1 Oct 2010

Learning about learning

I thought today we might have a bit of a chat about homeschooling. Waddaya think? We haven't talked about it for...well...simply yonks!! It seems so long since I've even thought about school. Like about the middle of May. Or maybe earlier. Sometime before we went to Japan anyhow. A very long time ago.

How different things are from those first heady days when I was first learning about homeschooling. Jemimah was just four when I first read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, For the Children's Sake, and I was immediately hooked. It was only a matter of time before googling various permutations of homeschooling/Charlotte Mason brought me to the Ambleside Online website, and there the pattern of my days changed considerably. Each morning I would spend ages pouring over every question and every answer on the Ambleside Online Yahoo Group. And on AmbleRamble. And on the Ambleside Year 0 group. And on CMand Friends - ANZ. During these first few months I literally lived and breathed homeschooling. I ordered and read every Charlotte Mason book I could get my hands on. Like a sponge I soaked it all in. I overhauled our library shelves and began reading Jemimah rich literature from the AO Year 0 booklists. I dreamed. I planned my school days. I was a woman obsessed. Totally. (It's a good job that I didn't know about blogging back then!)

Anyhow, to cut a potentially long and very boring story short, by the time Jemimah was actually six years old and ready to officially begin Grade Prep, I already felt that I was pretty much an old hat at this homeschooling/Charlotte Mason type bizzo. Except I'd never actually done it. Not really.

So then I started leaning afresh. On the ground this time. With my own real-life pupil. And you know, it wasn't really that hard. I'd done the preparation, after all, and as we worked together through Miss Mason's philosophies for education everything just seemed to fit. Jemimah learned to read. She learned to write. She could add and subtract. She was memorising and narrating and singing and painting and remembering. With the rich and varied smorgasbord of a liberal education set before her, my girl was beginning to learn. More importantly, she loved learning. And so did I.

I don't know when it was that I stopped learning about homeschooling and just started doing it. I don't know when it was that homeschooling assumed its rightful position as a tool to help Jemimah to learn rather than being the whole reason for her mother's existence. I do know that it has happened though. And I reckon that's a pretty good thing.

We've had a pretty disrupted few months recently. We've zipped off to Japan. My dear Dad got sick and we wanted to spend time with him. Jemimah went skiing. We toddled off to Indonesia. We still have 8 weeks left to complete AO3, and I want to be finished in six. And I want to do exams because we missed them last term.

It's not going to happen is it?

But really, and honestly, I don't care!! Not even a little bit. Pinky promise you, even. It doesn't worry me that officially we'll only complete 34 weeks of school this year (plus exams, if you want to be obsessive about it).

It doesn't worry me, because what Jemimah learns during official school time isn't what she knows. What she knows, she knows from experience. It's a bit like me and homeschooling. The book work set me up to succeed, but it was the actual doing that made me a homeschooling mum, not the reading about it.

Now don't worry, I'm not about to ditch Miss Mason and become an Unschooler, or a Delight Directed homeschooler or a Something Else homeschooler. To me a rigorous Charlotte Mason type Liberal Education lays the foundation, just as my research laid it for me. But I do know now that that is not all there is to teaching my daughter.

This year while Jemimah hasn't been at school she's studied Hiroshige by viewing at his woodcuts in Art Galleries in Japan. She's studied Balinese dance by attending classes with Balinese kids in Ubud. She's learned about Gamelan music by listening to it played and watching the musicians up close. She's learned about geisha at the 173rd Kamogawa Odori. She's heard Tchaikovsky played while she watched the Australian Ballet dance The Nutcracker. She's flown over the Indonesian archipelago and she knows the names of the islands of Nusa Tenggara because she's been there. She's learned about death and dying through experience of it first hand. She's learned the importance of family. She's eaten in some of the top restaurants in the world, and in some of the poorest warungs. She's learned about Buddhism and Hinduism and Islam, and through them she's learned more about Christianity and her own faith. She's learned about the different races of man and she knows that no matter the colour of their skin, kids are still fun to play with, and they still like balloons.

