Philosophical Thoughts

The following is a collection of posts that resonate deeply. Rather than create a paper trail, or risk losing these thoughts to cyberspace I’ve drawn them together and cut snippets that I wish to ‘highlight.’

High Desert Home – Be the Change You Want to See
Homeschooling is really not the difficult, complex, scary thing some people make it out to be. It doesn’t require a degree, complicated plans, paperwork, and tedious record keeping. It can be simple, relaxed, and lovely…..
A warm, relaxed, loving, parent is a much nicer guide and example than a stressed-out, burned out, frustrated, or self-focused parent……..
To reduce this to its most fundamental level, because sometimes that’s where we need to be, live a positive, enthusiastic, and encouraging life with your children– a life of warmth, curiosity, and wonder. Fill this life with books and conversation……..
Keep learning yourself, even if it’s about just one thing…..In a life-giving atmosphere, odds are, if you learn, the children will learn. Read, and the children will read. Write, and the children will write. Think, and the children will think. Wonder, and the children will wonder. Explore, and the children will explore. Be curious, and the children will be curious…..In other words, at the most basic level of all, do as Gandhi said, and “be the change you want to see in the world.”

High Desert Home – Learning Posts
1. One of the most powerful and natural ways a child learns is through the ordinary daily conversations that occur in the home.
Lessons have their place, to be sure, but there’s a lovely, free life a child should lead, and if simply engaging fully with him in conversation is one of the most powerful ways to learn, why do we want to short circuit this by too many lessons, or lessons that start too soon? As with younger children, it is also true with older children, and even teenagers, (and even for us, as adults) that relaxed and natural conversation– the very ordinary, daily kind that occurs on its own in a good relationship– has incredible shaping power intellectually, spiritually, morally, emotionally, and socially. We shouldn’t overlook its importance!

2. Play might be just about the most important thing a child can do!

“Children need freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury; the time spent engaged in it is not time that could be better spent in more formal educational pursuits. Play is a necessity. ..” I am convinced that it is through free, unstructured play and exploration (again, play that is free from adult planning, guidance, and intervention) that a child best develops curiosity, an imagination, a sense of wonder and delight, problem solving skills, creativity, resourcefulness, inventiveness, confidence, persistence, and many other important skills and characteristics. And these have everything to do with learning. Education is built on this. It is the means to poetic learning, learning that is based on wonder….
Play is learning in a profound sense. A child’s free play and solitary wanderings (through nature or books or anywhere a child is free and left alone) spark his imagination and curiosity, which opens up more play and exploration, which leads to more curiosity. …
3. Enjoyment of the natural world is very important for the healthy development of children.
Much of the early science education of my children took place in nature, and many of the children’s later, more advanced, science studies grew out of the things they loved most in nature as a child. I’m absolutely convinced that no formal elementary science education is necessary. All we have to do is enjoy nature, look things up, and learn naturally. Let kids explore and play and learn as they enjoy nature. ..
Much of the early science education of my children took place in nature, and many of the children’s later, more advanced, science studies grew out of the things they loved most in nature as a child. I’m absolutely convinced that no formal elementary science education is necessary. All we have to do is enjoy nature, look things up, and learn naturally. Let kids explore and play and learn as they enjoy nature. ..
4. Build a book-rich home. Read lots of good, living books aloud together.
Reading aloud together is a profoundly important thing for a family to do. It pulls a family together, creating a bond and building a culture in the home. …

As parents, it’s easy to overly focus on all of the benefits of having books around and of reading aloud– that it will make kids readers; it will advance kids educationally; it will build a moral imagination in our children; it will build virtue; it will give the children an ability to think well; and so on and so forth. All of these benefits are indeed important, but it matters first that reading should be just plain delightful for children. They should be able to read a book with no thought of its importance…
The necessary condition of all good reading is to get ourselves out of the way; we do not help the young to do this by forcing them to keep on expressing opinions.” So, don’t come between a child’s mind and his reading of a book. In time, almost magically and unawares to the child (and certainly not because we tell him how to think about his books), the child will develop a unique way of reading and thinking, a moral imagination, a set of values, an education, …

Read books. Enjoy books. Collect books. Talk about books. Learn and grow through good books. Books become beloved friends. A book-rich home is a wonderful place for a child to grow up. …
5. Routines help to develop habits and make life lovely.
I’m convinced that having a good, consistent daily routine is one of the most important factors in the life of a child, and, I would venture to say, in our own lives, too. Over the years, I paid attention to changes in the attitudes and behavior of my children when the routine was upset, and this helped to convince me of the power of routine in building habits and character. When routines were kept, the children were better behaved in just about every way– more cheerful, more compliant, more eager, more willing to delay gratification. They were less inclined to balk at my expectations and more inclined to take initiative in every area of their lives. They were more productive and more creative. When the routine was in place, there was a significant improvement in all of us regarding our habits and discipline. And a bonus was that pleasant routines made for lovely family warmth and spirit….

