Rambling homeschooling thoughts

I should really post some quilting and knitting photos but I’ll leave that for now because today I decided to turn my mind to the coming academic year. And that’s now left me somewhat confused and frustrated.

The problem is that I decided to just go look at the provincial curriculum to see what Freya might be doing were she going to school and whether what we are likely to do/have been doing relates in any meaningful way to that. I do this rarely (thank goodness) and every time, it makes me feel icky. At least this time I’m not feeling ranty (which is what happened when I looked at the mathematics curriculum documents for elementary school).

A side note: in Ontario homeschoolers are not required to follow the provincial curriculum. We also can’t issue high school diplomas, or not official ones anyway. People who care about official high school diplomas tend to do a lot of official online courses. The rest of us muddle through in a wide variety of other ways.

Homeschooling would be so much easier if I actually thought that what was in the provincial curriculum made sense. Or had some kind of clear principles behind it. Or something.

It’s not that it has no clear principles. I think it’s more that I see how random some of the organization is, or the choice of topics in history or whatever. For example, why is the university prep Grade 11 history course an American history course? And the World History up to the 16th Century is a University/College level course? The answer is, because they had to split it up somehow. Or I think it is.

What it’s made me realize is that maybe we need to think/talk more about what we want Freya to achieve over the next couple of years.

Which brings me to the other lingering problem: so much of education is discussed in terms of what comes next. I read this great article many years ago (by Barrie Thorne in the journal Gender & Society) in which she argued that most of the ways that we study children situate them in developmental time. In other words, children are always “becoming”. Education is obviously firmly in that mindset and influenced by the research in psychology and sociology that was the focus of Thorne’s article.

This is the question I’m really struggling with:

How do we think about high school education in a way that is not (solely?) about what is needed to get into whatever comes next? (I’m really hoping Ron weighs in on this actually. Here or on his own blog.)

This is where unschooling is really attractive to us. Not in the radical, no one ever sits down with a textbook way but in the pursuing your interests way.

Freya’s interests are primarily in the arts. She does a lot of music, takes art lessons, and does some drama. Her focus has shifted considerably from drama towards music and art, actually.

I make her do math but she is reasonably proficient, can teach herself from the textbook, and finds the habit of doing math every day acceptable. It’s not her favourite thing, but she doesn’t hate it. At least now that we are into the more conceptually interesting math, she doesn’t hate it. Arithmetic was not her favourite thing.

She’s worked through Jacobs Algebra and is half-way through Jacobs Geometry. She plans to finish that by Christmas and is looking forward to doing Trigonometry. (Book suggestions welcome, btw.)

She also has a good routine of practicing piano (and singing) daily. She does scales and sight reading along with her pieces. And this gave me an idea (back in June) about how we could approach other things.

I suggested that we focus on skills and that she treat other subjects the same way she treats music. Writing is something she is pretty good at but hasn’t really been doing a lot of and she agreed that it could come back into the daily rotation along with music and math. The content areas (e.g. history) can then be the basis for the writing.

What remains is self-doubt.

That periodic panic most of us feel that we are somehow failing our children.

  • That I haven’t got all the skills in there.
  • That there are things she might enjoy and be good at that she hasn’t even been properly introduced to.
  • That it won’t be enough in the eyes of someone down the road who has the power to prevent her from doing something she really wants to do.

Most days, I’m pretty sure things will be okay.

I just need to remember not to read provincial curriculum documents 😉

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3 thoughts on “Rambling homeschooling thoughts

  1. If it were me, I wouldn’t worry too much about specific academic stuff this year. Addison had decided what he wanted to do when he was in the range of 13-14 so what we did with the girls didn’t apply.

    For this year, if Freya focused on deciding what she wanted to do next (or at least narrowing it down to a few choices) & scoped out a short list of college choices then next year she could focus on work that went toward meeting the entrance requirements.

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  2. I am right there with you in terms of the issues I’m struggling with. A big part of my thinking is geared toward “what comes next” — e.g. college prep with a fair amount of attention paid to the way things “are supposed to be done.” Like Freya, James has interests outside the traditional academic subjects, since he wants to be a video game designer. Programming, writing, art, etc — these aren’t the traditional school system’s strong points.

    I like the idea of treating other subjects in much the same way she treats her music. That seems much healthier and more productive, in terms of her personal development, that focusing on ticking things off on a checklist.

    Try not to worry — you and Freya are doing a *great* job so far and will continue to do so, even with the inevitable floundering we all deal with.

    I guess you could say I took my insecurity by the horns in cobbling together a totally non-traditional transcript for Sarah and graduating her. (Of course unlike James, she isn’t keen on going to a university.) That endeavor could be called “how to fashion 4+ years of watching movies and doing random, inconsistent stuff into a conventionally formatted transcript. Hah!

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  3. Pingback: How we’ve approached High School so far | Tricotomania and more

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