Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The crazy world of homeschooling philosophies

As I work my way through our first homeschooling year, I have done a lot of reading. Before I started looking into homeschooling, I had no idea there were different methods. I figured you could choose resources, books and curriculum, but I didn't know anything about the different educational philosophies. Over the last six months I've read a lot about different philosophies, trying to narrow down resources and figure out the best options for my kids.

I find myself feeling a lot like I did when my first son was little and I started reading about various parenting topics. It's easy to read all kinds of articles, blog posts and books espousing a particular theory or method, and they might sound rather convincing. Then you read more articles, blog posts and books about a completely different method. Both are completely convinced they have it right, that their method is the way to go.

Homeschooling is the same way. You can look up "homeschooling methods" and find all kinds of catchy phrases, like "Classical," "Unit Studies," "Traditional," "Charlotte Mason," and even "Unschooling." They all have their own take on how to educate children, and they are all a bit different (some vastly different). And the proponents and experts in each will tell you that their way is clearly the *right* method. But they can't all be right, can they?

Now here I am, an intelligent and educated woman, doing what every parent does, trying to do what is best for my kids. And I have all these voices telling me their way is the best. This isn't some grand experiment where I feel that I can just try something out for a while and see how it goes. These are my kids minds we are talking about here! I can't just take a chance that something might work as well as a book says it does and hope for the best.

It leads me to really wonder how people decide. How do you decide to embrace classical education versus focusing on unit studies? What is it about a particular educational philosophy that pulls someone in and convinces them to actually try it out on their kids? I suppose a lot of it is simply what feels right. Some people embrace a method of education because it resonates, it speaks to them, it makes sense.

Then there are people like me, who research and overthink the heck out of everything until it is all swirling around in their heads like a bunch of glittering colors. Perhaps this is why someone invented the term "eclectic homeschooler."

I am a terrible overthinker. There's value in research and preparedness and in making intentional decisions, especially when it comes to important things like your children's education. But I do need to curb my crazy list making and rampant excel spreadsheets just a little. In some ways, I am experimenting. We've changed and adjusted and learned a lot as we've gone this year and that is to be expected. In practice, I know I can't (and don't want) to do things by the book - any book. I know that I will take what works well for us and apply it and make the best decisions I can for my kids.

And maybe there's something to be said for a lot of the approaches. I'm sure there are those who follow a method religiously (those who wrote the books, perhaps). But most of us out in the trenches are probably adapting ideas and making them our own - applying a philosophy of education that resonates and feels right and seems to work well with our kids. I suppose that's the best we can do.

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