Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Many Ways Can I Teach Thee? Let Me Count the Number!

When I started off on our homeschool journey, I knew that there was more than one way to do it. I was acquainted with an unschooler at one time, and though we didn't talk about her teaching philosophy much, her kids appeared to be at least as well educated an anyone else's. But I really was not prepared for how many different philosophies of general homeschooling existed, nor did I realize that within each subject, there could be a multitude of approaches. Once I had my curriculum in place, I started to take the time to read what other people had to say about it.

I knew that unschooling just would not be my cup of tea. When someone can make it work, it is the greatest, because the child will always love what he is learning. But with my personality, I need to have a plan, and I need to know that I am not overlooking anything that my kids need to know.

One of the first books that I read was The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, which sets forth the philosophy of a classical education. I have to admit that I didn't get through the whole thing, as I skipped the parts about older children and focussed on the parts about young children through early elementary. But I was nevertheless enthralled with many of the ideas put forth in this book.

I know that when it comes to reading and history, my own public education was sorely lacking. In high school American Literature class, I received my lowest grade of all time because I didn't do the reading. I didn't see any point to it. And I never took a complete US History or World History class, and my ACT score in social studies was a full 4 points lower than my next lowest score. So when I read in The Well-Trained Mind about studying history from beginning to end and integrating literature right into it, I was just so excited, because it made so much sense.

I also really love the approach to teaching young children, even babies. Just fill their minds with language. Talk to them, sing to them, read to them, play audio books for them. It is a very gentle approach, but the emphasis on early reading is nevertheless quite clear. (I am not as sold on a classical education in math and science, but like the idea of including these in history studies.)

Once I read the book, I knew that this is what we would do. But I was not very confident in my abilities to teach in this style, considering my background. I was sure that I could teach history, but literature was like a looming monster. Then I ran across a curriculum called Tapestry of Grace, which gives you correlated reading lists, integrating world history and literature and even providing activities for the youngest children. There are four years of curricula covering four historical periods. If you start from the beginning, you cycle through them three times, and Tapestry of Grace has assignments for all levels of children. And it provides lesson plans for teaching with the Socratic method (where the teacher guides students to come to their own conclusions). This is the method that was used in my law school classes, and it is very effective!

The name, Tapestry of Grace, is kind of a dead giveaway that it is a Protestant curriculum. But I am not Protestant, but Mormon. Protestants are not known for speaking highly of the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), so why would I consider using a Protestant curriculum? Tune in next time for the answer!

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Latter-day Homeschooling