have kids like this if they had gone to public school? Maybe...though they wouldn't have as much time to explore the world and the amazing things in it there are to learn and I seriously doubt they would feel as free to just be kids. Learning is more than rote memorization of facts; it is the igniting of a fire and a desire to learn more...not just about math, spelling or geography; about anything and everything a mind can come up with and enrich a life. The goal here is to help each child be confident in their abilities (and in gaining any abilities they so choose or need), be confident in who they are (a divine child of a loving God), be a good addition to the world (loving, empathetic, helpful, giving, able to solve problems in productive ways, willing, etc), be awesome parents and spouses (or at least have been given the tools to become such), and be obedient sons and daughters of God. For us, all these things are accomplished in homeschooling.

This post kinda turned into a "pro-homeschool" type of post that I had not really intended. Do I think homeschooling is right for everyone? Heck no. It's not right for every kid or every family. Yes, we need public school in our society and I doubt we will ever not need it. I do wish they would make the changes in public schools that researchers have been telling them for years that they need to change, but I doubt that is going to happen in the next 10, 20 or maybe even 30 years. Thus, I am very thankful for the freedom I have to choose homeschooling for my children and my family. It is a wonderful lifestyle that includes too much noise ALL DAY LONG, too much mess ALL DAY LONG, and way too many bonding, growing and learning opportunities than any one family should be allowed to have. :)

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