If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Musings... Am I Doing It Wrong?

Many days, too many days actually, I check in on the message boards for The Well Trained Mind. I read the curriculum boards, and the general board. I read posts on what everyone is using, their schedules, and more.

And then I worry... just a little, really not that much at all, but that nagging voice is definitely at the back of my mind. You see, I have an eleven year old sixth grader on my hands this year. A middle schooler.  And we school for maybe 2.5-4 hours a day depending on how into things we get. [Note: I don't include his free reading time in this number, or the time he spends playing around with computer animation] And then I read posts where people say they are spending 6-8 hours a day on school at that age. And they are using many resources for everything... multiple math programs, multiple writing and grammar programs. If not multiple, then intensive.

And I'm not. The Boy uses ONE math program in general. We do some reading of some mathy books, but I would hardly equate that to using two or three programs simultaneously. And he's not doing an intensive writing program, just spelling, some fun grammar, and free writing at the moment.

We're also not doing chronological history, or any given history curriculum, for that matter. Or an organized science program.

And so I worry a little. Am I shortchanging him with short lessons? And a lack of organized curriculum?

But then I look at what we are doing. We learn history and science everyday. We read a lot, and he is exposed to high level vocabulary and beautiful writing everyday. He does well with math, and is improving his spelling. He no longer resists writing. He has time for reading on his own, creating art, playing in the backyard with his sister, watching movies, playing around on the piano, and more. Since we're not in public school, I am not sure that we need to take as long, or longer, than the local public schools to educate him on a daily basis.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum there is unschooling. By those standards, I am probably making my kids do too much. We tried that though, and for us, it didn't work at this time.

Perhaps I am doing this wrong. There is that possibility. However, I am a firm believer that there is no one-size-fits-all in education. Perhaps some kids do thrive on 6-8 hours a day of school. I don't think mine would, but that doesn't make the other people wrong, any more than it makes my approach the correct one! I guess I'll find out in the long run if this approach works, but at least for now I've got two happy children who are fairly eager everyday to do their learning!

Do your views on home education look different than "the norm"? How do you school outside the box?


  1. What we do looks very similar to what you are doing, even though we are doing a more structured approach to history and to a lesser extent, science. But I'm also loretta sure we've both been heavily influenced by the same sources. ;-) I look at our day today and wonder the same thing. We are almost done. We have Latin (we do our formal grammar through Latin), geography and writing left. It seems so short. It then I remember that we have already done religious studies/catechism, poetry/memory work, grammar, literature, science, and nature study. We've even done some geography just from having a US map handy for reference while we were reading today. It has become a much more beautiful way to learn. And I am beginning to have faith in this approach too. Just this morning the boys made the connection between the chapter we read in The Story of Science with something we read in The Man Who Counted. And they didn't even need fill in the blank worksheets or multiple choice quizzes to get it! ;-p

    I worry sometimes too because like you, I have an eleven year old middle schooler too. And while planning this year it was giving me great angst. But I took a plunge and am glad I didn't let that fear drive me or our days might look vastly different. Phew. Maybe I should just blog about it instead of taking up your comments section. LOL

  2. And please ignore typos. Autocorrect got me before I realized it and hit respond.

  3. Even though I use WTM, I just never check the forums. LOL I always go to SecularHomeschooling. ;)

    But, yes, I wonder the same thing as you, and I have for at least a year now. Are we doing enough "school time" per day? My son uses one math program, one grammar program, one French program, etc.

    What I look at his his attention span. Would he pay as much attention if lessons were longer? Would he really learn more that way?

    No, I don't think so. I think he'd get sick to death of it (goodness knows I hate the fact that he's in school now, obviously enrolled without my consent or knowledge. I wonder what he could possibly do to stay busy for 6 hours a day! He sounds bored, bored, bored and tells me everything is "easy").

    Are you doing it wrong? I think the question to ask is "Are the kids learning?" If they are happy and eager, as you say, then I don't think you are doing anything wrong. In fact, I think keeping that love of learning alive means you are doing something very right. :)

  4. I get exhausted just looking at some of the WTM forum posts! I also have an 11 year old 6th grader, and I worry occasionally too....then she blows me away with something she's learned or retained and I relax again.

    I've decided that the people on WTM who are using all those programs are probably worrying just as much as the rest of us; they're just approaching it from a different angle that would not work for our particular family.

    From what I can see, your kids are doing great. Have some chocolate!

  5. I read those posts too. My kids are 8th and 9th grade and we don't put in anywhere near the hours some of those families do. Even if we didn't have health issues with one kid we wouldn't be putting in those hours.

    I don't know you at all, but from what I can see here, you have a lovely, rich homeschool going for your kids. I know it's easy to say, but I don't think you should spend one minute worrying about what you are doing.

  6. I've been thinking a lot about your post over the past day and thinking about how to respond. I've commented here many a time about how amazing and rich your activities are, so you know I feel that way about what you are doing with your kids. But two things struck me about your post: 1) You need to trust yourself; and 2) You need to trust your kids.

    "Don't let comparison steal your joy." I pinned that gentle reminder onto one of my Pinterest boards not too long ago. What does that mean? Well, I think it means that when you look at someone else's ________ (life, marriage, accomplishments, children's accomplishments, garden, car, house, financial situation, blog, whatever) through a lens that puts your own in shadow, you diminish your own experience greatly. Yes, their _________ may be __________ (healthy, clean, passionate, smart, abundant, full, etc.) but notice I didn't say Healthier, Cleaner, More Passionate. I didn't compare. Their life or blog or homeschool planbook may be different than yours, but so be it. Be in YOUR life. Be in YOUR homeschool life. Appreciate all that you have going on and don't think of it as somehow lacking because of what you read on a WTM forum. You chose to do the things you did because you knew what you needed. Your decisions are not slapdash. Your blog is proof of that. I don't know anyone who is so thoughtful about their family's homeschool program as you.

    As for your children...well, proof is in the pudding, as they say. Are they thriving? Are they happy? (Most of the time?) Are they asking for moremathmorelatinmorehistory more ANYthing? If so, give them more. (And if they ask for less, I urge you to listen and respond to that as well.) But don't forget, time off is just as important as time on for their developing brains and just because they are not doing book work or a project does not mean they are not in some way gathering and learning and growing and thriving.

    Of course, you know I am an unschooler and you called it in your post. I think you're doing fine and plenty. But I also have personally found the internet to be a dangerous place for women like us who have a hard time NOT comparing ourselves to other women and unfortunately, coming up short!

    You are awesome, Gillian! Don't let the forums get you down!

    ~Susie (and sorry for the long rant, I mean post!)


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

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