You’ll have your own daily patterns, rituals, and routines. Make them lovely. Enjoy your children. Be attentive! Give them room to be themselves and to develop according to the lines God meant for them to grow (individually). Your routines have everything to do with whether or not your home will be joyful and full of life and creativity. They have everything to do with whether or not your children will respect you. They build strong, habits, character, and discipline, and offer your children hope for a good future. And they can help to give children a proper view of God’s love and care for them.
6– Time and freedom for creativity brings delight and richness to our days and develops a lovely education.
It encouraged me to make a point not to make my family’s day overly schoolish, but even more, to make room for a child to think, explore, discover, and create. I learned that it was important not to help my children or guide them (unless they asked for it) when they were trying to do something I thought might not work. A child is naturally inclined to want to work problems out for himself, and the process of trying this and then trying that in order to find what works is important. I think this develops good qualities in a child– imagination, creative thinking and problem solving, persistence, vision, discipline, focus, a sense of accomplishment, not being defeated by “failure,” among others…..
Children should have plenty of time and freedom to play and explore and to come up with their own questions, which can lead them to a depth of learning that can make our assignments look silly and anemic in comparison. When I noticed that my kids were developing a curiosity about something, it was usually counterproductive for me to interfere in order to “direct” or “help” them. The life of the thing was in the child, and I didn’t know where their curiosity would lead them. I served them best by being interested in what they were doing, asking them questions (at appropriate times, and in an appropriate manner), and possibly by providing needed supplies (when asked)….
The imagination and creativity that was the impetus behind great scientific discoveries and great works of art, music, and literature, is the same imagination and creativity that lives in the young child who is making a mound with rocks, sticks, and dirt! The creative process simply develops and matures over the years, but all along it is in need of one thing– freedom. In children, creativity is free and playful and seemingly random, though there is, for sure, a profound sort of discipline and perseverance involved.
7. A Loving, Attentive, Encouraging Parent is Essential to a Healthy Learning Environment

Before we can help our child develop as an individual along the path that God has made for him, we must see and respect him as a person, created in the image of God. We must respect his mind and intelligence. We must be attentive, attuned, and responsive to our child in order to help him thrive and learn in the way that is best for him…..
So, know when you need to turn away from the computer screen, put down the book, turn off the television, hang up the phone, push back the sewing machine, stay home, or let the laundry wait. Stop. Listen to your child. Smile at him. Go with him to see what he wants you to see. Be interested. Delight with him. He is a human being whose life and growth– for good or bad– are very sensitive to the atmosphere that is you.
A parent can set a tone in the home that inclines a child to be a delighted learner. A child starts asking questions, by pointing, even before he can speak. We answer those questions by telling the child the name of the thing at which he’s pointing. And we answer with enthusiasm because we are delighted in our small child’s curiosity. We talk with our child often, and by doing so, the child learns to talk, and we are so pleased at every word he speaks!…
If we could just recognize the very important role we play in the development of our child’s spiritual health and his attitude toward learning, we would take great pains to listen and respond to him as well as possible. (It’s also okay not to have answers for everything, but sometimes just to wonder together.) When we remain warm and responsive to our child as he talks to us and asks questions, his curiosity is being reinforced and encouraged. Learning remains lovely, and more questions arise.

So, be attuned to your child. Encourage him in the good things you see in his life. And let him speak freely about his honest fears, struggles, thoughts, and concerns, simply listening to him without feeling a need to instruct or confront at every opportunity. If you will stay warm and attentive and encouraging, you will have the trust and respect of your child. He will feel safe to share his secrets and his deepest questions with you because he will have confidence that you won’t ignore him, brush him off, lecture him, or laugh at his cuteness. You will have gained great ground in your child’s heart and mind….

Read. Think. Converse and discuss (informally). Write. These elements are all connected, but this is not a pattern or a formula. (It’s not always linear, either.) It’s simply a natural, informal, delightful process that can emerge as we live in a happy learning atmosphere. It starts in babyhood as we enjoy reading picture books together, and it continues into adulthood, growing continuously in its level of sophistication as our families continue to enjoy outstanding literature and conversations about reading and as the intellect matures. But read Willa’s post below for a better discussion of this.

There are other things besides reading and conversation that motivate writing (and Willa would agree), and I still might put up a few notes of my own later on (and an actual list of creative ways my kids chose to write), but believe me when I say that, even though I was trying to write something along these lines in my dropped post, this is much better and more helpful than what I would have written:

Too Little, Too Much?….

Amongst Lovely Things – Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before
It seems to me that many experienced homeschoolers– even those whose homeschools look much different from one another in practice– give the same, simple advice.
* Keep it simple. Don’t fall for gimmicky curricula that complicate what should be common sense.
* Have your children read and/or be read aloud to every day.
* Have them write every day- it doesn’t matter what. It doesn’t need to be book reports or historical essays. It can be letters, an email, a grocery list, a journal entry. Just write.
* Do some math every day. ….
* Then, just live your life with your kids….. . Enjoy life together. …
Perhaps most importantly, they tell us that when we put relationships with our husbands and our children above everything else, we are creating happy family memories that will carry our children far into the future. …..

