Mark and I have always taken a classical approach/CharlotteMason/unschooling/Thomas Jefferson Education approach in teaching our kids. We have always believed that our relationship with our kids must come first, then discipline and guidance, and academics follow after both of those. Kids are smart, they don’t care what we know until they know how much we care. They want to know we value them as individuals, honor and help them follow their passions, and then academics fall into place.
The beauty of allowing our kids to follow their passions is that academics must be learned in every aspect of whatever passion draws their interest. From NASCAR, horse riding, ballet, music, to carpentry, practicing law, and baking. They all require math, reading, handwriting, and many more skills. Skills that are not merely academic. Knowing how to carry on a conversation, how to shake someones hand confidently, speaking in public, and learning to honor their commitments are only a few examples. Allowing our kids to follow their passions rather than a textbook has been an eye opening and humbling experience.
We did not take this approach to homeschooling lightly. It was a slow process because honestly I didn’t completely trust the process. I was concerned my kids would get behind, have no desire to learn anything, and would sit around and do nothing all day long. Last year we were finally thrown in the deep end of the pool after merely dangling our toes in the water. Between moving and being pregnant I knew we needed to let go of using a curriculum. I knew I would put too much pressure on myself to finish the curriculum. I would become a slave to our curriculum rather than the curriculum working for us. I needed to let go and we jumped into the deep end of the pool and I prayed we would come up swimming.
I had no idea we would end up loving the new found freedom! Our theme last year was American history and I was fairly certain we would be able to wing it with library books and a timeline I had found on the internet. We bought the full set of Liberty Kids and had an amazing time learning about our nations history. Oddly our kids fell in love with the colonial period/revolutionary war era. They ran around the house pretending to be George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. We learned about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and learned the various branches of our government.
Math is one subject we require of our kids as it requires a process that takes time to learn. Previous years found Maddie sobbing at the mere thought of attempting math. Honestly, it’s because I used the dragging method of making her be where I wanted her to be regardless of her ability to handle it academically or emotionally. I prayed and prayed about what to do in regards to math as I knew I was creating a hatred of math, not a passion. The Lord showed me I needed to apologize to Maddie and seek her forgiveness for using the dragging method. We started using Math-U-See and Maddie fell in love with it. The manipulative blocks, dvd’s, and short workbook pages were beginning to make sense. Although last year I still used the dragging method. This year I decided I was going to ask her to do one assignment a day, not the four pages of math I usually required. At first she stuck to one page and she was relieved to be done. Now that we are in the middle of the year she is beginning to complete two to four or five pages of math a day. She is able to do it because she has the freedom to decide if she is emotionally ready to handle more pages.
We teach our kids based on a three phase process. Core is the first phase, Love of Learning second, and finally scholar. Core phase is where perseverance, endurance, patience, and your core family values are taught and set into motion. Love of Learning is where the student dapples in this and that, not settling on any one passion. The scholar spends hours upon hours mastering their desired skills.
Allowing each of our kids to follow their passion requires prayer. Mark and I realize we will not have all the skills our kids will need within their passion and we are praying the Lord will bring the right mentors at the right time. We know he will give us creativity in helping our kids learn the academics they need to within their passions. Learning about our kids passions is a vital part of our kids gaining confidence to enter scholar phase. When we understand to some extent the work they are putting into their passion it speaks volumes to them. Spending time with them and learning about what is important to them shows them they are important.
Tailoring our kids learning to their passions requires us to let go of how we want to teach our kids and trade if for how our kids need us to teach them. I need to get outside of my comfort zone and figure out what works best for the sake of my kids hearts and creating an environment that promotes their curiosity to learn.
What does unschooling/classical education/TJE look like for our family? How do you help four different kiddos follow their passions? How do you find time for your own passions? I am going to start giving sharing what this looks like in our house. I will take each of our kids individually and describe what their day and learning looks like. A big chunk of TJE’s moto is “Inspire not require”, a watch me then you model. It encourages the parents to seek their own passions, desires, and learning. How does Mark and I fit it into our busy schedules? These are questions I am going to start answering in a series I am calling “Homeschool Tailored to Passions not Textbooks”.
My hope is to inspire, encourage, and empower homeschool families to let go of the public school at home method. One of the reasons we homeschool is to teach and have the flexibility to allow our kids to learn in the way that fits them the best. What does this look like? I’m hoping through giving you a glimpse into how we help our kids balance what they are required to do with what they want to do. Cleaning Zones are one way we have used to inspire character building and an area we teach them sometimes in life you are required to do something. Whether we like it or not, we are required. I’ll talk about the areas we require and the areas we are more likely to let go and allow inspire not require.
It is a journey I am thankful we embraced early in our kids learning. I am thankful for the spark of love of learning I have seen come back into their eyes. I love the confidence and questions that are inspired. I am excited to take you along on our journey, on the Russell’s Adventures!