Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Way-Smoother: My Job Description

Look what we grew in our square foot garden? No time for formal school right now!

I don't start formal schooling as long as the weather is warm. We like to garden and swim and go to the mountains and the park. Summer flees so fast—we want to enjoy every green, luscious moment outdoors! When "pencil weather" brings a nip in the air, then we pull out the books and everyone seems ready to put in some serious study.

But it's summer still! Every morning, Louisa and I go out in the garden to see what developments have taken place since the day before. We harvest, and weed a bit, give approving words of encouragement to our developing garden, and size up the growing cucumbers and the baby eggplants, so purple and glossy! While we were picking green beans, Louisa told me she was interested in learning about the human body and when we got back inside, I directed her to the bookshelf where I keep my health and herb books. She shuffled through them and settled on a thick medical volume complete with pictures of skin conditions, and illnesses detailed by symptoms. I didn't pay much attention as she engrossed herself for hours in satisfying her interest. Then she began to diagnose conditions in her own body, and in others. She read me some informative passages about what I could do for my own ailments. She was teaching me.

Once again, I learned the lesson that keeps me homeschooling:
Children (and adults) learn best when they have an interest and seek out information to satisfy their yearn to know.

This does not have to be in a formal classroom. In fact, that type of learning seldom fills their need fast enough or thoroughly enough. As homeschool moms, we would do much better to consider ourselves "facilitators" than "teachers". To facilitate is to "facil" (Latin root for "to make easy, to smooth the way"). If we could think of our job title as "Way-Smoother", then we would be eager to find the books, take the kids to the library, help them locate the right website, take them to museums, find experts for them to talk to, get the supplies for their projects—we'd be eager to smooth their way in their thirst for knowledge.

I would always rather learn with my child, than teach at him! For one thing, it is a more respectful relationship when both persons are trying to learn together than when one assumes he/she knows the most and feels the other person should just open up his mouth and swallow everything that is dished out. No matter how wise you are as a mom or a teacher, there is always more to learn. And hard questions that you can't answer are to be rejoiced in—they open the way for deeper study and learning together!

As I listened to Louisa tell me about various conditions, trying to say their medical names, and showing me pictures of them, I realized that it would be utter foolishness to try to pull a Health Ed class on her right now. I would hinder her way, rather than smooth it. She has so much more natural interest at the moment than I could ever generate with a textbook and lessons. She'll feast and feast at the learning table until she is satiated, and no test or worksheet could capture the great enthusiasm she currently has! You can't keep kids from learning!

Homeschooled children need 1) time, 2) resources and 3) someone to help smooth the way, and make learning easier—a facilitator. Be a good one today!

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  • At August 27, 2009 at 12:50 AM , Blogger Lizzie said...

    Thanks Diane! I really like this job description. It takes much of the socially-fabricated stress away from "schooling." I'll be starting homeschool with my oldest (4) next year and so often I find myself hyperventilating about math, science, reading, etc. Then I look at him and realize that, at the moment, his passion lies with art and writing. He is devouring what he is interested in. Who am I to slam on the brakes and inhibit that creativity with redirection? I love the idea of being a facilitator rather than a teacher. It makes me more excited about learning WITH my son. Thanks again!

  • At August 27, 2009 at 8:00 AM , Blogger littlecbsmom said...

    Diane, what a great inspiring post! I thank you for your insight on what can be such a tough topic as we work to define our roles as a homeschooling mom. I enjoy your honesty and this post is going in my notebook where I'm sure it will inspire me on my journey for many years to come.

  • At August 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM , Blogger Cynthia said...

    Wonderful thoughts...thanks!

  • At August 27, 2009 at 8:54 PM , Blogger Toni said...

    what a refreshing post and so true, our chldren learn the most when thier heart is in it.

    love the picture of Louisa and the veggies, those garden boxes really did great.

  • At August 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM , Blogger Kristie said...

    Danielle and I were just talking about this! I started moving away from K12 because of this. for example, in history, we are studying the Native Americans. I'll just keep getting books, activities, field trips, etc. until they get bored and then we'll talk about the explorers, then the Pilgrims, and just move at the pace they enjoy. This year (only a week into it) has been a million times better than last year because of it!

  • At August 31, 2009 at 5:09 PM , Blogger sickzuki said...

