Label me...if you can!

Conversing with Heather about our experiences taming this wild horse we call homeschooling, different names, concepts, terms, philosophies, labels and endless words populate our thoughts while preparing lunch for the children, tending to their needs and cries, listening to their pretend play and observing them wearing their winter clothes in the Texan fall because they are packing for Australia, conversations held before and after our little "school", and heard mixed with their voices, songs and play.

Why do we name things? Why do we label people? We need to use concepts to understand the world around, to identify, to state we belong or not, to explain how we life LIVE, what we believe, how we act. There are however different ways of labeling. We can label with respect, to learn, to search, to dig deeper and discern, or we can label to diminish, ridicule, chastise. And both ways we can do it openly or subtly.

There has been an interesting discussion lately about being a "living math drop out" that Love2learn2day resumes in this post, and that has also boiled in my head along with the thoughts on who I am, who we are in this homeschooling ocean.

Take the label WEIRD, in our family weird is a compliment, but specially if I beat you to it, I like it less if you tell me I'm weird meaning more than peculiar, unique, distinctive. Some call homeschoolers weird because we swim against the current, because our standards are not mainstream.

In the homeschooling spectrum I could venture that there are the unschoolers who try to say yes to everything the child wants as much as they can (as a friend who has read about unschooling was telling me) and do not use any curriculum or anything that resembles school but who live very close to their children to take advantage of their interests and to respect their paces and their own development, to the families that follow the more traditional idea of school as close as they can from the curriculum to the schedules and understanding of what education is. And here is where one has to be careful, I have my own biases and opinions about those ends, but it will be preposterous to think that all the families live on one or the other edge of that line. Most find ourselves some place in the middle with more affinity to one or the other philosophies in the extremes. We usually move in that line at different times in our life.

Being totally honest, my husband and I agree in our dislike of the term unschooling. We ARE NOT and WILL NEVER BE unschoolers, we proclaim. Yet I have a friend who declares herself such and I see they are engaged in different projects, they attend different classes, and they are learning as the more strict worksheet and text book worshiper claims to be. What we don't like it's the fact that in our eyes many of those who declare themselves unschoolers are to us very permissive, and again this may very well be our bias for there are ideas, principles, and I'm sure, families, who thrive on this philosophy. Being bleeding honest, many of these families who unschool seem to us to be atheist, and we are not, so our inclination is toward a philosophy of education that we believe is more harmonious with those who, like us, have the Scriptures as our anchor.

What about Charlotte Mason. She has not fail me up to today, but I may have failed her. Am I then an unorthodox Charlotte Mason type of educator? I can't say I follow all I should to perfection, but still her methods and principles are what I favor and try to implement. My friend Cori is experimenting with Waldorf now, I felt a bit tempted to look into that, but I have retrieved to Charlotte Mason. I´m seeing fruits in my girls, and it´s where my heart and mind are. Even though I haven´t read her six volumes front to back yet, even though I´m taking baby steps with nature journaling, even though we haven´t done much artist study...I´m still committed to time outdoors, nature walks, NARRATION, reading the Scriptures, HABIT FORMATION (my ongoing battle), though we read books that probably will be considered twaddle, I´m still putting all my marbles on the wholesome literature, I plan to start with AO year 1 next fall with my oldest, and I have this year to continue working toward a CM education, even if we look like pitiful impostors at times.

When my oldest was three and I contemplated what way to homeschool, I used to look down on some homeschooling families because I did not think they were structured enough, serious enough. Today we have curriculum and don't have curriculum (like schools have, I have the easiness and confidence to make my own), we have structure and we don't have structure (we do have things we do each and every week, but we don´t have a schedule written to the minute, nor even to the hour), we have lessons and we don't have lessons (at home they can be learning on Saturday morning, or Tuesday evening. We do things in the morning but usually some of the best learning moments happen at random though we don´t only depend on them. For my sanity I´m starting to devote some time to "work" on things but if there is a possible nature walk or activity outdoors I leave the books on the kitchen table). A lot of who we are I'm afraid lays in how we "sell" ourselves. I can post (and I have that post in draft and doubt I'll publish it) with many nice pictures and tell you all we have been busy doing, and it can look quite impressive, I assure you. And it's not that we work non stop, neither that we don't do anything. But whatever we do, if I take some pictures and write about it, it may look quite overwhelming. Many a mother may read, look and cry profusely at that type of post, feeling herself a failure as I do sometimes when I see those wonderful posts full of books, curriculum, learning moments, accomplishments, etc. Some are my friends blogs, that is why I don't take it as bad because I know they are human, LOL, then I remember that the others are human too, so I breath again and stop sobbing. After all, one of the joys of homeschooling and blogging about, it's to be able to record those great moments, to reflect about all the learning, to have a picture and written record of what we do, and you then discover we WORK AND WORK SOME MORE.

