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Learning as we Live

"I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in
 which they can learn. "
                                                            ~~ Albert Einstein

We are a homeschooling family, as we found this to be the best way to allow discovery of the self and the world to unfold spontaneously and keep lifelong learning exciting.   We also believe that true learning of any particular subject happens  when one is receptive and his/her own place and time. This is why we prefer the home/community learning lifestyle to that of the classroom.  Not only do the kids of this family learn in freedom, but their public school-trained and my husband...are now enjoying our own self-directed leaning!  We live a modest lifestyle in order to have this home-based learning arrangement , and we feel lucky to have one parent with the kids at home.

Our family's interests include reading, music, hiking, gardening, some sports, and travelling.  We have found that our kids have picked up many interests  during any of our activities, or while just kicking back at home, in making  their own discoveries.  We don't  make a point to create days full of "learning experiences" or "lessons", but rather hope our kids will just take in what they are interested in form the world around them.

Some thoughts on unschooling
There are many homeschooling philosophies, so we can pick and choose how to go about learning.  Thank goodness for the unschoolers ahead of us who have blazed the trail for our family!   "Unschooling" is unstructured learning at the child's own pace.  The child has experiences, materials, and people available to him as resources, but the child himself decides what, how much, and when to learn.  It involves having great trust in children to be willing learners, which goes against a common  assumption that children won't learn unless they are taught to do so in the structured enviornment of school.  Doubts are abound in the minds of many about wether or not the learner can actually aquire knowledge everything she/he needs to know by learning this way.  As I said above, it can be very hard to trust the process of living life and gaining skills needed to live that life.   On the other hand,  this last sentance compells the question, "Doesn't it make sense that "learning what you need to live" involves actually doing it?" 

Because "the world is the classroom" to homeschoolers, you will find that most are very involved in their communities.  They tend to know the people around them more as they interact while going about buisness.  They have a real vested interest in what goes on in their communities, because this is where they spend their lives.    What better way to see what occupations are out there than by being side by side with the people who are doing them?  Not only can small children directly observe what people do, but older ones can and do apprentice to learn a skill or craft..or volunteer to gain a wealth of experience.  This kind of flexibility in a typical homeschooler's day is something generally not available to  kids confined to a 7-hour school day.

When exploring homeschooling for the first couple of years, I was very uneasy with this concept of "child-led" learning.   ( and I still am every now and then))  But basic skills can be learned in very practical ways...math by baking and managing one's own money, writing and reading by coorsponding with friends and family,  just to name a few ways.  The desire to learn "basic skills"  is often propelled by needing them to do something else.    For example, my son wants to build model airplanes,  but he needs to know how to read the directions.  I think  the drive to learn what is needed to participate in our society can be done in the context of our interests. 

What I have learned first hand as my kids grow is to trust that learning will happen when they are ready.  I see this learning in my children, in myself now, and in those around us.   There are countless books out there about interest-led learning.  One great publication, Growing Without Schooling, is written by homeschooling kids and parents.  It was a bimonthly magazine filled with the individual experiences, and all were about learning within the context of living in the real world.  (Unfortunately, they have ceased publicaion recently, after a 25 year running!  There are copious back issues available.)


Learning as we live: a fly on the wall at our house 
It is often helpful to learn about each other's experiences for validation and exchange of  ideas.  So I offer here a few writings of our learning in progress.  I would live to hear from you about your experiences too...please feel free to contact me or sign my guestbook.

resource faves
the un-curriculum
having a musical life
the many uses of chopsticks
books, movies, costumes and food...
our daily log:
what do we do all day?
the basics
how are they worked in?

A few words on preserving homeschooling freedom: preserving real educational choice

Within the context of our nation's constittution, all Americans have the right to seek out educational choices that best suit their children's needs .  Therefore, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.  However, legal requirements of homeschoolers vary from state to state.  For example, some states require a yearly curriculum plan, standardized testing,  and/or periodic teacher evaluations.  Other states have much less requirements.  All our state requires is a one-time filing of an affidavit  to the county school superintendent for each homeschooling child. 

Our family is very fortunate to be living  where there are few intrusions  into our learning by the state.  Many other homeschoolers are currently living with the above requirements, which are projections of public education's own measures on a group of people who don't participate in it's system.  In many more places than not, public education (and the governments that fund it) has tried to bring homeschooling under it's own control...arrogantly presuming that it is the sole expert on learning.  As a legislator in my state put it last Spring,  "What is holding these children (homeschoolers) accountable for learning anything?"  Homeschooling families answer, "We the parents are, thank you very much."  Parents are ultimately responsible for their children, and homeschooling parents retain the primary responsibility of their children's education, instead of handing this responsibility to the state.  Even more improtantly though, it is the children who are primarily responsible for their own learning.  They own their own learning experiences, and make their own meaningful lives.  They have their own drive to learn even without  being made to follow a set course of study at arbitrarily choosen times of their lives. 

State-mandated standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and curriculum requirements chip away at our homeschooling freedoms by allowing the state to have control over the learning process of our children.  If we allow the states to continue to make legislation defining homeschooling (defining the requirements and what we can/can't do legally),  our homes may very well become little public school satellites.  In fact, many homeschooling proponents advise only to comply only with what is legally necessary and nothing more. The reason is if we voluntarily give information or submit to the wishes of school/state official, it gives the perception that homeschoolers are willing to be goverened by these officials.  Homeschoolers do not get any special consideration or "extra credit" for providing more than the law requires.

Homeschooling is flexible, spontaneous, and practical.  it accomodates each and every learner, so she/he can aquire an education and life experience in her/his own unique way and timetable.  It is an important education choice that we need to take great care to preserve.


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