Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Journey to Educational Eureka, Part I

I don't like the term 'homeschooling'.  Home is a a place of learning and love and nurturing from the day you take the child home.  To suddenly start doing a particular curriculum at a particular age and date doesn't constitute 'schooling'.  Life is about learning.  It doesn't start when you're six, and it doesn't end when you're 24.

But, I didn't always think this way.  Not because I had studied and researched and knew better, but because that is what society says is true, so I just assumed it to be true.  But as I began reading and watching my children, I began to see 'holes' in the general theory of education today.  Which, naturally, set me to studying more.

If I have a job to do, I'm going to do it the best I can.  And esp an important job like parenting.  I wish I thought that from the beginning, but alas, it took me awhile.  But I'm there now and so grateful!

As I mentioned here, John Holt and Maria Montessori were the first two people that I read that really resonated with me in regards to early education.  They were really big on allowing kids to be kids.  Going along with their individual learning styles and time frame.  While there was some humanism, there was also a profound understanding of human nature, of how God made humans, and how we are not what we were meant to be because of sin.  They didn't call it that of course, but that is what it came down to in essence.

What I learned from Holt and Montessori was that kids, up to ages 8-12, depending on the child, do best with loose schedules, consistency and lots and lots of free play.  Kids learn by playing.  It's how they make sense of their world.  And it's what they use when they are older to understand the humanities, science, math, etc.  Letting a child 'play' is foundational to their ability to retain information and make sense out of it later in life.  'Play' being free, open exploration.  Using all of their senses.  Touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing in everyday life.  The very annoyance of little children are what they need to lay the foundation for future learning.  How can we take that away from them?  If we do, wets and sandy sheets are annoying, but they are a part of a child's world.  The more hands-on they can get, the better.  Therefore, the best way, according to Holt and Montessori (what I took from them I should say) to help a child is to keep them in a safe environment with lots and lots of things to explore.

Both conducted studies, and Montessori actually set up a number of schools to implement her 'style' of child development and learning.  And there are many preschools/early elementary schools in the US that use her method today.  She encouraged simple, 'open-ended' toys for children.

Both also made it clear that a child needs to have his physical needs met and to be 'loved on' and to be in a safe environment in order for the proper development to take place.  The brain can not make the developments necessary without proper care. Including surroundings, sleep, rest, food, discipline, etc.  

I was hooked!  It made so much sense.  Instead of shipping them off to preschool at 2 to 'prepare them for kindergarten', it made so much more sense to me to prepare them for 'life' by nurturing them when they were young and in need of it.  The long-term studies of state sponsored Head-Start were dismal.

I wanted better for my kids!  To be continued.... 

Part I, Part II , Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

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