Monday, November 19, 2007

Feed vs. Inspire

Since Adam had been through 5 years of school when we decided to homeschool, the school way of 'education' was a lot more ingrained in him than the rest of the kids. The day school started, he parked himself at the kitchen table and said, "What are we learning today?" "What do you want to learn about?" I asked. "I don't know," he replied.

Thereafter came a discussion of how homeschool is different than going to school. They don't show up for me to feed them new knowledge every day, the educational meal being entirely decided for them. A lot of what they would like to learn about is up to them, and I am delighted to help them along that process. I'm happy to introduce topics, new flavors if you will (to keep the metaphor going), but if interest isn't there, we'll put it away until another time.

I'm sure this idea is entirely baffling to many, and truth told, several months back I was highly skeptical of this approach myself. The more I've learned and the more I've thought about my own education, I see this as at least another way to go about things. Superior? Could quite possibly be.

For instance, I've always done very well at English, grammar, and the like. It all came very easy to me, and I enjoyed it. I was also introduced to computers at an early age by my dad. They were always available in our home, and he had lessons in computer programming available to use if we would like (well, we were told that to play we had to give equal time to the learning, and yes, there was a time log). Compared to other kids I went to school with, anything computers also came very easily, thanks to the many opportunities at home. Fast forward to my college degree, and though it took some discovering on my part, I ended up majoring in Techincal Writing, which is basically English and computers. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.

I had been fed many other things through my years at school - biology, geometry, physics, calculus - some which has stuck, others, not so much. I mentioned a portion of my history education in my last post, but besides those two high school classes I had been taught history from elementary school to college. With all that teaching it stands to reason that I should have done much better than 65% on that test. I wasn't a poor student - through all my junior high and high school years I had a 3.9 GPA and if I remember right I received an A in my college American History class. But the fact remains that I was being fed, not inspired. Not that the information wasn't interesting, but I had apparently learned the fine art of learning to the test, then clearing space for the next bout of information. No time to dig for more depth and understanding. Sad how it all works, isn't it? And yet, we keep doing it.

Whether the kids and I homeschool to the end or for just a year or two, the biggest thing I want my children to learn is that education is their responsibility and life-long. If we wait to be fed, more often than not we'll end up with not enough or of a variety that doesn't sustain.

I still feel like we're going through the deschooling process, but starting to become more... something. (Not sure if structured is the word I want to use.) I'm still learning about homeschooling myself, so I'm glad we haven't jumped too quickly into anything, but so far it's been very cool. We find an interest and run with it. For instance, last Wednesday we thought we would do some science with hot and cold water. I introduced it using the freezer, showing how the cold air goes down when we open it, but steam of course, rises. Cool, but let's do more. I remembered an experiement I had seen at some point during my education with red hot water and blue cold water, showing how when the hot starts on the bottom the two mix very quickly, but when the hot is on top they stay separate for a very long time. They were totally wowed. (Even the Star Wars dudes had to come in to check it out - see the pic.) That led us to try similar experiments with water the same temp, but some with salt and some regular, and even Melanie hypothesized that the salt water should be on the bottom to keep them separate longer based on the science we learned from the other experiments. And from there we made salt volcanoes which applies the same science in an even different and cooler way. I should have counted how many times we refilled the salt shaker they enjoyed that one so much.

Sammy, by his very nature, was never so ingrained in the system even though he had been there for 4 years. Thank goodness his curiosity wasn't lessened by the methods, especially since I think his brand of creativity would suffer more from it. Or maybe it's that his teachers would suffer more from trying to break him down, LOL.

Right now on his own Adam is learning about baseball and hunting, and I'm good with that because one, he's a MANIAC when it comes to reading about that stuff so he's learning good study skills, and two, we go in other directions as well so he's not left entirely to his own devices. In our history reading he's realizing how dumbed down it is at school because the Founding Fathers mention God and religion so much they can't even be quoted. Bummer, because they've got a lot of great advice regarding our country.

I have to keep wondering where this all will take us. I'm looking forward to the 20/20 backview someday.

P.S. Do note, this is the first picture I've included on my blog. It is a special, special day. :)


  1. Way to go! It is interesting that you are doing what I learned at BYU in my Technology Education classes. You do have to keep in mind that I don't know anything about education...(ask Jamie about that).

    Whenever kids are given a choice in their learning they always learn a lot more than being "fed." The funny thing about public schools is that they don't reflect real life. In real life you have to choose what you want to do, and then do it.

    Most of what I do at work I learned on my own. People are always surprised I did not learn everything in a class. I have learned more out of the classroom than in.

    If you guys ever want to talk teaching pedagogy, let me know. I love education and learning.

  2. Yah, I know all about your attempts to fool people with your so-called knowledge of education. The nerve...

    Anything you want to impart here is more than welcome. Since Jamie is leaving you he'll have to cook up one of his masterpieces sometime and you can come teach us.