Monday, January 08, 2007

Wearing the Homeschooling Hat: Reflecting on the "Rule of Six"

I've been giving more intentional thought to homeschooling again. It's a subject that's not really left my mind now (at least it simmers in the background) for many months. I've done some reading and thinking about it here and there, but life has been so full I've not been able to give it the attention and thought I've really wanted to.

Now that I'm no longer teaching a course for the seminary, I have a bit more time in the evenings. Yes, I'm still very tired after a day of office work (all morning) and parenting and household tasks (early morning, all afternoon and evening) but it's time. Past time to begin doing more sustained and intentional thinking, praying, and reflecting I'd like to do about how we're raising the sweet girl, and the ways in which I (we) would like to see her continue to learn.

I was realizing today that we've been teaching her at home for such a long time -- her whole life, really. So much of what we do naturally is teaching, and we've been very intentional about some of the ways we've been training her (behavior-wise, character-wise) as well choosing what we provide for her enrichment and learning. Some of this is probably due to our natural inclination -- both D. and I have spent a lot of our adult lives in teaching and/or student situations, and we love learning, reading and talking about what we're learning. Some of our natural inclination intensified during the very challenging year when the sweet girl was 2 and struggling with a major speech delay and all the subsequent delays that accompanied that (some of which still linger; we're still working in some of those areas). That year happened to be a year when we were both out of work almost all of the time (talk about stress!) which turned out, oddly enough, to be a blessing in that we got to spend a lot of time working with S. on developmental activities and speech work.

I think it was during that year that I felt it confirmed in my heart that I wanted to teach her at home. I began to realize that I'd been put in a unique position to understand and appreciate her particular learning challenges and quirks. I also began to realize how exciting teaching her at home could be, especially when you can draw on the expertise, help and creativity of others to supplement your own skills.

Although I've been lurking on homeschool blogs and reading at homeschooling and education articles for years (actually read some books even before I ever had my baby!) I've mostly felt like a bit of a homeschooling imposter. Partly this is due to the fact that D. has had such reservations about it, and (more recently) because I know I cannot claim that "SAHM" title ("stay-at-home-mom"). We don't look like a traditional homeschooling family. So many of the homeschoolers I read can really concentrate all their attention and energy on doing just that. At the moment, being faithful to God's call for our family means that I must work outside of the home at least twenty hours per week. And doing what's best for my daughter and her ongoing speech needs has also meant enrolling her in a public integrated-classroom preschool two mornings per week. I know we don't fit the "profile" (though I'm beginning to learn the profile, at least in some circles, is stretchier than I realized, thankfully).

All this to say, wearing the homeschooling hat still makes me feel very self-conscious. Can I call myself a homeschooler? Much as I'd like to, I don't know. Does it mean anything that I spent the afternoon helping my preschooler learn the life stages of a butterfly (egg, larva, chrysalis, butterfly) through a coloring, cutting, pasting, sequencing project? And then she got scarves and flew around the kitchen, being a "painted lady butterfly" while I made dinner?

At any rate, whether or not I can comfortably wear the hat or not, I plan to put it on from time to time here at my blog, and to comment on some of the things I'm reading.

One of my favorite things I've come across in my meandering through the homeschool world online has been this marvelous "Rule of Six." It was developed by author, mom and homeschooler Melissa Wiley as she reflected on the educational philosopy of Charlotte Mason and then adapted it into a kind of "rule" for her family.

I love this...

"Six Things to Include in Your Child's Day"

• meaningful work
• imaginative play
• good books
• beauty (art, music, nature)
• ideas to ponder and discuss
• prayer

In one of her excellent posts, she reflects on how this rule developed. When her children were younger, she actually called it a "Rule of Five" because she recognized that work was play for young children (an insight with which I agree). She added the "meaningful work" when the oldest turned six.

She also uses a kind of "fingerplay" to reflect on the rule with the children from time to time. They have a time at the end of the day when they take stock of the day and reflect on the different parts of the rule. They end with prayer because it's the most important, and because once they've gone through one finger for each of the other five things, they can clasp their hands and pray. Beautiful. And a great way of reflecting on the day, either on your own or with your little one.


Erin said...

Sounds like a great rule to me! And I think you're doing a terrific job of finding everyday teaching moments that continue to inspire and inform your daughter. :)

On the prayer note, I thought you might get a kick out of this: . It was on NPR yesterday, and it was pretty good...

Beth said...

Glad you liked the rule! I think I am going to collect a binder of ideas, reflections, projects, etc. for homeschooling purposes. And this is one of the first things going into it.

I clicked on the link you posted, but for some reason I can't usually access audio files (at least not fully) on our old PC. I'll have to see if I can do something about that!