Friday, July 29, 2005

My Homeschooling Fantasy

This is, first of all, mine. Not how I think everyone should homeschool, but how I think we will enjoy homeschooling. (DOB thinks it sounds good, too, if I can pull it off.) Secondly, I realize it's a fantasy and thus subject to revision when it rubs up against reality. But this is how various homeschooling ideas are coalescing in my mind.

Our general structure will be a four-year survey of world history. DOB and I like studying and debating history ourselves. It has its own internal order. It's effortless to integrate it with language arts, geography, art and music, and not too hard to integrate it with science. And I found a really cool binder for our timeline at a yard sale last week.

Every four to six weeks we'll start on a new segment of history. Between now and then we'll find a well-written narrative world history to read aloud from and start a new segment, and for every segment I'll pick out a literary or biographical work that we'll enjoy reading out loud from together. Once we've read the history book to introduce the segment, I'll put up a big sheet of paper and we'll start writing down questions we have. They don't have to be about the time period we're studying, they can be about anything. And anybody in the family can come up with them. We might spend a couple of days on this.

Once we have a good sheet full of things we want to find out about, we'll start finding out what resources we have to answer those questions, and make a trip to the library and anywhere else that comes up to research them further. As much as possible, the children will be responsible for finding their own resources for the things they want to know.

Except for our introductory time first thing in the morning, when we recite some memory work together and read aloud, the children are free until lunch time to choose their own work. There will be, of course, a few expectations: they should be working on academic stuff in the morning (afternoons are free); they should keep track of what they do and for how long for records; and of course when they learn something new and exciting, they'll want to record it or share it in some way because that's the natural thing to do. We'll keep lots of different kinds of notebooks for recording the different things we learn.

Meanwhile I'll do my best not to hover or force my ideas on them, but be available to answer questions and talk things through, in between doing my own research or work that helps them see what use these skills have later. With the younger ones, I'll usually also spend a short time each day introducing them to a new are in a specific skill--as much as possible tied into what they are learning right now.

After about a week into a segment, when we've gotten a "feel" for what's out there, the children (with help, if needed and requested) will start selecting a few larger projects that they will want to present at our end-of-segment party. Maybe I will, too. This could be anything--from a poem to recite to a 3D demonstration of building a pyramid, and it could be individual or collective. Whatever captures their interest and gives them a chance to develop their perseverance and presentation skills is fair game. We'll continue working on these until the end of the segment, along with whatever short-term interests come up along the way.

At the end, we'll have a celebration, show off what we've learned, and look forward to starting something new.

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