The Relaxed Homeschool Mindset – Mary Hood
What you do need to do is to set up a lifestyle of learning in your household. You need to understand each of your children as individuals, and make decisions about curricula and methods that recognize their differences; their strengths and weaknesses; their learning styles and personalities. You need to learn to set priorities and goals, so you have some idea of where you are going. You need to pause occasionally to evaluate your progress towards those goals. You need to communicate effectively with your husband, so you become true partners in this whole process. You need to learn to shrug off the criticisms of others, even well-meaning relatives. The only opinions that should really count are those of God, your husband, your children, and yourself……
Establishing a lifestyle of learning implies that everyone in the family is actively pursuing goals, enjoying the acquisition of skills and knowledge, and sharing their discoveries with the others in the family. You need to re-discover a child-like curiosity about the world around you. You need to wake up every morning, singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” ……
Keep in mind that “relaxed homeschooling” is a mindset, not necessarily a complete lack of textbooks. You may decide to keep a few texts or workbooks, but just use them in a less controlled manner……
First of all, I think you need to be scrupulously honest with the kids, and with your spouse. Don’t just stop using textbooks and leave them hanging, wondering what Mom’s doing, and if you have any ulterior purpose. Tell them that you feel the need for some changes….
Ask them for their suggestions, and try to implement them, if possible. Talk to your husband and share some of your frustrations with him….

If your kids seem unmotivated, what I would do is the following:
1. Share with them your thoughts on the matter. Don’t just put away the textbooks and leave them to wonder what “Mom’s latest trick” is.
2. Put aside all the structured work for awhile.
3. Keep disciplinary parameters in place. Tell them, “You can’t watch television, talk on the phone or do computer games during the time that I want to see something productive going on.” For us, that was always the morning hours. Then sit back and let boredom be a motivator. When they say, “Well, what CAN I do?” Tell them, “Think of something, or I’ll think of something for you.”
4. Continue taking the kids to the library, even if they show some resistance. Take out some interesting books and read to them on a regular basis, unless they are older and are reading sufficiently on their own. Don’t force them to do book reports or prove they have comprehended anything. Just focus on the reading itself for awhile.
5. Start educating yourself and finding things that you can be enthusiastic about. Don’t force their involvement, but do share your excitement about whatever it is you are doing or learning.
6. If your children show any spark of interest in anything at all, be sure to follow up, even if the interest doesn’t strike you as “academic” enough for your taste. In other words, if they suddenly want to learn guitar, or buy some new Legos, or dig a big hole in the backyard, encourage them to do it.
7. Give them enough time. Too often, parents try a more relaxed approach, but give up just before boredom would have driven the kids to a renewed enthusiasm for learning.
8. Spend lots of time on your knees, especially if you are dealing with a child who may be under spiritual attack himself.
9. Also, use this time to make some tentative plans for fun, educational projects once you think the child has had enough down-time to be a willing participant again. …..

Unschooling Catholic – Cafi Cohen article on unschooling teens
A friend of mine says, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” I agree with her. Yet I have always been uncomfortable completely structuring our kids’ learning activities. They often did excellent work just by following their noses…… Parents’ homeschooling roles change with older kids. Younger children ask questions, and the parent answers or helps find answers. With older kids, a homeschooling parent probably functions most effectively not as a teacher, but as a facilitator — someone who provides physical support, acts as a sounding board, and helps with planning and networking. Through years of trial and error, with both Jeff and his younger sister Tamara, we developed a facilitating approach to planning homeschooling activities with our teenagers: Putting Together An Eclectic Curriculum. Our eclectic homeschooling program incorporated traditional materials, unit studies, unschooling time, volunteer work, community activities — and anything else that encouraged autonomy and enthusiasm for learning….
To begin the planning an eclectic curriculum, we would first sit down and list the kid’s current activities, academic and non-academic.;;;;
Next, we brainstormed the kid’s current interests, goals, and priorities. I learned not to ask, “What are you interested in?” That question was usually met with a blank stare. Instead, I would try to be more concrete. “What do you see yourself doing in 2 years? In 5 years? What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet? If nobody were telling you what to do, how would you spend next week and next month?”……
With our two updated lists — (1) current activities and (2) interests, goals, and priorities — we planned the next 3-9 months…..
In addition, both kids became self-directed learners. They not only became self-directed learners, they learned how to learn. As they experimented with different learning situations, their expertise in selecting resources improved. They developed networking skills. And they motivated themselves. From my perspective as a homeschooling parent, what freedom! Our process, in my view, was largely responsible. Our “programs” evolved along the lines of the kids’ interests. We planned and we maintained flexibility……
Writing down the goals and posting them kept all of us on track. I did not schedule the kids’ days and weeks. Instead, each morning for about five minutes, I reviewed with each teenager what he or she had planned for the day. …..
Listening to teenagers is probably the most important thing that homeschooling parents can do. Listening to our teenagers saved us money and time. ….
If something was not working, we simply dispensed with it and moved on….

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