Since my lifelong career has been as a professional educator, people are frequently bewildered when they learn that my five children did most of their learning at home until they entered colleges and universities that suited their interests. How did I do it, they ask?
That question and their vocal tone often imply that home-based education must have been so hard! Then I have to admit that no . . . it was just plain fun. The twenty-plus years when our home was filled with children learning were the most joyous, satisfying years of my personal development. I have learned so much from my children, and from each of their unique abilities and interests!
No one learns without making mistakes. Kids who learn at home seem more likely to develop courage, rather than fear of failure, from their errors. They are eager to try again, to look for a fresh approach. They are confident that they can learn whatever they need and want to, when the time comes . . . and if they discover a limitation in their learning spectrum, they are more likely to see it as a clue to their natural abilities and calling, and not as a failure. Unlike the "schooled" child who has been in age-graded classes in which everyone is expected to master the same material, the home-learner comes from a situation that is much more like college a collection of young people with very diverse interests, preparations, and goals.
My children all attended highly selective colleges and universities, where their studies followed their individual interests. When they reminisce with me about learning at home, we always talk about the books we read: the ones they read voraciously to themselves through their teenage years and the ones I read to them all. That was the crux of our home-learning "program." I read aloud to my children at least twice a day, and for at least two or more hours a day. I read everything all the best of children's literature, of course, plus poetry, nonfiction, history, and mythology. Usually the children lay on their beds, sometimes quietly playing with Lego, while I read, gearing the level of the text to the oldest child.
There is much talk nationally about raising educational standards and increasing standardized testing. I do not think it is possible for such an approach to produce the young global leaders with fresh visions, courage, and commitment whom we need to develop new solutions to the problems of such a diverse nation and planet. I hope you take time to find joy and satisfaction in individualizing your family's learning together. And read, read, read out loud! Congratulations - you're doing important planetary work.