Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Structure (or Not) of a School

Reading an article from the Los Angeles Times this morning on a homeschooling family in California that converted a guest room to an actual classroom with a teacher's desk, cubbies and a whiteboard.

"Homeschooling" takes multiple forms. Some (like the above family) school at home with a set curriculum and daily structure; the opposite end of the spectrum is unschool, with no set curriculum and a daily schedule that is dictated by the student (and can include a day's worth of TV viewing, which is what most people think of when they think of unschooling but which is really just a small part of it). Most families do something in between, a mix of structured curriculum, field trips, outside classes and days of just living (errands to the grocery store or volunteer outings).

HoneyFern dabbled in too much structure, and it felt plain wrong, but no structure feels wrong, too. I think we are striking just the right balance these days with daily math, structured biology labs and writing assignment sprinkled generously with field trips, geocaching, running a food pantry, weekly cooking and real-life competitions (like the Stock Market Game, which has taught us more about the economics of our nation in four weeks than any set curriculum possibly could have).  Each student has their own academic plan that takes into account their interests and abilities, and we all meet in the middle for science (which is much more fun in a group) and French (which has to be learned as a community).

As always, we will continue to tweak the school to make it work for each student, but our philosophy and mission of educating the whole student through relevant, engaging and personal experiences remains the same. We still have multiple drafts of papers (groan) and academic reading for syntheis and evaluation (double groan), but when what you are reading applies to what you are doing (like chemical and biological monitoring for our adopted stream, Olley Creek in Austell, Georgia!) then it is far less painful.

I do miss the whiteboard sometimes, but we make do. :)

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