Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teaching My Own: A Two-Part Plan

Okay even I can admit that my overall goal of teaching my kids to be lifelong learners sounds a little flaky. I mean, I still stand by that ideal, and now that my homeschooling journey is complete, I can comfortably say that it served us well.

But I will also concede that my plan sounded a little hippie. Just love the learning, man, and pass the peyote. Everything will work out fine. 

Yeah. I wasn't quite that low-key about my daughters' education.

So while I still envisioned a homeschooling experience that would lead my daughters to love learning, I had some other, more pragmatic targets in mind. It helped me to start with my most distant goals, and then work backwards from there.

I wanted my daughters to earn four-year bachelor's degrees in any subject they chose.

I wanted them to be able to get into any university that their little hearts desired.

Which meant they needed to earn solid scores on the SAT, drawing from a solid foundation of strong high school academics, especially in math and science.

Which meant that I wanted them to be poised at the beginning of their high school years, ready and excited to dive in and tackle some challenging coursework. 

* * * * *

Hmm. I remember the beginning of my own high school years. At that point, I had already been in school for eight years (I skipped kindergarten...have I mentioned that?) Honestly, I was completely bored with schoolwork by that point in my academic career and while I still wanted top grades, I was much more interested in meeting upperclassmen and going to football games than actually studying. I don't think I'm the only student who felt that way.

{Note: Still trying to find photos of me in high school to insert here. Wish me luck...} seemed to me that the best way to get my girls on the top of their game in high school was to back off during the earlier years of their schooling careers. Yes, they would eventually need to adapt to learning in a formal classroom setting, with notes and lectures and workbooks and assignments and tests. But not in kindergarten. Not in first grade. Or second or third or even fourth.

By my calculation, a student could easily devote the first 11 or 12 years of life to learning organically, informally, naturally; led by her own interests. With a few years for transitioning, that same student could easily be acclimated to formal schooling by age 14, the typical age for starting high school. Rather than being bored with more of the same-old same-old, this student would perhaps be interested and excited to enter a new phase of learning.

Using this strategy, it seemed to me that I could position my daughters to enjoy the best of both worlds: a blissfully free and self-directed period of learning in the early years, followed by a burn-out free period of study and growth in high school. 

So that's what I decided to do.

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