So as I was saying, I was beginning to feel that we needed to find a better way to organize our learning pursuits. Thus far our "organization" has been more along the lines of record keeping - lists of their questions (potential projects), materials we need for study (books, art supplies, etc), photos of projects, samples of writing, lists of books we read individually and aloud. Any planning consisted of late nights spent cruising the web trying to find projects, information, books and ideas related to their pursuits.
The only honest to goodness curriculum that we've used with any sort of consistency was for math (Singapore - mostly we'd do these together and maybe twice a week or so they'd do a few pages on their own + lots of everyday, practical math and math games and challenges) and reading (mostly library books, Magic Treehouse, Illustrated Classics, Henry Huggins books, and the like + Pathway readers and CLE readers - but without any teachers guides or workbooks, more just as a read aloud so that I could keep tabs on their reading abilities.)
The boys are all reading above their grade levels and are wonderfully comfortable with manipulating numbers. They have done some great projects over the years and have an incredible grasp of the natural world. So, all in all, I have been really pleased, but... something just hasn't felt right. I felt like our days were wonderful but that I was lacking a big picture view of where we were headed.
So, as I said, I began to make a sort of list (noticing a pattern here?) of what it is that I want and need and what THEY want and need from our school experience.
In the end, it helped me so much in knowing how to move us a bit farther down the path in our learning journey.
The list, bits jotted here and there over weeks and weeks, said this:
Time. Above all else, time. I want my boys to have time to study the things that interest them, to ask the big questions, time to go down 10 different roads until they find the answers that they seek. I want time for us to be together. I want unhurried, unfilled time in which to just be... for them, and for me. What time I spend I want to be a good investment - no unnecessary busy work that wastes their time and mine. I need, somehow, to be able to make time for each child, make time to care for my home, connect with my husband, prepare meals, and to enjoy my own pursuits. I need to end the day feeling like it was one that was well spent, for me and for them.
Spark. I want school time to be, if not always FUN, always engaging, thought provoking, empowering - not a set of requirements that they must learn to act within, but the gathering of a set of tools with which to create a life.
Equipping. I want to come to the end of our school adventure and feel like my men are ready to take on the next phase of their lives. Maybe it's college, or the military, or culinary school or an apprenticeship in welding, I don't know, but whatever it is, I want to feel that I have they have gained a foundation on which they can build that future. This will, of course, mean that they have gotten an academically sound education, but more often than not I feel like this has less to do with facts memorized and tests passed and more to do with having learned to learn, to persevere, to work hard, to dig deeper, to take pride in their work, to communicate effectively and to think critically.
A Broader View. I somehow managed to leave high school understanding so little about the world and my place in it. I want my boys to grow up understanding that there are as many views as there are eyes to see them, as many stories as there are lips to tell them. I feel like they'll be less inclined to fall prey to peer pressure, or to chase after someone else's established ideal, if they really grasp the bigger picture, the vastness of time and the human experience.
Self Awareness. My husband and I also talk so much about how we BOTH managed to leave high school with not a clue as to what our gifts and talents were or how those things could help us to create a life that was fulfilling or meaningful. We sort of had these "people in your neighborhood" ideas about careers - you could be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, nurse, vet, policeman, or banker, and that's about it. We both really want our boys to enter adulthood with a firm understanding of not only all that is available to them, but all that THEY have to offer to the world. We want them to know and understand their passions and talents and to help them know that they can build a life upon those things.
Faith. I don't talk a whole lot about our faith here, for all kinds of reasons that I won't get into now. I just think it's a deeply personal thing for everyone and I'd rather get to know you, and you me, without hitting you over the head with my convictions. BUT, for the purposes of this discussion, our homeschooling choices, it's important to say that we're Christians and that part of the knowledge that I'm hoping to impart to my sons is a firm understanding of what we profess to believe and why. I don't want to raise cultural Christians... folks who go to church because they always have and that's just what people do. I want to raise men who ask hard questions, seek real answers and profess nothing that they can't truly stand behind. And that takes work. I want my boys to actually read and understand the Bible. I want them to grasp it from both a historical and cultural perspective. I want them to know and understand other world religions. I want them to grow up feeling not indoctrinated, but illuminated. (I realize that this bit may spark all kinds of questions and debate, and that's cool with me. You can click on the "email" button over on the left and we can chat till Gabriel blows his horn if you like.)
Family. One of the things that I love most about being able to homeschool is the ability it affords us to really strengthen family bonds. It can be tough to manage three different learning levels, but I want very much to minimize the time that we are sectioned off... me working with one while the others run amuck or the two older ones doing their work while the youngest is brushed off to his room to play alone. I want us together... they did it in the one room schoolhouses right? Surely we can manage it too. Beyond that I want to have time, OFTEN, to travel to Granny's house, to work on projects with Grandfather, to survey Grandmother's garden, to go to ball games with Nana and Grumpy, to meet the cousins at the park. I want my men, if nothing else, to know that they are a part of a tribe, that they are the next chapter in a long story. I think that those strong family bonds are so grounding and reassuring.
So... easy right? I just needed to find some sort of plan/schedule/curriculum/ideology/book that would do those things... just seven little things! That's not so hard, right?
Uh huh. Right.
In the next installment of the epic saga that is our homeschooling post(s), I'll tell you exactly, line by line, what we are hoping will come CLOSE to helping us achieve all those goals. Stay tuned!