Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Play to Your Strengths

I know I said somewhere that I was done offering homeschooling advice, but it's February and everyone's burned out. So here's my offering to everyone considering overhauling everything next August:

Play to your strengths.

I had a chance to talk to Bearing when her family visited us over New Year's, and she made a remark that stayed with me: Each homeschooling family is running a magnet school, focused on their own interests. Some families are going to be big on scientific experiment and field trips. Some families like structure and are very good at sticking to a plan and getting prescribed work done on a schedule. Some families love literature and art. Some excel at hands-on stuff. And that's fine. My homeschool doesn't have to look like your homeschool, which doesn't have to look like her homeschool. That's why specific advice is often unhelpful, because it grows out of one family's particular way of functioning.

My strength is that I like to read aloud, and I like good literature. We're not aces at science, we're basic with the math, and I hate getting people out the door, but I could spend all day sitting in the big chair reading to people in the living room and discussing what we read. So each morning, that's what we do. We start with prayer, read the daily Mass readings and talk about them as we go, read a meditation and have about 30 seconds of silent prayer, and then a chapter or two of our current piece of literature (right now it's Emma). In the afternoon I sit with the 1st and 3rd graders and read a chapter of a book (Charlotte's Web) and a chapter of A Little History of the World.

This is fun and easy for me. I repeat: this is not onerous. I don't feel like our day has properly started if for some reason we have to miss our readings. I think literature is extremely important, and I think that reading aloud to children has many benefits that manifest throughout life, but also, I like doing reading aloud to the kids. It's my strength, so any homeschool revision we do has to take that into account. For example, in past years when I've worried we weren't getting enough science in, we didn't add a bunch of labs that would be tended eagerly the first week and forgotten the next. We added a science book to our readaloud time.

If you love something, that's probably a good sign that you should be incorporating it into your homeschooling as much as possible. And the things you don't love, but you know you need to be doing anyway: we're still working on that.


bearing said...

It is always fun to find myself in someone else's homeschooling advice.

I know that it can be unhealthy to spend too much time reading homeschooling blogs, because people tend to put their best self forward and it's far too easy to compare yourself on your worst day to those other people on their best day. But it *is,* I think, very healthy to get to know at least one other homeschooling family relatively intimately -- like, closer than chatting-after-coöp, close enough that you don't have too much of a need to keep up appearances in front of each other.

It makesthat sort of impostor syndrome a little less.

Finicky Cat said...

This is excellent homeschooling advice. You could develop it into The Darwin Method (TM) and give seminars! (Or not.) Anyway, it's advice I needed right now. My own homeschooling strengths are...h'm. Okay, my strength Well, looks like I'll have to get back to you on that one.

I do know that I like life best when the kids are all happily off following their own interests. 11-year-old is in the kitchen making fancy chocolates right now. 13-year-old is by the wood stove rubbing waterproofing into his hiking boots. Three younger kids are upstairs playing something loud and happy with Lego. 16-year-old is away, purportedly studying for a math test with friends. Life is peaceful, even hygge - to employ this year's Trendy Word.

If you don't call it The Darwin Method, you may call it Hygge Homeschooling (TM).

mrsdarwin said...

FC, that sounds like most homeschooling days around here. I think we must do less academic work than most families, but then, we did just stand around the kitchen having a conversation mostly about Plato's dialogues with the 14yo. So, educational.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I love this. I'm likewise really good at reading aloud. We have a big pile of books that lives on the windowsill and reading them is the cornerstone of our day, though I do it after lunch. Because for years that was the toddlers nap time and it's the time of day when I most need to be sitting down. I think
I'm good at field trips, especially museums, though we seem to do them about one or two every other month. I'm not great at getting everyone out the door and it drains us enough that we can't do them too frequently.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing enough but then my 10 year old spends a morning poring over the atlas and I think: she's probably fine doing what she's doing, why rock the boat?

Jenny said...

Right now, our homeschooling strengths are total immersion of household management for the big girls and contemplating the howls of outrage as all of this month's skipped work will push us into June. Sigh. I, personally, have become very proficient at making sure the couch doesn't move.

Cristina said...

I think the posts you write about something after you say you won't write about it any longer are often the best!

Have I merely shown I missed the whole point of this one if I request another post on the Magnet School concept?

Julia said...

Yes! And outsource the stuff for which you don't have a passion to someone who has it.

bearing said...

Definitely a big part of what I do. All my kids' English lit and composition is taught by another homeschooling family.