Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Much Structure

I've really been pondering how much structure do I need to impose on my kids' education. I generally like to be a structured and organized person, but I'm having to learn flexibility because of my headaches. But, I'm also wondering how much structure is best for my children and their learning.

I have been reading a lot about unschooling and I'm very attracted to the idea of allowing kids some leeway in the choice of topics of education. [Note: I am not at all supportive of the idea of "unparenting", but there are plenty of Christian unschoolers who believe in providing discipline and guidance for their kids but allowing lots of room for choice in education.] Do children need to study science and history all the time? Would it be OK if we focused on history for awhile and then went on to a science topic? When does a child need to learn to write an essay? And on and on.

I am convinced of a few things. Wild Man needs to continue structured reading education until he is fluent with the written word. I want both kids to do math on a regular basis (btw, they're both doing ALEKS math on the computer and loving it). I love the Sonlight books and their organization.

Ga'Hoole Girl is almost 13 years old. I think she and I can start discussing thinks that she can take over. She is already taking responsibility for doing her Bible and History reading and writing assignments. Maybe we can talk about lightening up on some things to allow her to work on projects that are important to her - cooking, computer programming, piano. As Wild Man develops new interests, I can help him find ways to learn about them. Both kids want to learn to fence, so one of my current projects is to figure out how to get them fencing lessons.

In any case, I'm not ready to allow the kids to completely take over their education. But, maybe it's time to start loosening the reins a little bit and giving them some room to stretch their wings, educationally speaking. We'll just have to see what happens.


KC said...

Sounds like the kids are having fun with unschooling! I personally feel that balance is the key. You can't just let them do whatever, whenever. You have to provide some type of guidance/structure. But in terms of their interests, I think it's good to have a period of time where they get to choose what they would like to study or learn about further. What I've done for next year with E, is provide him with a list of things we can learn about. I've already selected a few topics (presidents/elections, weather for example). He wants to study the human body and that's good because I also had that on my list! I have 5 countries on my list and have asked him which 2 he would like to learn about. He hasn't made that choice yet but I'm leaving that totally up to him. Either way, we'll eventually learn about the countries. And he gets more excited about it this way. I've already started accumulating books, movies, computer software, crafts, experiments, etc. to go along with our studies. I have been fortunate enough to accumulate good curriculum books at my local thrift shop (yes, they carry homeschool and teaching books for 15 cents each!) as well as So I feel pretty confident that we'll cover a good bit of information. I find that when we have "Fun Fridays" E does his own thing and learns quite a bit. C keeps reminding me the goal of unit studies. Does E really need to retain everything we learn or do we just need to spark an interest and teach a love of learning? I try to keep that in mind when I'm teaching but sometimes it's hard.

It's definitely more critical for them to retain the details with reading, math, and writing. That where we have more structure--- with reading and math--- although I do have "fun" games and things to reinforce the concepts learned. Writing is both structured and unstructured. Sometimes I'll let E choose a topic he wants to write about. Other times, I'll give him an assignment (Top Ten Favorite Toys for example). He's much younger so it's more basic, but it's still challenging. It sounds like you and kids are having fun and they're learning along the way. How much better can that get?

Lori - The Simple Life at Home said...

Hmm, I can't remember how old Wild Man is, but I think it's a good age to give your daughter a little room to stretch her wings. Mine is about the same age, turning 13 last month.

I think it's good for them to take time to develop their interests and see that learning is not just out of books, that it can be continued their whole life and, maybe most importantly, that's it's fun. Good for you for giving her a little room to spread her wings!