Back to the labels and the question, who am I? I don't know, but I'm going to have the boldness of describing some of you, friends:

I see Jeanne  as a unique Australian Charlotte Masoner, her blog about her life and adventures with her family and daughter whom she homeschools are fascinating, Heather, she is this mom I want to be in my second life as a homeschooling mom, she has this exceptional insight to know how to gently guide her children, and create the perfect atmosphere for learning to occur. She likes Charlotte Mason and John Holt, and reads books from the Ambleside list and OUT of the Ambleside list too, she reads MANY books, including The Story of the World by Wise-Bauer and some that are just fun, so I can't describe her either. Amy in Peru is an extraordinary Charlotte Masoner too with a great sense of humor and practicality, the best tutorials for nature study, hymn study, composer and artist study, math, phonics, you name it! right now she is in KINDLE mood (I'm so jealous), Ellen is a mix of classic education and Charlotte Mason, very bookish, classic and solid, but with a great dose of outdoors too, Bloosom is an eclectic homeschooler with a Charlotte Mason desire that shows more than she credits herself for, Joy...I don't know how one would label her, you should check her blog and decide yourself, she also has the BEST curriculum guidelines and recommendations, and her son and daughters, specially the oldest, have an out of this world talent (if the mom had not her own share, soon her daughters will surpass her...sorry Joy ;-) Jimmie is...Jimmie, a fantastic mom who homeschools in China with an incredible wealth of knowledge and unique mix of curriculum and resources, Nancy, she is Charlotte Mason perfection, when I read her blog I always remember why I was drawn to her in the first place, she rekindles my passion for CM every time, Pam, wow, she is strong, generous, and she never gives up, also a Charlotte Mason person with this gift for sketching, great inspiration to read about her days, her worries, her solutions, Jamie has this capacity to adjust to the always changing and challenging circumstances in her household with her two daughters, the one you want to read when confronted with dilemmas such as hybrid school, adoption, etc. Cori, Cori is another mom that will inspire you, she travels the main philosophies of education like a explorer, camping here and there, sharing and discovering new lands where Charlotte Mason co exists with Waldorf. For her philosophies come second, her tailored education for her boys come first. She truly makes that maxim of making curriculum your slave a total truth.

And finally us...I think we are the Charlotte Mason aspirer type of homeschoolers. We start as Charlotte Mason and end up as...I don't know very well yet, stay tuned, I hope we end up as stronger Charlotte Masoners, but I don't know if I've laid down the proper foundation to make it work (I hope so), I'll tell you about it in the future. What I DO know is that many things are going great, some need attention, and some will stay and some will leave. And that we will continue doing our best to obtain that label that says LIFE LEARNERS.

14 opinion(s):

No Ordinary Me said...

Very thought provoking post. I have no idea what I am. I am probably a little eclectic, with mostly a traditional text approach. I can post pictures and write about all our activities and workbook learning, but we have days where I chuck it and we just draw, walk and play outside. Days I just read on the couch and we just play.

You can easily get dicouraged when looking at some blog posts and think wow. But I try to be very open about my bad and good days.

I am learning to become more relaxed. It is a process. God, is really taking me down a different path that is changing my outlook on homeschooling. It is a good path but a hard path for someone like me who is overcoming that fact that I am not PERFECT! Hahaha! I am kidding. I am learning at this. We all are!

Silvia said...

No Ordinary Me: it's a process, to find who you are, where you stand, it's scary to think you may damage your children forever...but that's not the case, believe me, even if as you say you don't go by the book every day. You are very intentional, very devoted, very committed, and keep in mind that homeschools are different than schools, though you don't have to give up the textbooks or the flexibility either. The life you are modeling to your children is their best school, as for the academics, they will get them too. The best way for them to learn is for YOU to be a learner, and you are one. Very sweet mom and very smart too, I'd say PERFECT, ha ha ha, but we know only HE IS.

Silvia said...

One more thing, CHECK CHRISSY at Enriched Living . She is also a mom who tells you her life with three great children, her questions and findings about curriculum and the whole homeschooling 'business' LOL, her reflexions about many things, and with great ideas for a frugal life too.
(I didn't include you in the list because for a while you were private ;) I'm glad you are back to public.

Joy @ Five J's said...

The subject of 'labeling' has come up recently with my kids. The unofficial rule in our house is that we don't do labels if possible. By labeling ourselves we somewhat give up our freedom to express ourselves.

For example, politically I lean Libertarian, but I'm not going to call myself a Libertarian because I don't want their platform to define what I believe. I'm independent (read: stubborn), so I'm going to be unique and leave the labels for someone else to use. :)

Excellent post, Silvia!

Silvia said...

Thank you Joy, from another independent :) I'll say that I see your family too rich to fit a mold. And I see many 'bad intentions' when labeling, but sometimes labels are just crutches or points of reference that help us while we are growing our own wings. But as you say, definitely, labels constrain, labels leave more outside that they include.

Books For Breakfast said...

