We always knew we wanted to create a different learning environment for our kids than we had growing up. We wanted their education to be different from a public, private or christian school. In one way or the other, Mark and I combined had experienced all three. We wanted a hands-on, real life approach to their learning. We also wanted to create an environment early on to facilitate our kids taking their education in their own hands. The question was would they actually take responsibility for their learning, would they be excited to do the studying needed and would they be “on target”.
Having our kids be “on target” has never been a concern for me. I know first hand kids in formal teaching situations are not all learning the same thing at the same time. What I do know is when kids are given the time, mentorship, structure, fun and a relaxed environment their light bulb moments will happen. They may not happen on my time-table, but they are not me nor can I expect them to be. I can have guidelines as to when most kids are developmentally capable or ready, but again, they are guidelines.
I know from watching our four kids different personalities they reach milestones on their own time. Sometimes they slam dunk a milestone, while others twirl, jump, hop, fly or other creative ways to get to where they are going. It can be unnerving when a child takes a “not normal” detour and at a young age takes their education into their own hands. Many great curriculums have been formed by parents simply because they are doing what works for their child.
We have learned the hard way to take our kids interests, attention span, learning style and personality into consideration. We started out controlling their academics, hearts, behaviors, attitudes and souls (read more about our journey of God healing our angry child here). The tighter we held on the more their hearts were ground into smithereens, academics suffered and was a daily battle and our relationships completely lost. It was a horrible time in our family and to this day it breaks my heart.
Maddie recently turned 10 and I firmly believe parenting her and our other three kids began at their conception. Essentially we have been homeschooling for 10 years. Our relationship with our kids will determine how successful homeschooling will be for our family. We formally began homeschooling when Maddie was three. When she turned five we were introduced to the Thomas Jefferson Education homeschool method.
I knew I wanted to begin walking purposely towards this method of learning, but would it work? The main premise of TJE is to set up a mentoring, educational environment in which the kids will be inspired to learn and study on their own. You might be laughing right now, honestly, we did too! We began first by purging our home. Another premise of TJE is “inspire, not require”. I began purging my area first (you can read more about our year of purging here).
It took time, prayers, tears and patience, but TJE does work! If I was not seeing it and hear it first hand I would not believe it. Our kids are thriving academically. Honestly, our kids do as well as I have my crap together. If I am freaking out and floundering so will our kids. If I am confident, this does not mean you have to know exactly what you are doing. Even if you are confidently knowing you don’t have all the answers, but have the attitude you are going to figure it out. Our kids relax in the unknown, they become problem solvers along with us, instead of freakier outer. We have also learned to ask our kids for their insights and even at 10 and 7 they have great ideas. They have taught me it is possible to over think something and sometimes the answer is found in simplicity.
Will kids learn on their own? Yes and no. Similar to adults needing encouragement, insight, support and guidance kids do to. They do not have the experience to know endurance pays off. We have worked hard to dial in how long their sit down work should take for Maddie and for the twins. We have thrown out needless “more work”. If they have quite a bit of handwriting in our Apologia science curriculum, then Spelling You See is skipped and held off for the next day. If Spelling You See has required quite a bit of reading that day, then practicing reading with me is put off until the next day. It’s weighing what is required and what is being accomplished in that day of study. I no longer require a whole page of handwritten A’s, instead three to four beautiful and neat A’s is more realistic.
Two years ago I discovered we were discussing and talking more “school” talk in our non school time than during our school time. I wanted more of that in our day, so we have whittled down sit down time and have created an all day learning environment. We talk about vocabulary in the car, government at the dinner table, society while I’m braiding their hair and they are constantly sitting at our bookshelf we have filled with topics interesting to them.
It took not just leaping, but flying out of our comfort zone. We are thankful for the focus on our family’s relationship TJE has brought to our home. It has set me free by giving me permission to pursue my own passions, desires and mission. Our kids have learned a ton by watching me work and talking to me about what I am doing and why.
Yes, TJED works and I cannot image homeschooling any other way!