I call this post my “developing educational philosophy” because, guess what? I am still learning! This one idea though, of letting connections to material come naturally and organically has been on my mind for a bit, so I wanted to share my developing thoughts. Feel free to check back in at a later date to see if it is still working!
This week we learned the “major groups of invertebrates”. For my 4 year old, that basically meant learning “some animals don’t have bones! And here are a few examples!” I didn’t check out books about invertebrates from the library, I didn’t even make an art project about worms or snails or octopi (though that would be simple and fun!). We just learned that such animals exist and sang a silly song to help remember their names. We drew, and we read books, but they didn’t necessarily line up with what we were learning this week.
But then, on our (totally normal, every day routine) stroller run this morning, we stopped by a garden and saw these big fat monarch butterfly caterpillars! It was actually my first time ever seeing one! And the girls too. They loved them, they counted them (there were 3), Elizabeth’s favorite was the “baby” caterpillar. And I casually mentioned, “caterpillars are arthropods!” And she knew what I was talking about. How is that for “lesson planning?” 🙂
A more veteran homeschooling mom than myself wrote a blog post about this and was encouraging her readers to not stress about correlating every little piece of memory work. It was great, because I think I may have read it right after searching aimlessly through lists of “picture books that correlate with week 1” somewhere. Hehe.
In her several years of home schooling, she watched her kids make connections EVERYWHERE! On vacations, at the grocery store, in books and movies. She didn’t sit down and say “now, what history channel video do I need to show this week to perfectly line up with our studies?” She just allowed them to continue with whatever educational programming or experiences they enjoyed and marveled at their ability to tie it back into what they were learning ON THEIR OWN. Wow!
Elizabeth comes across something she learned in Classical Conversations – watching Team Doki on Netflix, reading her children’s bible, or just going about normal life – and she will come running to tell me “MOM! Team Doki said they are going to the Mediterranean Sea!!!!” (Week 1 geography). We read about Moses and the Israelites and she perks up when she hears “Red Sea” or “desert wandering.” (geography and timeline)
The beauty is, I don’t have to spend a ton of precious time, with a bunch of guides and calendars in front of me, to plan out when to study what. We follow our CC information week by week, and when the connections come, they come! Does some of it go right over her head? Yes, but a lot sinks in too! Is it bad to make out detailed lesson plans? No, BUT if they are stressing you out… maybe see how it goes just sticking to the memory work and letting the rest fall into place. Will this work forever? Maybe not? Come later years, when she is older and ready to delve deeper, maybe I will need to adjust… but maybe she will just keep reading the books that interest her, and doing the art she enjoys and as she studies she will ON HER OWN connect the grammar and vocabulary to the world around her. We will see!
My philosophy might have a bit of an “unschooling” feel – yet at the same time, the Classical model is often thought of as rigid. For me, it’s the best of both worlds! I have a set curriculum, I am not grasping each week for what to teach, but I also let the connections come pretty organically, instead of stressing about presenting everything exactly in sync, week by week.
One more example. So, we actually learned about animal cells two weeks ago, in cycle 1 week 3. I didn’t do any fancy experiments or models that week, we just looked at pictures of cells and learned the words. Then this week, we got around to plopping an egg in vinegar, watching the shell dissolve (chemistry!) and recalled what we learned about cell membranes! I also mentioned the word “osmosis” but I don’t think it stuck. Really, it’s just cool to see an egg with no shell. 🙂 And that’s OKAY! Every science demonstration doesn’t have to line up perfectly with what you are doing! EVERYTHING is either preview or review. Don’t stress. It works!!
For more encouragement in this idea of keeping learning experiences simple and restful, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie is an excellent read. I gained a lot of confidence in my teaching philosophy by reading her home schooling story.
And for additional book recommendations, check out my “Books I Love” page 🙂