Jemimah's education has not lacked this year, even though we've only completed 34 weeks of our schedule, because when you homeschool your whole life is about learning. I know that now.

And so while I say I haven't talked to you much about homeschooling recently, I'm wrong, aren't I? I talk to you about educating my daughter in almost every post, becasue everything we do is part of life and learning and knowledge. It's education of the best sort. It's the practical application of the theory that we lay down during lesson time.

A liberal education is really all about living a full life.

And we've certainly been doing that.


  1. Yes! I love this, Jeanne.

    We are in our seventh year here, and I finally realized during summer break that I had been experiencing burn-out. With the fall coming I finally actually feel a little enthused about homeschooling again, thank God, and posts like this spur me on and help get me excited about all the learning that we do - whether part of the official curriculum, or not! Even when I was feeling less than enthused, my kids continued learning - in spite of me - because of the foundations that have been laid over the years. That's what it's all about!

  2. Jeanne, that is one of the reasons you are my favourite homeschooling blog - because it isn't all about what takes place in those "official" hours.

    Last year I miscounted weeks and ended up "behind" when I thought I was "ahead." My sister tugged me back to reality with her question of "So what?"

    Here's to a full life!

  3. Great post Jeanne. It's so true that homeschooling in it's best form is a way of life, a living education. You've certainly given Jemimah that
    this year!
    Here in my own family with 6 children things are a juggling act at times. :) This term I really feel to r-e-l-a-x with the 'formal' learning and to get on with more practical things instead. Today we did a little writing (IEW) but mostly we've been outside in the sunshine cleaning out the bike shed and the chook shed, and preparing the vege patch for planting out tomorrow. It's still learning, but it's not often viewed as school work.
    I'm learning too! Learning to listen to God's promptings and learning to let real life interrupt my plans... x

  4. Jeanne, did you write this post for me? LOL, I know many feel the same showered by the wisdom this post exudes and how alive and close to home your words are for many of us.

    Yes, my oldest girl just turned six and she is learning to read, adding and subtracting, narrates, sings, and does a whole lot of things self initiated, and she seems to be making those connections and associations of ideas.

    Unfortunately, I started this homeschooling thing in the heart of blogging season, and not only did I buy and read all the CM books, and watch the posts and comments at the AO yahoo groups for half a year, but I also have to keep up with the blogs...

    Fortunately, there are blogs like yours that are a balm for the frazzled mom of little girls.

    So fortunately, I found this post, read it, and it was FOR ME! (ha ha ha), and fortunately I'm starting to live my homeschooling more and read less about it!

  5. In case some don't know it, my comment was "inspired" on the book Fortunately, by Remy Charlip. (I'm nuts!)

  6. Love it Jeanne! That was me in our first years of homeschooling too! I too feel burnt out at times - but more often with housework and health issues etc...than with schooling. I love homeschooling, and yes it is learning from all of life!

  7. Nice to see a home schooling post here, Jeanne (wink)

  8. Jeanne you've articulated my experience much better than I could have, seems like I was in the same situation as you except I started when Rebekah was 2 and half so was obsessed a few years more than you:)
    It's starting to settle down but I haven't quite reached the point where I don't get a little anxious when we are "falling behind" in our "school work" but I know I'll get there! Thanks for this delightful post!

  9. Excellent post...my most favourite! xxx

  10. Jeanne - out of interested, are you monitored by the state education department or they have nothing to do with your home schooling? Do you have complete flexibility with your curriculum? What you are teaching your daughter will be valuable for life.

  11. Hi Jo, No, we're not monitored by the State...yet.

  12. Fantastic post, thanks Jeanne!

  13. You're right. Learning is much more than what happens during school hours.

    This is our first year. I have a first grader now and I keep worrying that we're not doing enough. It seems like there should be more to it. I guess I'll find out at the end of the year if he's made progress or not.

