Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Modified Homeschooling Fleur de Lis

Our homeschooling approval letter arrived today. The superintendent is always very prompt; I only turned in my paper work on Monday! This means that the evaluation by a certified teacher was completed and my curriculum outline finished. Not only that, but aside from what we will borrow from the library, I have all of the books we will use for the upcoming school year organized into a basket and an antique egg crate. These are next to our shelves of games and other fun, educational activities. A freshly dusted and tidied set of shelves, I might add! If you remember reading it, or in case you didn't, Order on the Homestead was one of the upper petals of my original "little way of homeschooling" fleur de lis. The center petal was Catholic Faith Formation, and the other was Charlotte Mason/Open Source Learning. The base segments represented Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Now that I have had time to delve deeply into studying unschooling, and have determined that many of the positive points are also found in Montessori and CM, I think I will modify the format. Catholic Faith Formation will actually be at the foundation, tying everything together, with the members of the Holy Family still in their places. The Faith is central to our lives, home (domestic church), and educational efforts. It should guide and permeate the methods (petals) used above the base. Since I am now calling our homeschooling philosophy Catholic Natural Learning, the upper domain of the fleur de lis will be Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and Unschooling. These are all natural methods. Order is intrinsic to Montessori's philosophy, while CM is strong on good habit formation. There is then no need for a separate category of "order on the homestead".

While unschooling's benefits are basically included in the other two methods, the emphasis on joyful living; partnering with children in learning; treating children respectfully and as equal people; acknowledging that the child is the primary agent in his or her learning; balancing the needs of all family members; and passionately pursuing interests has been such a good influence on me that I want to keep these principles in the forefront of my mind.

One more very important point to mention. Maria Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and John Holt were all brilliant educational reformers, and each cared deeply for children. However, none of these was ever a parent but Maria, who was not instrumental in raising her son, Mario. As carefully and mindfully as they observed children, none of them were ever homeschoolers. They were all classroom teachers, though after leaving teaching, Holt spent much time with families in their own homes. As much inspiration as we may glean from these folks, our own experience and intuition trumps any scholarly advice or modern educational guru. We know our children best. We know best what they need to learn and thrive as human beings. And if we aren't sure, no one cares more about finding out than we do. So trust in God, and trust yourselves!

I do not believe that the full burden of education and decision-making, or even the greater part of it, should ever rest on children. As they age and mature, certainly they can handle ever-increasing autonomy. Gradually. The gentle authority of parents should be exercised. Consistency is important. Peaceful borders (limits) are necessary. These elements create security for children and are part and parcel of the parental vocation. In fact, I would say that they are all quite... natural. 

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