    My old rancher grandpa taught me how to catch house flies outside with a jar:
    Drill a hole in the top of a glass jar just big enough for a fly to fit through. Place a small amount of liver in the jar (too much= too much stink, a little goes a long way). I've used a whole chicken or turkey liver, but a portion of beef or pork will work too. Screw lid onto jar and set in a sunny location for an hour or two. Move jar to fly infested area and watch the jar fill up with flies over the next couple of days. Note: if you notice larvae developing dump and start over. As the larvae matures it will crawl out- YUCK!

  • At September 11, 2009 at 10:10 PM , Blogger grace said...

    I consider myself a "relaxed homeschooler" (which is code for "unschooler" with a generous dash of control freak mixed in :) Anyways, I was talking to my mom about what I'm doing with my 5 and 6 year old academically, contemplating the age old question, "Is it enough???" She said, "Why don't you have them do book reports?" Oh, my! A 5 and 6 year old doing book reports! My 6 year old loves to read SO MUCH! Why would I even think of making him do a book report? This is a really good post. I love your philosophy and your heart. You are a blessing and encouragement to me!

  • At September 27, 2009 at 6:37 AM , Blogger Rhonda said...

    Hope there is room for a question.
    I have a college bound senior who has been
    educated w/in this philosophy. In the last two years, I've added some classes (ex., Apologia Science) to give him experience w/ more rigorous
    memorizing which I know he'll need for college.
    He finds it to be very difficult and is not doing well on his graded work. I wonder if I've made a mistake not being more "schoolish".
    Any thought on this that might help me?

    Thanks so much. Love your blog.

  • At September 28, 2009 at 12:53 AM , Blogger Diane Hopkins said...

    I am more structured than not, but I try to keep my eyes and heart open to the child's interests and key off those. But we still do school everyday—put in the study time.

    I think kids have to get into a good study habit, and learn to research and write and think. I require my children even at age 5 to sit and "do school" for a while everyday, using the most interesting resources I can. And the school time increases year by year until they are capable of researching and have good study habits.

    The point I was trying to make was that children's interests can direct your curriculum, if you are in tune to them. But even if I let my child's interests dictate the content of what to learn, I still expect the reading, writing, and study to be put in.

    For your son, I wonder if another approach would suit him better. Each person has their ideal learning medium. I love Apologia, but maybe Biology 101 (DVD) would be more fascinating for him. No matter what you end up using, with him in on the decision, the work still needs to be done.

    I think our challenge is to find the right resource, the product that engages the student and grabs his interest. And the job of a student, obviously, is to study, to put in the time and apply themselves.

    So, I don't know if I answered your question. If being "schoolish" means memorizing things just for the sake of memorizing them, or grueling through some resource that is dull to your child, then I would say, "no, don't be more schoolish".

    If being "more schoolish" means to structure your child's time, and require study and writing and thinking and effort, even if it is difficult, striving to help him delve into his interests, then I believe it would be good to do so.

    Best success!

  • At September 30, 2009 at 6:13 PM , Blogger Rhonda said...

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.
    My struggle and maybe other mom's is to feel as though I prepared him for what is next. He is unsure of what direction he'd like to go, so is planning to start taking his first year basics in college next fall. It's not his passion to do this but feels it's almost his duty.

    My heart wants to fill their days of study of things that thrill them and engage them and reach their curiousity; and there is plenty that can do that......but then there is the memory of my first year of college basics w/ lots of grueling memorization.......and I feel "afraid" that if he doesn't experience that, then it may
    overwhelm him.

    Your post was helpful.....so much of what you have written has been a lighthouse to me at times when I was loosing my footing as a teacher.
    Bless you dear sister!

  • At October 4, 2009 at 3:32 PM , Blogger Leslie said...

    No matter what thoughts, opinions, or helpful advice we get from others, when it all comes time to know what to do that decision is ours personally. It is good to talk with others, to get other ideas and think things through. I also have personal interviews with each child to get thier aspect of how they view their education. I have found that if I write down my concerns for each individual child, write down the ideas I think may work, and ponder over my decision, that I usually feel some fear or hesitancy holding me back. I know that only when I take all the things I've done, and turn to the Lord in prayer, that I have the needed answer and the confidence to live by that answer.

    Prayer is the key! It has saved me and our homeschool many times!


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