Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thoughts on homeschooling
in response to Scott Terry’s post here

Our homeschool has gone through lots of changes over the years. Actually I don’t think we’ve ever had two years that looked the same. When we first started out, I only knew what I didn’t want – a traditional classroom textbooky school-at-home. The first book I ever read on homeschooling was one a neighbor lent me when my eldest was four or five years old, Home Grown Kids, by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, who also wrote books with titles like School Can Wait and Better Late Than Early, so you can see which way I’m biased.
;-)

Around the second year we were homeschooling, I read Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the WholeHearted Child, and of all the good information in that book, the one thing that really struck me was a little sidebar where the Clarkson’s explained their emphasis on music and literature and de-emphasis on math and science. They said that since God has sovereignly placed each child into a particular family, and each particular family has its own strengths and interests, that should be what helps you decide what to teach your children, and what to place less emphasis on. In their case, being a "words a music family" their children participate in a local Christian drama group that puts on several musicals a year, and they don't do lots of other worthwhile things.

Nowadays, that seems really self-evident to me, but then, it was quite a revelation. It has really helped me figure out what to focus on and what to leave by the wayside, if I think in terms of our family's calling and then how each child, which his individual gifts and needs, fits into that.

Before going on, let me say that we are in essential agreement with R.C. Sproul, Jr's Tuesday night Bible study tape series, When You Rise Up, that our primary goal is to raise our children to be faithful Christians who will pass their faith on to their own children. After that, we aim to teach our sons to be godly men and our daughters to be godly women.

As far as academics go, our curriculum is an eclectic kind of Raymond and Dorothy Moore/Charlotte Mason mix, but our view of how children learn and what should be emphasized at different stages is based on the classical model – the Trivium, which is not so much a curriculum as a method. Dorothy Sayers’ excellent speech, The Lost Tools of Learning is a very helpful, though lengthy, treatment of the value of following the classical model. Here is a shorter explanation, written by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, of Trivium Pursuit, who explain that while the classical model is a very helpful one, the Christian ought not to be training his children in classical humanism, which is not at all the same thing as a Christian classical education.

Another excellent source of information is Cheryl Miller’s Classical Christian Homeschooling website (old site found here).

With my bad health for the past year and our recent move, our own schoolday consists mainly of household chores and talking to each other. The three oldest are taking some online classes from Studium Discere Tutorials, my middle girls are learning to crochet, and the boys are learning more about caring for the property. We hope to get chickens some time in the next month, so that will be another area for all of the kids to work on.

If you're interested in the classical model but are concerned that it's nothing but whitewashed paganism, I'd strongly recommend reading the Bluedorn's article The Things to Do Before Age Ten. Their book, of which this is an excerpt, is the one I wish I'd had from the very beginning.

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