Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Mary Margaret, our four and a half year old, was filled with questions this morning. I was tidying up my room, and she was lying on my bed, talking and asking questions. Here are a few of the questions she asked:

1. (side note: we live in an old house, and a few of the windows have the original beveled glass in them) " Mommy, why is the glss in those little windows all shiny and wavy looking?"

2. "I think it's so much nicer to have the curtain open in the morning so I can see the sunshine. What makes the sun shine?"

3.(side note: my music box was playing 'chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cheeree..' from Mary Poppins) "Mommy, is this sad music or happy music? I think it's sad music."

My point in sharing Mary Margaret's questions with you is to exemplify what, in my opininon, true education is all about. I actually did discuss each of her questions with her, and whenever I am able, I answer the children's questions or we look up the answers together. This is the natural way to learn.

We do not use formal curriculum in our home school. I must confess, though, at times I have doubted our "free" learning ways. There have been times when I have tried using a formal curriculum(usually at the beginning of a school year), and we last for about two days, if that.

This year was a little different. Our oldest son, Will, decided he wanted to try highschool. We were surprised and reluctant at first to let him go, but he wanted to make more friends his age and experience school. So this was the real test. After years of homeschooling(he was homeschooled from the beginning), no testing, no school(except some math books he worked through), no formal writing instruction, etc.., Will was entering school-in three weeks!!! I was a bit nervous, I have to admit!

We received Will's first report card with some angst(even though I don't put much stock in grades, this was sort of a reflection of what we had been doing at home!) We were so happy to see he had received all 'A's! I say this not to brag, at all. Even if he hadn't done so well, we would not be upset.

My relief was more due to the fact that after all these years of hoping and trusting in *him* to learn what he needed, when he needed it, were coming to fruition. Now I know for my other children that I am not "harming" them by allowing them to pursue their own interests at their own paces. If you only knew the anxiety I have felt over this issue, you would understand my relief!!!

My dear friend, Lissa, (http://www.melissawiley.net/) sent me a copy of Sandra Dodd's (http://www.sandradodd.com/) inspiring book," Moving a Puddle" ,two summers ago. Lissa and I read and reread Sandra's book, discussing every nook and cranny of each essay. I came to the conclusion after these discussions that unschooling is where my heart is, but is this really the best for my children? My answer is a resounding , "YES!" Children learn best when they want to learn, just like adults. If there is something they need to learn to pursue a different path that they have chosen, they will be motivated to learn that, too. There may be times when I suggest a book to my children , but they are not forced to read it. And I am constantly "strewing" (Sandra's term) the house with a banquet of learning opportunities for them to choose from.

I have struggled in the past with confidence in my educational philosophies, and as my nearest and dearest will tell you, I have been known to doubt. My sweet sister, Colleen, who also homeschools her children, has been very patient to listen to my ramblings and philosophizing about unschooling. I think three basic ideas have come from my philosophical wrestling: 1.Children want to learn 2.Children learn best when they are pursuing knowledge on their own, making connections and are interested. 3. Learning should be a JOY!!!

I was not planning on getting so philosophical on my blog, but I think we all need encouragement. I thank my kind friend ,Carrie, for helping me to see this. I would never want anyone to come away from my blog feeling discouraged or that s/he is not doing enough. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the need to make our homes joyful places where learning is a natural way of life. Every time I have fallen into the "have-to" learning mode, my children have dreaded the mornings. This is not what I want for them!! I want them to wake up looking forward to each day and the opportunities it brings-the sun is rising, not setting!!
Thank you for bearing with me, and I wish you many days of fruitful, joy-filled learning!!