Oh, I like Joy. I detest labels. I understand what you mean Silvia about labels that order our world, plant and animal classification and so forth. But when we slap labels on people - snob, slob, lazy, smart, slow, homeschooled, unschooled - I think it is a way for us to decide what is and is not worth our time. If we put someone in the unschooled "camp" and know it is not for us, we can too easily dismiss them. I feel this nearly every time I am among a group of homeschoolers. For the homeschooling crowd, cirriculum choice is what the preschool topic is for those who choose the traditional school. I've become to feel excluded in both groups.

People know vaguely that we are "unschoolish."
Most people, all they know of unschooling is that TV clip from months back showing the teens playing video games. Is it fair to look at my kids and assume that we watch tv all day with breaks to play video games, because of a very biased tv show? They see that, know it is not for them, then dismiss us on those grounds, never asking how it works in our home.

I haven't taken the leap headfirst into unschooling. I still love Charlotte Mason's ideas. It may be that as you say, Charlotte Mason did advocate an unschooling experience for the preschool years. When my oldest is seven, we will see where we are and adjust as necessary. But truthfully, if when we are there and what we are doing still works, I can't see that I would fiddle too much with it.

Unschooling doesn't have to mean undisciplined, unruly, uncouth, or unchristian. I see many elements of unschooling in our home, but none of the other adjectives apply. We discipline in a way that would horrify John Holt. I do believe children need discipline. But I do believe that if we do not consistantly model the behavior we want our kids to exhibit, the discipline can be detrimental. For example, if I am consistantly whiny - about lack of sleep, lack of alone time, my dirty house - but I discipline my daughter for being whiny, I become a hypocrite. Kids can see that. I need to work on my own behavior, be honest about my behavior while I work with my daughter on hers.

But we do discipline. We also have certain things we do every day. Baths, brushing teeth, helping with breakfast cleanup, making up beds, reading from the Bible. These things I am unwilling to compromise on. Because they fall under character training, something that is very much a part of parenting in our home.

And we are Christian. Firmly so. And conservative to boot. We believe that the Bible is complete and God breathed. How's that for the unschooling mould? The beauty of homeschooling is one does not need to take on all aspects of an idea or method. Take what you want. Leave the rest.

Silvia, you are dear to me. I am not laying blame at your feet. You have taken time to get to know me and my kids, something many homeschooling people I know in person have not bothered to do. I think you are someone who seeks to connect with people, even if you would not necessarily adopt their customs, ideas, and such in your own home.

I am so thankful God has brought our families together.

Books For Breakfast said...

Wow, just realized how much I wrote. So sorry.

Silvia said...

And I enjoyed every single word. You have a very wise point of view. I'm glad you brought all those aspects of unschooling and took the time to explain your thoughts in the comment.
THANKS. And yes, I specially appreciate these words from you: The beauty of homeschooling is one does not need to take on all aspects of an idea or method. Take what you want. Leave the rest. Thank You again for stopping by and writing so well. I agree that the program you mention gave unschooling a bad name. I may or may not continue with my approach in the future, as you say, whatever is that works for each home is the key.
I'm also very thankful for having you and your family in our life, it's been an enriching friendship and we are enjoying every single moment of our time together.

Silvia said...

...and don't apologize for the length of the post or for expressing your opinions in a passionate way. I do the same, and it is not my intention (like it's not yours) to offend people. Disagreeing is great, it should be more part of our life. We are in a time in which if I tell you I do something different in regards to raising children, nurturing, teaching them, people get so easily offended. I'm also guilty of taking things personally at times, but I try to remember that when I or someone disagrees, we are not necessarily saying we are better than the other person, or convince the other person to adopt our customs...but that's for ANOTHER post, LOL.

Ellen said...

Silvia, fabulous post! Very well thought out and presented. (And thanks for all the blog links -- yippee!) Your last sentence really hit the nail on the head for me: life learners. That's what I am and also what I'd like for my girls to be.

Silvia said...

Ellen, you spoil me. I feel so pampered being liked so much by an English major (and even by Joy, "a grammar nazi" as she describes herself). I know my grammatical and spelling mistakes are well overlooked by all of you and I'm thankful for you being forgiving.
Yes, life learner is what you are, and what your daughters are growing into, no doubt.

Silvia said...

I just realized I wrote "to explain how we life" argh, English is kilin mi.

Amy in Peru said...

wow. you are too nice to me. always. thank you though for the shining review! :)

I too am ever growing! It is such a fun process! It is all SO interesting. I agree it is difficult to 'label' perfectly because we are all such a mix! but certainly there is a place for general categorizing :)

I love AO, and CM. I am a devotee. ;) Not because I want to be in that label, but it's what keeps me... it's SO natural, so wise, so good! ;)

thanks for making us think.

amy in peru

Silvia said...

Your welcome, Amy, I mean every word. You are an incredible mom and friend. I've learned a lot with you and I agree with your view of CM, as you say, it's SO natural, so wise, so good


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