As the school year came to a close, and I began to look toward the next school year and do some planning, I began a journey. It turns out that it is a journey to completely rebuild my philosophy of education.
What is a philosophy of education? Well, I remember one of my earliest college classes was titled just that, but to be honest you don't have to go to college to have a philosophy of education. In fact, you already have one. A philosophy of education is how you prefer learn. It's how your children learn best. It is how we approach teaching--methods and goals. You may have never really thought about it, but you do have a preference. All people are learners, and usually all people have the chance to teach someone else something. You may do so without even thinking about it. Or maybe you give it a lot of thought. That is the journey I've been on.
Since I went to school to be a high school mathematics teacher, I have sat through many obligatory hours of "education" classes at the university level. We have discussed methods and strategies and popular techniques...all applied toward teaching a large, diverse classroom full of students. I think many veteran teachers will tell you the classes in college matter very little once you get out in the field and start working--it's then that you really begin to learn how to teach.
I work in a diverse classroom, though it's a fraction of the size of my husband's 3rd grade class (and see, you thought I had a large family, now you see it's not very large after all!). So after all these years of thinking that school should be done a certain way, I have finally turned a corner. The journey began with a gentle tearing down of all the old philosophies I had "held dear".
So, how does one teach a kindergartner, second grader, third grader, sixth grader, eighth grader, and ninth grader all at one time? The answer is in the question. First off, we're going to all learn at the same time. No more sending children off into separate corners to do their learning. Yes, they will have times of independent study, but we are going to strive to be in a group more often than we are divided. But I'm getting ahead of myself a little. That's application, and we still have to build philosophy.
There were small things that got my motor started early in the spring, but the turning point for me was when Mitch and I sat down together and developed a family mission statement. I blogged about this earlier: we ended up adopting our church's mission statement, because everything that we kept coming up with sounded pretty much just like a shadow of that.
"We exist to live, share, and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and our abundant joy."Our mission statement is our ultimate goal, our purpose, what we're about. We can be having a lot of fun (our abundant joy) while giving glory to God and fulfilling the mission statement. We can also release ourselves from the burden of bureaucratic "have to's" that we think we need to do all the time to be a "good" family...because in the light of our mission statement, some things just aren't important today.
In creating a mission statement, we also created a "vision" for our family. This is under the umbrella of the mission statement, but some character qualities or activities we want to see present in our family when we look in from the outside. Our vision is:
That our children would be Christ followers, sharing the Gospel with everyone, our family would be bound in unity, that Grace would abound in our home so that we may show our love for God and for others, that we would appreciate each person's unique giftedness, overflowing in generosity, and have an intimate knowledge of God's word.With these down on paper, a good foundation for us, I began to rebuild my philosophy of education. One great resource that I used was Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks for Homeschoolers. This book was available at my local library, and I loved it. There is a new version coming out, and I'd love to read it. I came up with a list of my Top 5 Priorities, as well as Secondary Priorities. I printed these out and posted them, along with our mission statement and vision, right inside my teacher binder. They are in the very front to remind me each time I sit down to work, to keep my priorities in order.
Top 5 Priorities
1) Cultivate a strong sense of God's reality in all aspects of their lives.
2) Develop excellent knowledge of Scripture and foundational theological truths.
3) Foster a heart for service to others.
4) Cultivate good work habits.
5) Love to learn
1) Develop excellent reading, thinking, and communication skills
2) Prepare for college (whether you go or not)
3) Be physically fit (for life-long benefits)
But, but, but....don't you have your priorities mixed up? Shouldn't academic priorities be first? Especially when homeschooling??
Think about this with me. We can focus on good grades and covering all the "right" subjects in school, and completely neglect our children's spiritual lives. But if we are working on the top 5 priorities, it's awfully hard to completely miss out on the secondary priorities. Yes, we might miss something. But guaranteed your child will miss something you have tried (or a teacher has tried) to teach them. Somehow I made it all the way to college not knowing where Germany was located in Europe. I couldn't figure out the whole East/West thing, so I decided Germany must be an island and went on from there. I was salutatorian (the second-highest ranking) of my high school class. Ahem. My children will miss something! But if my children love to learn, they will not miss anything they need to know. They will learn it, because they want to learn it. They will want to learn it because they are aware of God's presence and long to know Him more, because they want to serve others, because they have good work habits. (And I will make SURE my kids know how to locate Germany...and France and Austria and Poland...on the map! Secondary priority.)
Ah! This sounds great, but that is what philosophy is. Philosophy sounds great on paper, but working it out is entirely another thing. And at this point, my journey just hit the freeway and we set the cruise at 70 mph. Stay tuned for more of the story!