A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Learning at Home

We are in the final stretch of our first full 'academic' year of learning at home and I am deciding whether or not to re-enroll G. with SelfDesign for next year or to try out our local school in Horsefly. My main reason for considering the school is for G. to meet some other children in our new neighbourhood, which may be slightly harder than our current neighbourhood where she can walk out the door and find a wide variety of playmates.

In the past, G has struggled in the school environment (Junior Kindergarten, Kindergarten and Grade One) and this year we decided to try learning at home and overall it has been a much more positive experience for both of us. G's favourite activities are handwork, anything physical and outside (hiking, biking, climbing, running, swimming, skating) and although she likely won't admit it...math! Just lately we have really been getting into Dr. Seuss books and the Asterix 'comic' books...so much fun! My biggest challenge this year has been creating the time and space for Gwenna and I to pursue some of her interests and my letting go of years of programming of what 'school' and 'learning' should look like. In this process I have read a lot about learning and education reform. Right now I'm reading this book:
It is written by a guy who is a high school teacher in the public school system but he and his wife homeschool their four children. He has a very interesting perspective. I just read this and had to share it...

"Rousseau (Jean- Jacques) insisted that children were - contrary to the Christian doctrine of original sin - good in the most basic sense of the word; the job of educators was to help them develop "naturally" or in accordance with their "natures." Rousseau's educational treatise 'Emile' espoused limited academic work prior to age twelve and plenty of physical activity, play and games for children out-of-doors. Young people, the book suggested, should pursue their education in the world of nature and not in texts or schools. Only after age 15 does Emile, the book's hero begin to pursue academic training in ethics, religion and history. Even then, the bulk of his learning arises out of his experiences in the world. According to Rousseau, a child should be educated not merely for future employment but as a human being, with senses fully alive and independence of thought fully developed, with nature as the ground of his learning and his education gently cultivated by thoughtful and sensitive adults. The notion is one to which, more than two centuries later, many homeschoolers still subscribe."

This book is my favourite so far...

This is my favourite John Holt quote:

"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can... into their lives; give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

In my gut...this just makes sense... but sometimes that niggly voice in my head gets the better of me and I do 'get in the way'. One perfect example was the other day...I am quite keen to be working on G's reading and writing...she is not so keen. She is perfectly happy to pick up a book every once in a while and work her way through it, she loves to make books and write stories, when the mood strikes her. I have seen the progress she makes in both reading and writing when I back off and let her take the lead but...every once in a while I think, we should be doing more writing practice, so the other day, I said let's sit down and do some writing G....after some cajolling (on my part) and much whining (on her part)...she brings this note to me...

Okay...makes sense to me. We spent the rest of the afternoon tracking down, catching and releasing moths, looking up what moths eat and why and picking buttercups to make bookmarks with. Hmmm...maybe we will re-enroll.


  1. That's my kind of writing practice...it is writing with a purpose. ;-) Looks like G has it all figured out.

    p.s - not re-enroll? Wouldn't you miss the knitting conference? ;-)

  2. Good post, Joanne, love the quotes.