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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Collage Style Catholic Unschooling


We did get to lesson time today, after Beezy's homeschool friend left. She read three pages aloud to me from her Ginn reader, On Cherry Street. I usually have her read at least two pages, and this evening she wanted to read a third. I read a chapter to her from Little Town on the Prairie, which she narrated Charlotte Mason style. Then she did copy work from the Hail Mary prayer. Her dad came home in the midst of this bearing a new Monster High doll, so lesson time ended, and we had dinner.

Considering again Holly Pierlot's objections to Catholic homeschoolers adopting the use of the term unschooling, I think her point about John Holt's educational theories being secular and perhaps opposed to the Catholic parental vocation are valid. However, I will need to revisit his writings in more depth, because I'm not certain that what he advocated was anti-teaching. Certainly he was against a coercive, one size fits all, institutionalized schooling situation. But from what I have read from Catholic unschoolers, they are able to take the ideas of John Holt and apply them from within the domestic church.

The open source style of learning can incorporate faith formation; lessons of the child's choosing, such as piano or dance; apprenticeships; any curriculum that is useful and fits the child's needs; chores and family responsibilities; varying degrees of structure, etc... The direct teaching of skills such as reading is not frowned upon if children do not pick them up naturally, nor is formal work required by the parents forbidden. A common theme is that there is no timetable for when to learn any particular thing, and there is no rigid establishment of what is important for all children to learn. Learning is individualized, largely driven by a child's interests and each family's values.

In addition to John Holt, the names that most commonly come up on the path to unschooling are Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason. Classical Catholic education is also often utilized in an unschooling approach. The key seems to be that parents and children are not slaves to a commercial curriculum and the daily checking off of items completed. Segue style learning, which I have written about before, is an approach of following an organic process of making connections between ideas, experiences and subject matter--the science of relations about which Charlotte Mason wrote. Learning is not compartmentalized from the rest of life. By "collage style" I mean that you take what you like from any number of sources and use whatever fits your family best, producing a customized education for each child that promotes faith, self-discipline, useful life skills, and an authentic human character.

In future posts I will flesh this collage style of Catholic unschooling out, giving ideas for a basic format and implementation of such a prospect. I will also incorporate the teachings of Therese of Lisieux and John Bosco, who are called upon as patron saints for Catholic unschoolers, as well as the writings of other notables of the faith such as Pope John Paul II.


St. Therese

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