The new American fad seems to be start your kid in school as early as possible. The new phenomenon of “pre-preschool” is just… well laughable really. Or is it? As I sit here with a frame entitled “Evangeline’s School” (aka my almost 18 month old daughter) hanging on the wall opposite me – I find myself reevaluating my presuppositions about school for very young children.
I have gone through a lot of inner searching during my time preparing for homeschooling. I knew that every school had a philosophy and I wanted to be sure that I knew what mine was before beginning to delve into any particular curriculum. I wanted to teach with a purpose in mind, not just for the sake of school in and of itself. So I began to inwardly digest all the education oriented material I was reading, meditating on teaching and raising children in light of what the Scriptures gives us and considering it all in the context of broader humanity – that is to start from the beginning of Creation rather than at my tiny point on the timeline.
I feel that worldviews are very important in making life decisions and even decisions such as whether to use this or that curriculum. My “whys” for doing things have always been very important to me. The worldview I started with in building my homeschool philosophy was that “school” has never been a required element per se in raising children or teaching them what they need to know to thrive in society. Teaching and educating, however, have always been a requirement of good parenting (and even bad parenting) from the very beginning.
Knowing that the institution of “school” was not God-ordained and that many people throughout time have done just fine without it, I began rethinking what homeschooling might look like from a more organic and less cultural perspective. Many families I know have drawn the same conclusions and prefer unschooling to any curriculum. I briefly considered this as well, but I soon realized that intentionally educating your children is an important aspect of parenting. Without such an intent I fear there is to much room to teach what you never meant to teach and to neglect that which you should have taught.
Indeed, I began to come to the notion that rather than no school at all I had fallen into a different category altogether: school all the time for all ages. This goes wonderfully with the concept of fostering a lifetime of learning, and indeed that is exactly what I hope to do. In fact, I believe that most schools of thought (no pun intended of course) encourage this particular take on life and education. But my philosophy does differ greatly from two of the main currents, and I will explain how.
On one side of the spectrum we have those who believe that children should learn only those things which they want to learn, nothing more and nothing less. They believe that learning is primarily building relationships and that as a child becomes interested in a topic or subject he may pursue it as long as it continues to be a pleasurable and profitable experience for him.
On the other side of the spectrum we have those who believe that education is less up to the student and more up to what is actually important. In this method children have little say in what they must learn – education is a training and a preparation of sorts that must be gone through in order to prepare the child to enter adulthood.
The former method tends to give birth to more a more lax form of schooling while the latter tends to produce a more rigid and rigorous curriculum. I think most of us who have considered it are somewhere in between the two. I agree with the former on this point: that education is mainly the job of building relationships between our children and all that surrounds them in the world. Here is where I diverge…
Some assume that since education is about relationship building between a child and nature or a child and music or what have you, they assert that you cannot force a relationship – it must be a mutual bond that grows as the two learn to get to know one another and become more acquainted. If they do not get along then it is not up to you to continue trying to fit two unlike pieces in a puzzle, just as you would not force your child to be friends with a girl she is not interested in. And this is sound reasoning as far as it goes.
However, I do not think it goes far enough. Of course I would not force my child to be good friends with a child who they simply do not get along with. What I would insist on is that they are always cordial and good-willed toward that person and that they do not make assumptions about him, but instead seek to come to a mutual understanding with one another. This way if there are future interactions with said person, they do not have to be an unpleasant chore, but rather they will go about working together well enough to effectively and efficiently perform the needed task before moving on.
This is the backbone for my educational philosophy… or at least my philosophy in its infantile form. I realize I am young and have much to learn, but I will learn as I go and that which I have not yet learned by experience I am leaning heavily on my worldview to supply me with wisdom.
From the very moment of conception our children begin to make connections with the world and, I believe, that our duty as educators begins at that moment, and arguably well before (as planning has proven itself to always be a better than not idea). This is why I can empathize with those parents who have come to realize the benefits of early childhood education and consider pre-preschool as a viable option. I think that their solution is misplaced as, especially in the earlier years, children are much better off learning about the world from their mother and father.
Rather what I have done is to begin this process in the home with what I have affectionately coined: Baby School. Charlotte Mason would argue that a structured schooling before the age of six is inappropriate and I do tend to agree. But the decidedly “J” part of my INFJ is horrified at the idea of not charting and scheduling everything always (just ask my poor husband). So if you are as J as I am perhaps this idea will resonate with you as well.
I plan on closely following the Charlotte Mason model for school which starts in Year 1 and one of the curriculums I am utilizing does gives some tips for Year 0 (or kindergarten). But what of all those years before kindergarten?? What is a person to do? So I have developed more years for myself that I am putting in place now. Should babies have structured school? Probably not. Should I have an idea of what I want their early childhood education to look like so I can be intentional about what I am teaching in these very formative years? I think so.
And that… is how Baby School was born in our home. It is subtle enough so that Evie doesn’t even quite know it exists. But it is helpful enough that my brain is much more relaxed having a chart to work through every day. Call me crazy, but it works for me, and if you think it might be helpful to you as well stay tuned. There is much more about this philosophy that needs unpacking and lots of sorting out the hows and whats of my curriculum, so I will certainly be going into more detail about our Baby School soon!
In the meantime, what is your philosophy on education?
P.S. – Yes… the chart does say Feast Day on it because today is the day for Michael and All Angels. Happy Michaelmas to you! So we are taking a break from school today in order to celebrate. How are you celebrating Michaelmas?