Sunday, August 9, 2015

Little Bites vs Meaty

    There are so many homeschooling methods out there. Most of them have parts that sound good, and parts that would be a horrible fit with my family. Thankfully no one is required to buy into one 100%.

Eowyn trying to stowaway (Or, how many shoes
does one teen girl need for two weeks??!)
    A few years ago the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach was really interesting to me. Their materials seemed so wholesome, and all those subjects those CM moms were accomplishing on their gorgeous blogs really appealed to me. If you're not familiar with Charlotte Mason, a hallmark is doing small bites of many subjects daily. There really is so very much worthwhile material out there we could learn, and they were certainly getting a broader variety into their children than I was.

    So we tried it. I made sure our core subjects were strong, and piled on the little extras that would only be done in small bites, and not even daily! We could totally do this! Look at how fat that curricula list is! We're going to rock it. Just watch.

    Did you buy that?

     It flopped. Like really, really flopped.

    A couple of those subjects we never even touched the whole year. The rest of them kept us so busy looking at trees it felt like we weren't ever going to know deeply, that we had no idea what the forest looked like, or even its name. But this geography reader is important. And so is that Constitution primer. And math drills on top of math time. And classical kids MUST write daily! Memory time! Hymn time! And.... it took me awhile to admit defeat. Full stop. Which of these subjects is MOST important? None of us are going to get it all. I surely didn't in my elementary education.

    We slowly worked our way over to something more closely resembling multum non multa. Much, not many. (Here's a great video of Chris Perrin of Classical Academic Press explaining this better than I can.)  Now, our core subjects are kept rather meaty. We wade deep into subjects and learn them so much better. We know exactly what forest we're in, we know the trails and the natives like the back of our hand, and we are free to explore every little corner our heart desires. We are doing less subjects. We are learning HOW to learn so, so much better. There is joy in the discovery that cannot be found in daily morsels.

Grace and a cousin
    Another change in the last couple years is my kids' educations have become more and more child led. We are still digging as deep as we can into the forest. The kids just have considerable sway into which forest they're clambering through.  Studying English, Math, Science, History, and Language every year is non-negotiable. That leaves a mile of leeway though! Last year Honor studied history through the development of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft. His science was ocean life, weather, and astronomy respectively. He helped handpick the curriculum. We looked at samples and booklists together. He *loved* that set. Even the highschoolers have more leeway than you'd think, while still keeping college's incoming freshman requirements in mind.

    Rather than being tempted to fill up our year with interesting and worthwhile electives, and those fun little additions that seem so lightweight they surely can't hurt the schedule, we're filling up those core subjects and keeping them meaty. The kids are excited (most of the time...) and engaged. They're interested. They want to learn more about the topics they're studying, and it's not because of some lecture from mom telling them while geography is so important to their lives. (Oh yes, I did.)

Slight confession: Those are palm trees and saguaro cacti.
There is no real forest around these here parts....

    For me and my house, we're skipping the many morsels and digging our teeth into the meat.

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