    Posts like this one help ease the worry a bit!

  14. Good morning Jeanne,

    I feel as though it has been ages since I have popped in for a visit. I have been enjoying catching up on the past few posts that I have missed. This post is a beautiful way for me to begin our final term of homeschooling for this year.

    "A liberal education is really all about living a full life."

    Amen to that! :) xo

  15. This is right where I am, for different reasons. Great encouragement, Jeanne!

  16. Jeanne, my friend, what a lovely and insightful post. When I first started thinking about hs'ing, I read and researched SO MUCH, and then i, too, spent way too much time on the AO Yahoo groups! Now, after four years, I find I spend more time in the practice of home education rather than reading about it. Oh, I still refresh myself with new research or revive my plans, but I'm more comfortable with letting things evolve and trusting the process more than I used to. And things are better now!

  17. While I'm glad you have had fun schooling all over the world (and how true that is), I am so glad you are home. I have missed your wonderfully candid, wise, humorous posts about life. After 2 years of being in the obsession stage and still a year from the application stage, I am comfortably in the enjoying my "not doing school yet" days. I pray for smooth days ahead due to my prep and wisdom in not restricting education to just books and paper, that is after all what public school is about. That is not what I want for my boys. I want life!!!

  18. Hi there, I have enjoyed reading your blog so much and I have given you an award at my blog.


    Thanks for sharing your journey. :)

  19. Great to have you back, Jeanne!

    I want to chime in here as a traditional school teacher and person on the outside of homeschool looking in. In case it might be helpful to have a different viewpoint and yes, because I never learned to keep my keyboard shut!

    When I taught in State schools, I was quite attracted to unschooling but knew my colleagues didn't approve. Then I heard about homeschooling and thought it sounded interesting too, but had some concerns about it. I actually loved school as a child, and hoped my son would love it too.

    That was not the case. More and more I began to understand that institutions by their very nature are largely incapable of catering for individual needs. Trying to do so nearly kills some teachers. How much cleverer to educate kids in small groups or at home! IF people have the luxury, the joy and delight of doing so.

    So now I am homeschool-friendly! What i particularly like rather than any particular curriculum, is the mindset that Jeanne spoke about here: that learning is a lifelong process and about living a full life. So often I saw in schools where parents handed over complete responsibility for learning to teachers. To me, a parent is the very best teacher a child can ever have.

  20. I like that, "living a full life".

  21. I enjoyed reading your comments "the book chook" :)

  22. Loved this post! I don't seem to have enough time to read blogs these days. But I am so glad I read this one.

    I was the same obsesed woman in the beginning!! I have relaxed into homeschooling and trusted that, on those days where formal school doesn't happen, natural learning has occured.

    You enthusiasm for life comes through in your words. xo

  23. At about age 11 she can just go to University, test out of it all and get on with her life! Lol! Great summary of what she's been doing.

  24. beautiful!

    LOVE this. I love your life and all the opportunities available to you and your girl! very neat.

    amy in peru

  25. You've just affirmed that education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.
    Thank you,

  26. Hey Jeanne, I ran across this CM quote and thought it fit nicely to what you are saying here...

    This year while Jemimah hasn't been at school she's studied Hiroshige by viewing at his woodcuts in Art Galleries in Japan. She's studied Balinese dance by attending classes with Balinese kids in Ubud. She's learned about Gamelan music by listening to it played and watching the musicians up close. She's learned about geisha at the 173rd Kamogawa Odori. She's heard Tchaikovsky played while she watched the Australian Ballet dance The Nutcracker. She's flown over the Indonesian archipelago and she knows the names of the islands of Nusa Tenggara because she's been there.

    Here's what CM said:
    "A month spent thus in gathering the lore of a single
    county is more educative than five terms of vigorous
    school work." (Vol. 5, p. 135 )


    amy in peru


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