When my Mum started homeschooling me 25 years ago, my sister and I sat in desks, watched my mum present topics from a black board and we filled in and circled answers in Abeka and Bob Jones workbooks. Not knowing any different, like so many new homeschoolers, she tried her best to recreate a traditional school at home.
All the way through high school I was predominately educated with very traditional resources, although the desks were soon exchanged for the kitchen table or in our bedrooms. As we became friends with other homeschooling families with different approaches you would find us doing more diverse and creative activities that didn’t quite fit into the traditional box.
Fast forward to when I had my own children. I had enjoyed my home education experience and always thought I would homeschool. A university course about child development was where I was first introduced to different methods of education. From this introduction I began to do deeper research into methodology, Montessori particularly caught my attention for the structure and order it provided and the child led approach made sense to me. After watching Youtube videos of two year olds calmly chopping their own lunch, I was determined this would be my own children.
Despite pouring myself into understanding Montessori philosophy, when it came time to implement it in my own home with two children under two it just never looked like the Youtube videos. The demands of Montessori to provide intentional prepared work on a regular basis have never been achievable for me as a mum who has enough difficulty trying to keep everyone in clean clothes and fed.
Today I am decidedly an eclectic homeschooler. My homeschool is decidedly unique and I have learned that perfect educational philosophy is great, but not if it doesn’t work with the real life every day of your family, your brain, and your needs. Today you will still find elements of Montessori in our home. You’ll see golden beads on the shelf, my children chopping their own morning tea, or absorbed in a self-chosen activity. You won’t find a perfectly prepared environment or any shelf work. I thank Montessori for teaching me to value and preserve concentration, to observe my children, to include movement with learning, and to encourage independence in my children. You will now also find elements of Charlotte Mason at our "morning table" as we observe pictures of Renoir, gather for classic read aloud time, do copy work, or wander through the bush doing nature studies with our friends.
There are so many different types of homeschooling styles that you’ll find little elements of in our days as we begin to carve out a homeschool life that works for our family and that inspires and excites us to want to learn. Yes, my children still have a couple of Abeka workbooks, my type A child loves the predictability and structure of them. There are days I embrace unschooling and we read library books and play outside. Thanks to the unschooling method I no longer feel guilty because I know children are always learning. Some days we play educational games--gameschooling, right? You can find elements of unit studies when I am feeling organised and I suddenly have every library book on insects available, have my kids counting insects, raising silk worms, using some insect identification cards and watching Youtube videos of metamorphosis. When you find my daughter finger knitting or drawing pictures of what we have learned about or engrossed in imaginary play with her siblings I think of those activities as inspired by Waldorf, however imperfectly.
How I view education has certainly undergone its own metamorphosis. I now see that all good education methods share the commonality of believing the child is capable of learning. If we can embrace this fundamental idea and our goal is to instil in our children a love for learning then we can be inspired and motivated by the great minds who have developed these ideas around education. But we can also prevent ourselves from becoming slaves to the ideas and instead embrace the ones that serve us and our children so we all enjoy the journey of learning.