A reply came that really embraced a program, Ambleside Online, which is based on the teachings of educator Charlotte Mason.  I started reading the works of Miss Mason back in 2001.   I think there is most definitely something special to be recognized about this early educator.  Though never a parent, she most certainly respected children as people when that just was NOT happening within her time period in England where she taught.

I think that Ambleside is an AMAZING program.  It would actually be my very first choice before either of the other two, but I have decided against it, for now,  based on the reply to the previous post in “Tapestry vs. Sonlight.”

Another reply (thanks Jenn!) spoke of unschooling.  It’s odd, but we had been described as unschoolers by our supervising teacher in 2004/2005!  Us, unschoolers?  Nay, not so.  We were relaxed homeschoolers – balancing between limited structured homeschooling and the following of child interests, with a lot of hands-on school mixed in – like gardening, experimenting with various mediums in art, handiwork, lots of journaling and creative writing.   Truth was, that teacher, well intentioned, didn’t understand the difference between NON traditional schooling and Unschooling.   As a matter fact, I’ve found  most non-homeschoolers, and many homeschoolers recognize what unschooling TRULY is.    John Holt, if I’m correct, originally coined the term unschooling.  It is a very natural approach, child led, and self-directed.  In other words, each child is at their leisure to follow their own interests to learn what they see fit.  But it is NOT about any parent direction.  In a true unschooling environment, you are NOT able to say, “Johnny, let’s learn a bit about Jesus today and then let’s do a bit of multiplication, and then you may go work on your lego project.”  Unschooling is, by the original and most true definition, completely and totally, child led.

At a glance, it REALLY appeals to me.  There is that gut instinct that says children are drawn to their God given gifts and will then have the freedom and ability to really delve into it and deepen their interest and grow their talent.

This quote from Mr. Holt, is worthy of being reprinted here:

“The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him, He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense … School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning.”

~John Holt~, (1923-1985) American Educator, How Children Learn

Clearly it is easy to recognize the strengths of the Unschooling mindset – a recognition of the uniqueness of each child, the ability of that child to find, seek out, and explore new information, their hunger to follow to their interests, and it usually leads to the discovery of their God given gifts.  Clearly ALL of those are benefits.  I am comfortable with each of those.

I also appreciate these quotes of his:

“We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults are able to do for even an hour. How many of us, attending, say, a lecture that doesn’t interest us, can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any.”

~John Holt~ How Children Fail

“It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, nonschool parts of our lives.”

~John Holt~ How Children Fail

And then there are parts of Unschooling which I am not comfortable with.

We who believe that children want to learn about the world, are good at it, and can be trusted to do it with very little adult coercion or interference, are probably no more than one percent of the population, if that. And we are not likely to become the majority in my lifetime. This doesn’t trouble me much anymore, as long as this minority keeps on growing. My work is to help it grow. ”

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

The emphasis is mine.

“Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it. If we try to make him learn something else, that we think is more important, the chances are that he won’t learn it, or will learn very little of it, that he will soon forget most of what he learned, and what is worst of all, will before long lose most of his appetite for learning anything.”

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

Again emphasis mine.

It could be said that I only have ONE argument against unschooling.  No, seriously, just one.  But it’s a biggie.  And that is the assumption that the child knows best and doesn’t need to be taught or trained by an adult.  I can’t tell you that it’s faulty by world standards, but I believe that is faulty by biblical standards.   Keep in mind that most of my quotes came from The Bluedorns‘ “Teaching the Trivium” and printed online  and I can admit that I wholeheartedly agree. (You’ll find a biblical based article on unschooling on their website.)

Proverbs 29:15 –  “…. a child left to himself brings his mother shame.”

and the command:

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train a child in the way he should go,  and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

And, I will say that having seven children under my roof, I could not allow any of my children to be self-led.  I have some that truly would follow useful interests, read GOOD literature, use their free time wisely, and aquire and practice that hard to attain acheivement – SELF CONTROL.

