Monday, July 18, 2011

Dictating School Time versus Interest Lead Learning or Am I a Dictator

I can't count the number of times I've run into the attitude that classical homeschooing kills the joy of learning.   One school of thought in homeschooling is that as homeschoolers we have the chance to let our children follow their interest and requiring them to do otherwise will kill their joy of learning.   Those who dictate learning will raise children that never learn the joy of learning, or so the theory goes.   Children whose learning is dictated to will grow up shunning  learning because as children they didn't learn how to learn for themselves.  

I dictate school time for littles (until about age 9 or 10).  I teach reading, spelling, handwriting, math, science, history, manners, and whatever else I think my kiddoes need to learn.   But I do make sure that school time is no more than a few hours at that point, so my littles still have lots of time to follow their interest. I found it fascinating that my kids many times use that interest lead time to continue processing the learning that occurs during dictated  school time.   

I would watch as they play-acted the Story of  the World chapter we had read during school time. They often repeated the science experiments over and over just for the joy of the discovery.  At that age interest often grows out of the things learned in school time.

At about age 10 my kids have a bit more say in what they read and study in science and history. I still dictate the outline of what will be learned, but I also focus a bit more on their interest in my planning. Now that school begins to take up more of their time hours and hours of playtime is a thing of the past. So it seems fair to include their interest in what I dictate. I have to remember to be flexible as their interest are quite changeable. Susie loves fantasy books for the first three months of the school year, but than her interest shift more towards mystery. I try to keep in mind that plans will most likely need to change as the year progresses. That doesn't mean that we only read fantasy or mystery, but rather that I choose books from my list of classics that lean more towards that genre. I follow the same pattern with our history and science focus.

My youngest daughter is very interested in fashion while my oldest son is more interested in the battles that took place, so their history studies cover the same time periods and countries in different ways. At this point what they study is still dictated, but how they study it begins to become more interest led.

In high school things change again. My kids know what they need to do to graduate. That is dictated to them by me and the state of California.   They make the choices of how to meet those dictates. Two of my kids have decided to go to an actual high school. They chose to give up the flexibility of home education for the opportunity to fulfill those graduation dictates in a more traditional setting.   My oldest who graduated this past year had me as a teacher his freshman year and then chose to take classes at the community college and through an independent study program. He learned how to work within a system that dictates certain requirements while still following his interest. He chose which maths, sciences, languages met those dictates. He chose where to volunteer to meet the dictates required to graduate. He choose a very different path than I would have dictated, if I had been dictating every class he took. Thank goodness for that because what he chose helped him to discover his strengths and weakness and to decide what he wants to pursue in college and beyond.

High school is a time for my children to realize life dictates certain things, but it is up to the individual to determine how those dictates will be met.

So I suppose homeschooling in my home begins with dictating in hopes of  producing kids that have a wide range of interests and knowledge to draw on throughout their lives.

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  1. I appreciated this post. We are a classical family, but I do like to let my children veer according to their interests. It is definitely a balancing act!

  2. Good post. I agree. I'm not 100% classical but lean that way, and I dictate most of my son's learning for now. In my experience it's had a very positive effect; he spends his free time learning on his own accord!

  3. Hmmm...I know that I'm in the minority with the homeschoolers in and around my town. We're more traditional homeschoolers with a little Charlotte Mason. *I* choose curriculum based on what I feel will work best for each child, but as they get older I do ask for suggestions or what they would like to learn or change. And they also have some say what extracurricular activities they participate in (unless I believe it will benefit their learning, meet state requirements or fill a gap in our learning). It's interesting how everyone's experience is different!

  4. I really appreciate you homeschooling philosophy. Thanks for sharing and inspiring me.

  5. "Hopping" over to visit from the HHH. :-)

    Thanks for the thought provoking post! I know all of us struggle with what to teach or how to teach it.

    I am an eclectic homeschooler, I think, lol. :-) I choose curricula according to each child's strengths/needs, but I also try to incorporate units or materials that I know they are interested in. For example, our 9 year old son wants to be a vet someday, so when looking through Apologia's science offerings, I chose the Land Animals for this coming year. He is already chomping at the bit to get started.

    Kudos for your children's successes. They certainly speaks volumes for your educational philosophy and your homeschool!

    Have a blessed day,
    stop by and visit my blog at:

  6. I appreciate this post as I am struggling with this issue. Of course I don't want to stifle their natural desire for learning but I always want them to be able to learn necessary things even if it doesn't necessarily "interest" them.

  7. I like this post. I often wonder if I am doing right by my kids when I dictate their learning, espescially if they complain. I want them to love learning, but I also know they aren't mature enough yet to make wise educational decisions at their ages (5 and 6). I will need to think on this more. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hmm well I guess I am probably more classical than not. If I let my kids choose what they wanted to learn they would never do math, or language arts. I can not see getting anywhere in life without having those two subjects. I am a strict Math, Reading, and Writing teacher. Those things always come first. I am way more lenient with Science, History, and Art. I do choose three reading books each year that my eleven year old must read. He then can choose the remainder of his reading books. I also insist on book reports to show he actually read the book. While I can ease into harder math and writing, I will never let them choose how to or not to take them, it just won't happen. It is still way more relaxed and laid back than public school. Plus I do not assign homework, LOL!

  9. This was a great post...I whole-heartedly agree! I am a more CM follower (method-wise) with a classical list of stuff I want to introduce but an unschooler spirit. So we also spend a couple hours a day doing what I "dictate" and then spend some time allowing them to follow interests. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive from each other but can live in a beautiful harmony. THAT is the joy of homeschooling...that WE get to decide which way is best!!!


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