Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things We Did Right-Part 2

One of the best compliments i've ever had about our home education came indirectly.  While our daughter was completing the practicum for her degree, she was asked by a hospital chaplain what her educational experience had been because he was so impressed by her interest in learning, not just getting through the program but actually discovering new things and really understanding them.  When she told him she had been home educated right through until she began college, he was quite surprised.

We tried always to follow up on questions, and to admit when we had no idea what the answers were.  When the children were younger, and the internet was a much less efficient resource, they would spend hours with volumes of our World Book encyclopedia, just flipping through, looking at illustrations and reading articles that grabbed their interest.  It was common at supper to be told peculiar details about the diet of strange birds, or the history of a war or the life of a king we knew nothing about.  As they moved into their teen years, much of that learning came through internet sources.  (I'm not going to address the issue of internet safety here: our experience is that when computers are in open areas of the home, major issues don't arise.  Our children never had computers in their bedrooms.)

The wide knowledge base that these experiences gave our children, the strong sense that they could find answers to questions that intrigued them, and the interest in truly knowing things rather than in just passing a course were powerful tools for their post-secondary experiences.  They have also formed them into very interesting adults!  Truly, our children are our favorite people to spend time with, and we count ourselves blessed that they enjoy our company as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things We Did Right

Now that our oldest children are adults, I can see how some parts of our home education equipped them for success in university.   

A year or so ago, our older daughter commented that she really had not known how much some of her classmates were struggling with the reading load of their university course.  It made me consider how little focus we give to reading skill after the first few years of our children's education, and it made me analyze what we had done, more or less incidentally, that gave our children the advanced reading skills that have helped them so much.

We have always been a book-centered family.  We read to our children from babyhood onward, continuing right through their high school years.  Reading aloud brings books alive in a unique way.  It slows down the tendency to skip over parts of a story.  It improves vocabulary and stimulates discussion.  I truly believe reading aloud daily is the most important part of any language arts or English program at any age.  And it is the simplest thing to do!

We have chosen book-based curriculum for most of our school subjects.  We have used Sonlight curriculum for most of the last six years, and before that we used a similar style of self-selected curriculum.  It was not unusual for our children to spend two hours  a day reading in their teen years.  

We are also daily newspaper readers, and our children picked up the habit.  We never made current events part of the curriculum.  Talking about the news has just always been part of life, developed as we shared the daily paper around the breakfast table.  A typical discussion would begin with a remark like "Can you believe how stupid this is?"  Sometimes when we are very sure of our convictions, we fail to see that there even is an opposing point of view, but daily exposure to the letters page of the newspaper displays both the strong and weak arguments on any issue, and creates a natural situation for the critical reading that will necessarily be part of post-secondary education.

Years ago, when I was completing my education degree, we were taught that reading skills span all subject areas, and then we were sent out into the fragmented school system where reading skills are only valued in language arts class.  When we began home education, I saw it as a chance to value reading in all areas of learning, in science and history and Bible study as much as it is when studying Dickens and Shakespeare.  And for our children, when they studied social work and psychology and the history of music and theology, the reading skills developed in their home education were the tools for those challenges as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Best Parts of Our Day

For years while we were home educating three children fairly close in age, our home educating days all began the same way.  The children would do a few chores after breakfast while I tidied up the kitchen and enjoyed a second cup of tea.  Then I would brew a pot of herbal tea and gather them together in our family room.  I would read a chapter or two of a book aloud to them while they sipped their tea and stirred in as much sugar as they could.

We followed that every day with our Bible study and then with the other subjects that they worked on together.  By the time they were moving into high school level subjects, they might just be sharing the novel and Bible study.  Those mornings are some of my best memories of home educating as we read together and talked about books, and enjoyed a peaceful way to learn together.

With only one child involved now in our home education, our routine has shifted, but still I read to her every day, and we begin our actual school work with Bible study every day.  I heard a speaker at a conference long ago say that we need to start with the thing we want our children to value most, so Bible study is pre-eminent in our home.  Next, we always do math.  Even if that's all we achieve some days, I know that the other subjects will get worked in over the course of the week even if they are not done daily.

Our daughter is a strong reader so I often have her read to catch up if we've fallen behind in a subject like science or history.   I've learned that every topic we cover in those areas can be returned to later if our first study of it was not deep enough, and that most curriculum retraces its steps quite consistently.

Today we begin a new book: Pilgrim's Progress in an abridged edition (the original is readable for older teenagers, but the message of the book is inspiring for much younger children as well.)  We've chosen the book partly because it's referred to over and over in Little Women, which we listened to as an audio book on our trip to Calgary.  

I'm off to make some Tea!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Convocation & Celebration

We're away for the weekend for a special celebration. This morning, we attended the Convocation Ceremony of Ambrose University College and watched our 22 year old son receive his Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude. He has worked hard and been richly rewarded for his efforts.

It's hard to decribe the pride and joy that come with this day. I looked at him sitting with the other graduates and remembered him as the little boy sitting around the kitchen table with his siblings and learning his early school skills. I remember hearing hours of music practice as he honed the skills that took him to college. I remember hours and hours and hours of hearing him quote scripture as he studied for Bible quizzing, and earned the entrance scholarships that took him to Ambrose.

I find myself looking at all of those hours of teaching children that constitute the greatest part of my life-work, and I see how those hours prepared my children for their journey into their adult lives. I had no idea how wonderful the payback would be. Today I am very grateful.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why a blog?

Hello!  Six days in hospital gives a person almost too much time to think about things.  It gave me enough time to think my way into beginning a blog as a way to share some of the experience we have garnered as a family which has home educated our children for twenty years, from the beginning until they were ready to begin college.
(About the hospital stay:  I had a minor heart attack and spent most of time in hospital waiting for the next test to be scheduled.  One angiogram/angioplasty/stent later and I'm fine.  I am very grateful for the excellent care I received.)
We had no idea that we were going to be the kind of family who home educated forever.  We began with the conviction that we wanted a different sort of learning experience for the early stages of our children's education.  That conviction grew into the governing philosophy of our family:   That family is the primary place for children to grow and learn.