I have others that need both training and reproof as that one particular child is a bit naturally lazy.  That child would not use his time wisely but waste it on useless literature, computer games, and twiddling his thumbs.  This would NOT be training my children in the way they should go – serving others or supporting a family either in the wife’s role of being busy at home or in the husband’s role of actively providing for his family.   Even my easiest child would spend far more time on herself than on others and would rather read, to be fair, good literature than serve others.  But what is it to teach a daughter to be busy at home if I train her to spend hours reading when there is the house to care for, little ones to attend, and needs and wants to be served?  It is the training of one’s heart to follow one’s own interests, instead of serving the interests of others.   Left to themselves, each child would be woefully self involved.  I can’t speak for everyone, but for my children,  I can’t unschool.

That said, surely this does not mean  “school at home” is the best or only other option.  The idea that “school” is, therefore,  seatwork, textbooks, and monotony is craziness.  I can’t believe that as a young adult (high school) I sat through the four years of high school with no protest, except to say I did not know any different.  I truly believe that by high school, there SHOULD be far more interest led activities going on.  I think this notion of a “well rounded” child leads to a jack of all trades and master of none.  I mean, after all, someone please explain to me the liberal arts education where folks who are going to teach MATH for the rest of their lives really needs to know about the Culture of  East Asian Early Peoples.  Sigh.   And yet, to graduate, to teach Math, they must complete all sorts of classes that are filled with, to them, useless information.   It is a dreadful waste of both their time and money.

I also wonder how you’ll ever find your children’s interests if you don’t inspire them to explore and learn?  So often we get caught up in the day to day teaching of various subjects that we forget our main goal is to teach them to find the answers themselves.

I think so much about home educating is learned in the study of the works of Charlotte Mason.  I think we as parents have the obligation to instill good habits.  I think we have the obligation to instill in our children the ability to use our time wisely.   I think we need to equip them with the basics – reading, writing, arithmetic, else we seriously hinder their ability to follow their talents.  If a child truly wants to be a doctor, and yet we’ve not spent the years before college equipping them, they will be hindered.  If we’ve not taught them to master themselves, they will struggle as adults.

I will say that the reason I’m having a very hard time deciding between Sonlight and Tapestry of Grace is that because each of the curriculums help me attain my goals.

1. Provide both structure and freedom for my children so that they can operate within structure and master themselves within freedom.

2. Teach them about many things to light up their interest in various fields that they may not otherwise experience.

3. Equip them with basic necessities to succeed.

4. Literature based, it inspires a love of learning and a love of books.

5. Shows them the source of finding out more…. Inspires self education.

6. Helps ME to stay on task, remember my goals, and provides accountability for their teaching and training.

7. Moreover, transcripts and/or portfolio work WILL be needed for admission to college.  It is deeply unjust for me, as their mother and their educator, to not provide that for them.  To hinder them in their goals after I’ve taken on this responsibility would be wrong.

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Most importantly, I think we need to recognize where there are two very definite schools of thought – the “school at home” method and the method of unschooling, there IS a balance, that hard to acheive happy medium.   Relaxed homeschooling can provide both structured education, basic skills, and freedom to follow a child’s gifts.  It can teach a child to respect authority, operate within structure, and take command of using their free time usefully.

Let it be said that I’m sure some mothers could use the driest textbooks and because of their personalities, still inspire their children to love learning.   Other mothers, more organized and prepared than I, could plan and introduce their children to so many things through extremely relaxed schooling so as to thoroughly prepare their children for the future.

I think it’s fair to say that one of the most important roles as a homeschooling mother is the ability to step back and assess your OWN strengths and weaknesses.

My strengths lie in the ability to be excited about things, my love of nature and plants, my love of literature, and a natural enthusiasm about learning new things.  My Dad inspired much of this, and he never needed a single bit of curriculum.

My weaknesses are definitely a one track mind, balancing my time between the children and their individual needs, and keeping a good portfolio of their educational achievements.

Because I recognize my weakness, my goal has been to find a curriculum that can emphasize MY strengths, make up for the deficit of MY weaknesses, and still inspire a love of learning in each of  my children, while allowing them to explore new things that may have not discovered on their own.

By the way, I am VERY open to hearing why unschooling does work for you, if you unschool in the original form.  Or, in contrast, why a “School at Home” purely textbook approach works for you.  And, even, why you are opposed to the method I’ve outlined utilizing both….

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