Today's post is a repost from a Heart of the Matter article I wrote on Leaving Behind Conventions. I think it's appropriate for this series because much of what I think of when it comes to our homeschool and pouring into our children's passions is beyond the conventional. By the time most of you read this, E13 (our oldest) and I will be taking the NY State Falconry Exam in preparation for getting a falconer's license (at 10am EDT on April 20th!). Falconry is the passion we are pouring into for our oldest son. I'm going to share about his passion with another topic next week. But certainly, training birds to hunt is not conventional! (E13 wants me to point out that falconry is not a modern convention, but it was very popular before and during the middle ages.) If you are regular reader, then you know we are selling our home. As we look for a new one, one of the criterion items is adequate space for the raptor mews.
This post pertains to all aspects of our homeschools. Not just the academic portions. I encourage you as you read it (and I hope that you will keep going) to consider your own homeschool. Are you allowing your children's hearts to sing as you teach them valuable skills? Are they free to imagine and dream? Or do you feel hemmed in by convention? The key to engaging your kids to go for their "beyond dreams" is to leave room for being unconventional.
This scenario brought a flood of things to my mind as I reflected on my days as a public school teacher and on our homeschool. It reminded me that scenes like this are carried out all day long in a school building. Well behaved kids waiting on not-so-well behaved kids to get themselves together so the group can move on. It seemed absurd to me that the teacher felt the need to adhere to convention regarding outdoor gear so stringently. Yet, I do understand the teacher’s perspective. In order to make sure all the requirements are met, all the students must comply.
It was this thinking that led us to take our son out of school seven years ago half way through first grade. Though he was reading fluently, he had to fill out every phonics activity. Instead of meeting him where he was skill wise, he had to stick within the convention of what was happening in that building at that grade level at that time. There was no room for stepping outside that convention. What was that about? I can only think it was about making sure that all students could meet the standard. It didn’t matter that he was well beyond the use for phonics. It was a benchmark that needed to be met by everyone.
But before we point our fingers at the traditional classroom and its “assembly line education”, let’s take a good look at our homeschools. It turns out, we can be vulnerable to the same weakness. We have the option to choose curriculum, but what does that choice look like? Does it look like traditional school content which takes place in a home? Does it allow for flexibility? Do you find yourself constantly struggling with a particular child based on the work he is required to do?
When I was a classroom teacher teaching upwards of 170 students a day in a science classroom, I had to stick with convention. Teacher directed labs and well orchestrated movement around the classroom with neat data collection sheets and experimental procedures were necessary. They allowed for safety with 37 kids dissecting frogs and it enabled me to measure easily where each child was based on how they performed within the parameters I set. Teaching that many children a day many times meant sacrificing the notion that the student could design something himself. It was too hard to individualize instruction.
However, I think we run the same risk with our kids at home. Just take my daughter for instance. She is an out-of-the-box thinker. She hates convention. She follows her own rules. When I give an assignment, I have to be careful to evaluate her work with specific criteria, but HOW she gets there isn’t always an issue. She may choose to go about something so differently from the way I would. But is it wrong to go about things differently? One way may be more efficient and if you’ve asked for the most efficient way, then by all means the child did not hit the target, but many times that isn’t our goal. Our goal is simply did the child complete the task and is it correct? Not, did they do it my way, but did they do it well? There is a huge distinction there.
Often, we as homeschoolers, are plagued with the shadows of our own educational experiences. How often do you second guess yourself because you feel like maybe you should be doing “more” with your kids? Or maybe you are chased by well-meaning “others” who remind you constantly about conventional means of education
Our homeschools do not need to look like everyone else’s. They need to be our own and not held in by convention. In fact, whenever I have the opportunity to speak with others about our decision to homeschool, I always tell them that homeschooling is tough sometimes. It may mean family members are upset or you get a lot of criticism from any number of sources. However, having my kids miss out on all the extraordinary (and the ordinary) experiences that come with being educated at home is not worth it- simply for the sake of convention.
So, I want to challenge you. In what way is your homeschool conventional? In what ways is it unconventional? Does the “conventional” get in the way of you discovering your kids and their abilities? Their strengths? Their weaknesses? Why do you do school the way you do? Do you desire to change anything but feel like maybe you shouldn’t for some reason? Is it a good reason? Or is it simply convention?
Feel free to leave convention behind as you dig into something extraordinary to follow a child's passion!
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