Saturday, January 27, 2007


I suppose we should start with the basics, right? I'm Rachel, a (mostly) stay-at-home mom to Colwyn and Lachlann. Colwyn was born in fall 2003, and Lachlann in summer 2005. Before I got pregnant, I had always imagined myself being a typical mainstream mom - actually, I don't think I was aware that there were alternatives. As I've grown into motherhood, my ideals have changed a lot, and I now lean towards the crunchier side. I believe that my boys are valuable people whose needs and wants are just as valid as my own. Therefore, we practice attachment parenting as much as possible. The boys coslept with us while they were babies and only moved out of our room when they were ready. We've never let them cry it out, nor do we spank or use time-outs. Of course, we all lose our patience and I can't say that I've never yelled at them in anger, but I try to be as respectful as possible. I truly enjoy being around my kids, and a desire to homeschool has gradually evolved out of our parenting style.

Being that our kids are so young, we're still exploring our options in regards to materials and approaches to homeschooling. There are a lot of things I like about a lot of different methods, so the term that best describes us right now is eclectic. Some of the approaches I'm interested in are unschooling, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, and Charlotte Mason.

My husband doesn't like the term unschooling, but I feel that it gets the point across quickest. Unschooling is really hard to define (like most things about homeschooling). For us, unschooling is not forcing our kids to learn at a pace that doesn't suit them. It's not forcing subjects on them that they're not interested in or ready for. It's not pushing academics at an early age. It's not doing worksheets or other busywork. It's about following our kids' lead.. after all, we've followed their lead in almost everything else, and it's always worked out wonderfully. We'll probably stick with this approach until our kids reach mid-elementary age, at which point we will encourage certain subjects a bit more strongly. I do feel that there are certain things that kids have to learn.. it's just a matter of when. I also initiate and introduce a lot of activities and concepts to the kids, something that doesn't really fit with the unschooling definition. But the difference is that while I may initiate and encourage participation, it's certainly not required.

Unit studies are something we're already doing. For instance, right now Colwyn is interested in dinosaurs. We're making a dinosaur ABC book (which teaches letters, art, fine motor skills), we pretend to be dinosaurs (gross motor skills) and read books about dinosaurs (reading skills, literature). We sort his toy dinosaurs by size, or color, or by what they eat (math). We'll be making dinosaur masks this week (art, fine motor skills), and we'll do an activity where Colwyn will dig for dinosaur fossils in some sand (fine motor, science). We'll also make a diorama with playdough and his toy dinosaurs, and we'll make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar (art, fine motor, science). We also show him on a globe where certain dinosaurs lived (geography). So, just by doing some fun, playful activities about dinosaurs, he'll study his letters, art, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, reading skills, literature, math, science, and geography.

The Waldorf philosophy is fantastic, with few exceptions. A Waldorf education is based in the arts, with young children spending the majority of their day singing songs, listening to stories, engaging in handwork (craft activities), and playing imaginatively. Instead of using textbooks, they create their own books of what they're learning (dino ABC book, anyone?). Waldorf students celebrate the seasons and have nature tables to display treasures they find outside that symbolize the season. This fits very well with our pagan traditions. Children in a Waldorf school (or homeschool) often aren't taught to read until age 6 or 7. While I don't have a problem with my kids not learning to read until 6 or 7, I certainly won't discourage it if they're ready earlier. The way I see it, if they're ready at 5, great, but I'd rather them learn to read quickly at age 7, than cause a power struggle trying to force it at 5. One of the few things I don't like about Waldorf is that some of the literature they use is a little too Christian for me. Technically, Waldorf isn't Christian, but it feels that way to me sometimes. I also don't think they put enough emphasis on science. Again, not that I'll push science if they're not interested, but if they are, they'll learn more about it with me than they would in a traditional Waldorf school.

For Montessori, I'm more split about whether I like it or not. There are some things I love: encouraging independence and responsibility - children are allowed/expected to get their own drinks and snacks when they can, wash up by themselves, and clean up their messes. They're allowed to work cooperatively or independently, whichever they feel suits their needs best. Teachers demonstrate a task/concept for the child, and then the child practices it until he masters it. Some of the Montessori things we do including scooping/pouring pompoms or beads or picking them up with tongs. We also have snacks, cups, and a pitcher of water available for Colwyn to serve himself if he wants. We don't have a stepstool high enough to let him reach the sink, but we do encourage him to use the potty with as little help from us as possible (we clean up, obviously). The thing I hate about Montessori is that they don't value pretend play. I think this is a huge mistake, as kids learn so much from creative and imaginative play.

I'm just starting to look into Charlotte Mason's philosophy, and I think it's another method that we'll pick and choose from. Charlotte Mason advocated teaching children using high quality literature.. which I'm obviously all for. She said that instead of children having lots of books, that they should only have a few of the very best.. which is something I disagree with, personally. We have tons of books, and get armfuls from the library. Charlotte Mason also said that after a child reads a book or passage, that they should narrate back (orally) what they've learned. These narrations shouldn't be corrected, as a child should be allowed to pick and choose what they want to take from a piece of writing. I think that's a great idea, and probably something we'll put into practice. Although when I think about it, that's sort of what we're doing when we ask Colwyn questions about things we've just read.

Well, this has been an enormously long post. Next up will either be pictures of what we're doing now, or some info on why homeschooling is great. :)

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At 3:25 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

I think that your blog is very interesting. Do you think that you will ever let your kids go to public school? Like, for middle or high school? Or, if they ask to go at a younger age?

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Hey, I'm just now seeing this comment, sorry. :)

If the kids want to go to school and have valid reasons (beyond just wanting to ride the bus), I'll most likely let them try it out. I think we're more than capable of homeschooling the later grades as well, so again.. they'll stay home so long as they're happy and it's working out well for us.

I've heard a lot of comments from homeschool "graduates" who were very lonely during HS, and I think the main reasons for this are parents who are trying to shelter their kids, and a lack of options. Neither of those are/will be the case with us, so I don't see socialization being a problem, either.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Lu Stazzu di La Funtanazza said...

How interesting your blog is! I've just discovered it now, and I think I'll come back to read more. But I was wondering: how are your children doing now in 2014?
Sandrine, from France


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