Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sometimes, less is more.

Someone asked at the 4 real learning forum, about stepping off the conveyor belt of education.

You know, the factory model often denigrated by John Taylor Gatto. Doing work for the sake of work with no interest, motivation, respect for the learner.

I shared that, for us, less is sometimes more.

We tend to focus on a few things at a time, leaving a lot to life learning, to activities and interests and reading and movies. Computer games. Music.

Our January focus is unschooling - learning from life, from interests. Just living. Seeking joy and beauty. As in our new Saints book.

With a dash of classical education mixed in.

This translates in January as Kumon English ( for one son), Maths, Latin, and work on our Mary Notebooks.

Plus reading. All the time.

I know these main areas of focus will change, as the months progress. Our educational themes grow out of life, as Susan tells us in her post on themes and resolutions . Thomas ( 15) wants to write a novel. Alexander (16) will be studying a first year university subject through Open University. We are organizing French classes for interested homeschoolers. Maybe a book discussion group. Thinking of a unit study/integrated unit of work with Anthony (12) on the novel Prince Caspian, before the movie is released . A splash of formal Chemistry for Thomas and formal Physics for Alexander.

But the constants are Maths, Latin, Religion and Life.

Classical unschooling? See what Willa has to say on the subject.

And check out Live Free Learn Free magazine.


Mrs. T said...

Leonie, I could not agree more. And I think the kind of balance you describe -- a handful of constants lending a counterweight to organic, interest-led learning -- seems right. Though there's a part of me that would love to have a "program" and stick with it, the program we always return is to that of a few essentials, my estimation of what's non-negotiable in life, with most of our time spent in reading what interests us and living our faith.

I was just mulling a post along these lines today: what we did on our Christmas vacation. We didn't really start "school" today, because the program was: take down the Christmas tree and sweep in the new year. Yet my oldest spent half the day listening to history lectures in a Teaching Company series (and knitting); my 10yo experimented with some drawing techniques in an Usborne art book -- he still needs work on fine motor skills! -- while my two youngest colored, raked leaves, listened to classical music, read stories with me . . . For a day when we didn't "do school," we accomplished an amazing amount. And it's always been that way, no matter what else we were or weren't doing.

I always think, for someone either contemplating homeschooling and wondering what "curriculum" to use, or someone contemplating letting go of so much curriculum, it would be an illustrative exercise to "do nothing" for a week and to keep a log of all the "nothing" that gets done. In my first year or so of homeschooling I did precisely that, and it was an eye-opener. I was able to relax a lot when I began to see how much really did get done without my controlling the show.

Leonie said...

Wow, I can *see* the learning in your house and agree, that it is usually constant and often unnoticed. Which is why I feel unschooling works for us - there are so many things/ideas/discussions that just happen and it is impossible NOT to learn.

I often suggest that people start unschooling by living like they are on holidays - your Christmas holiday experieces sound just right. And journaling all the learning that goes on anyway. Then, can add in stuff , more formal stuff etc, when and if seems right.

HopewellMomSchool said...

I tried not to read your blog today lol.... Mine are sucked back into public school again. I will say it's going better this year, but it's just such a waste of their time! I so envy your kids the "life" you have given them. I have read the Unschooling magazines for years and love that way of life. If only I could find a way to support us at home!!

Leonie said...

Hi Lisa - Hugs from here. I wish you could make homeshcool work for your situation, too but I also know that you are a very involved mum and your kids get a great atmosphere and life ( part of that which CM mentions). :-)

Willa said...

There's another thing. When I was "doing nothing" there were days when very little seemed to get done. I think I was probably looking for schooly-type things.

Yet the kids would sometimes talk to me and I would realize they really were learning a lot. I never saw my then 9- year do anything that looked like math, but then I found he could add decimals easily because he was always poring through Lego catalogs making lists of things he wanted to buy and adding up their prices.

I think that Less can sometimes be More sums it up -- I think perhaps their minds don't get so cluttered and it's easier for them to sort things out when there aren't too many demands on their time and brain energy.

But this is just speculating because I don't know for sure -- I've just noticed that the older kids seem to have learned quite a bit even though our homeschooling has always been on the "relaxed" side.