I was a public elementary school teacher and instructional coach for several years and loved my job.
I loved my village of friends that I worked with every day.
I loved my students.
I actually LOVED the learning in my Masters of Educational Leadership courses. I aimed to be a principal, and eventually a superintendent.
There are very few days that I don’t spend time reflecting back on that time. The years I spend as a public school educator positively impacted my life in a huge way.
As a 20-something, I entered the teaching world with uncontainable excitement.
I planned bulletin board themes and imagined myself leading students through beautiful lessons that not only challenged their minds, but instilled a massive love for learning. I can’t say that I didn’t have beautiful lessons. I think I did–most of the time. My classroom WAS warm and inviting, as I had always imagined.
I worried over test scores.
I analyzed data until I was blue in the face.
Did my students love to learn? Maybe. Probably. But, could I have done more to embed a deeper love? Yes.
If I would have had the time and freedom, my classroom would have been more student-led and interest based. The interests of my students would have come first and my “common core” curriculum would have been
burned to ashes retired to the filing cabinet. We would have explored the outdoors longer than a 15 minute recess and my students would have learned without bounds.
But, THE test.
The nation’s students are missing out on fundamentals, such as handwriting and social studies, because, guess what? They aren’t tested material, therefore they aren’t as pressing to teach.
So we are teaching our children to take THE test, but not always teaching how their local, state and national level governments work? We are teaching them that THE test is more important than knowing where their state is on the map?
Eeek. These are life skills that our children are lacking when they leave high school.
It IS NOT that I hate the public school system. Quite the opposite.
There are actually a lot of things I really love about the public school system.
I love the relationships that can be made in school.
I love the backpacks, glittery school supplies and first day jitters.
I love the teachers’ enthusiasm and the bustle in the hallway as the kids start and end their days. I’ve always loved school.
To me, the best type of education draws on a child’s personal strengths. Education is a holistic process that cannot and should not be the same for each student. Each child has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, that should be considered when planning and facilitating learning. Most importantly, learning should be assessed in different ways, not by way of a one-size-fits-all test.
After reading through the book, Working in the Reggio Way, it became very clear to me that the style of education that best fit my philosophy, was the Reggio Emilia Approach. This approach is built around “The One Hundred Languages of Children”, meaning that children can learn and express their learning in one hundred different ways.
Instead of a curriculum plan, the Reggio Emilia approach consists of a project-based learning style that uses the children’s interests as a starting place. Because the Reggio Emilia teachers stay with their students for three years at a time, the teachers are able to use their observations and documentation to plan lesson provocations based on the students’ interests.
This approach to learning ignites a love for learning in students, and it draws on their strengths and interests, which then leads to a deeper learning. Teachers are able to observe and assess each student because they are not spending all of their time instructing the students’ learning, and instead they are watching and taking notes as the children build, write, play and learn.
Further research has also led me to also focus on the Finland school system. My goal is to implement their philosophies into our own homeschooling experience. In the book, The Smartest Kids in the World, by Amanda Ripley, the author explores the top school systems around the world.
Sadly, the United States falls behind several other countries when it comes to successful school systems. The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a non-typical test that measures the ability of “kids to think for themselves” (Ripley, 2013). The one country that soared to the top of the PISA results chart, regardless of socio-economic background, was Finland.
In a nutshell, Finland offers daycare and preschool to all children, starting at the age of 8 months. Formal schooling does not start until 7 years old. The Finnish philosophy is to let kids be kids. Let them learn mostly through play and teach them when they are developmentally ready. Obviously, they have implemented a great system that has changed the future of their country in a very short amount of time.
So, with this knowledge weighing heavy on my heart and mind, our decision to homeschool makes sense.
It hasn’t been an easy choice to make.
I don’t take the decision of educating children lightly.
And even with my training and experience, I still wonder if I am fit for the job of schooling my own children. But with each book I read, each research article I delve into, my choice becomes more and more clear.
Homeschooling will allow our children the freedom to learn at their own pace, without any preconceived notions lingering in their heads.
Homeschooling will give my children a teacher who is free to take “field trips” on a whim and facilitate student-led, interest-based lessons.
Homeschooling will allow for time to bond as a family and time to appreciate and learn more about nature.
Homeschooling will give our children a chance to not just learn their ABCs, but to LOVE learning and to yearn for more, from childhood into eternity.
Again, I am not against public school.
I am a proud product of public school and I have MANY friends and family members (who are very dear to my heart) who are AMAZING educators.
Without a doubt, my children could attend public school and have an excellent experience with the most wonderful of teachers, administrators and staff.
However, for us, in our season of life, it is our choice to begin our homeschooling journey.
Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Print
Wurm, J. P. (2005). Working in the Reggio way a beginner’s guide for American teachers. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
Are you beginning your homeschool journey? If you have already started, what did the beginning look like for you? Comment below… I would love to hear from you!