Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A philosophical moment

Allow me a minute to stray from the great read-alouds and reading material I usually write about and to wax philosophical...

Human nature grows tired of always doing the same thing, and it is God's will that this should be because of the opportunity of practicing two great virtues. The first is perseverance, which will bring us to our goal. The other is steadfastness, which overcomes the difficulties on the way.
– St. Vincent de Paul

In light of a recent discussion on the 4RealForum boards about unschooling and helping your children to learn and achieve in this world, this quote seemed particularly significant. The unschooling method is one where the child leads the education through his natural inclination to learn and discover. [Now, of course, this is a very watered-down definition -- tomes, complete magazines and numerous articles have been written on trying to define "unschooling". But let's use that as the definition for the rest of my essay.]

For me and mine, though, the unschooling part of our school day is allowing the little ones to dictate where we will go next -- what subject or what book or what activity -- after we've covered the basics of religion, math, phonics/writing, and one of the secondary core classes which I choose (teaching history, science, art history, music or literature through a living book).

I can't, at the young ages of 5 and 6, allow them complete freedom to "learn what they want, and ignore the rest". I can't allow them to learn only what they want to learn and ignore the boring stuff. I can't let them play Xbox all day, everyday (although there may be special days when I do let them play all day). It wouldn't be fair to them or good parenting. They need a grounding in the basics before I can "let them loose". Besides, I love this time with them when they are learning the tools to set them free to learn on their own later -- they're learning to read, to play with numbers, and to turn to God when times are tough. They're learning that learning is a fun adventure where sometimes we have to persevere even when we don't want to. They're learning that steadfastness will help them get through the drudgery of learning phonics sounds or blends to allow for greater freedom later.

My job as a Catholic parent is to ensure that I get these gifts from God ready to fly in today's world; my job as a Catholic homeschooling mom is to ensure that I've taught them to love learning but also I've taught them the skills they need to show the world they can do what they need to do to be successful in whatever vocation God has planned for them.

So if everyday I can encourage my children to use the virtues of perseverance and steadfastness to conquer the less fun things then I have done my job as both a Catholic parent and a Catholic homeschooling mom. And we can all sleep in peace at night!

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