While I love the philosophy of self-directed education, there’s a part of me that can’t totally comply. I categorize our family as unschooling because we have no interest in recreating school at home or complying with a standard curriculum. However, now that Z is seven, we’re ready to introduce more structure and order to her skill development. If school is in her future, we want her to have the tools to succeed, but we’re prepared to support other paths of education and self-development too.
The only non-negotiable features of our homeschooling life has been character development, limited media use, lots of books and reading, and the study of Qur’an. We’ve been teaching Z how to read and recite the Holy Qur’an in a very gentle, casual way since she first became interested in it. More than a lesson, it’s a part of our daily rhythm and interaction. Additionally, we’ve introduced the Ghazali Children’s Project to our homeschooling, so each week one lesson is completed with the accompanying workbook.
For now, I write Z’s answers from her Ghazali lesson and then she copies them into her workbook for her copywriting work. We’re practicing the use of lower case letters because Z primarily writes with capital letters. Years ago, I tried to teach writing with tracing books but she never took interest. Instead, she drew her way to excellent hand control and capital letter proficiency, especially when her dad introduced the idea of comic books and character dialogue to her.
We’ve always done a lot of reading and sounded out letters as needed for artwork, Thank You and Holiday cards, and whatever signs and Welcome banners she would make around the house. I remember trying to introduce a phonics reader and though Z was capable of reading it, she had no interest. Instead she would ask, “Can you just read to me?” I considered her response a show of laziness, but when she started spontaneously reading last year, I realized that she just enjoys being read to and has been working out the mechanics and art of reading in her own mind all along. Even though she’s a strong reader on her own now, she can’t help but lean in when I read to Moulay or she’ll read a book herself and then ask me to read it to her again.
I love math but have been wondering how to expose Z to math in a comprehensive and logical way. When a friend suggested Khan Academy for Early Math lessons, I knew the idea of having her own user account and access to the online academy would be appealing. She has been pleading to do more math on the weekends when her other lessons have been completed. We’re available to step in if she’s stumped, but for the most part she’s navigating her way independently just fine.
As for other subjects like science, geography, and history, they are learned incidentally and introduced according to interest or relevance. Having no curriculum means that her knowledge base may not be identical to that of her peers, but once the tools for acquiring knowledge are well established, I trust that the rest of the puzzle pieces will fall into place. Our weekly co-op is also a great way for introducing new topics and styles of information delivery that we haven’t covered yet.
An interesting point about homeschooling that came up in a Raising Free People webinar I attended was that the true test of self-direction in education is asking what would happen if the child did not comply. Is there punishment or loss of privileges? For us, completing the weekly checklist means earning a few hours of weekend media time. It certainly doesn’t feel like a punishment to us because media time is non-essential in our home, but the privilege can be loss for other reasons like lying or general lack of cooperation in essential matters, for example. Other than a bit of procrastination, the current approach seems to be working at the moment and we’ll continue to tweak and experiment as the need arises.
Any other homeschoolers struggling with totally self-directed education or unschooling?