During those dealings the lady from the Min asked me:
"I have looked back at the applications on file for your older children and I can see that you have made some changes in your approach to home schooling over the years to the point where you have adopted the planned approach for Joseph. I am very interested in how home educators make these decisions and changes over time and I would like to hear more about this. I know that many home educators do change their approach over the years from the time of applications and it would be useful for my learning to hear more about this aspect."
She also asked, at one point, how we would know if Joseph will be learning as he should be.
This is some of what I said to her:
How we will know he is progressing as he should be across the learning areas:
I really have trouble with the “as he should be” part of this because in my experience of many different learning/teaching styles, and many different children I am confident that putting an expectation on a child of what should be achieved at a certain stage is unhealthy.
I am sure you agree that nobody puts constraints on a baby as to when they crawl, stand, speak etc – however I also understand that if a baby was not walking by 2 years old, then something may be a amiss.
When I look at our older children I am given more and more confidence that despite the age at which they learned to read, multiply, speak a foreign language, research, debate, memorise etc – then the learning happened over their younger years – and most importantly that the learning happened WHEN THEY WERE READY TO RECEIVE the learning, and therefore it is remembered.
It’s safe to say that I don’t notice every success and sign of progress that my children make as they can be naturally very gradual and smooth. The progress does not need to be noticed/noted for it to continue – the children move ahead very naturally in their own ways, enjoying the feeling of getting better at something or gaining some new skill.
Of course, big milestones like riding a bike by himself, or learning all the words to a poem and reciting it, or completing a whole colouring picture by himself, or following along with a story and knowing where all “his” words are and reading them out loud, bringing me the results of his workshop project – these things ARE noticed by me, and I celebrate them appropriately with him according to his mood (whether he needs a smile, a tickle, a high-five, a whoop or great bursts of clapping).
You mentioned you were interested in why families might change their learning style over the years. Here are my thoughts.
Above I mentioned the fact that a child will remember things if they are learned during a time a child was interested in a subject – this is the crux of natural learning, and I believe it is why many families go from a more structured learning style (wherein the parent feels more “in control” of the learning, feeling more that they can achieve a successful result because everything is laid out in a specific order to ensure the main points are covered) to a more natural (unschooling/delight directed learning) style.
Natural learning can, on the face of it, seem rather messy, chaotic or perplexing from those looking from the outside, but the depth of learning and the excitement and enjoyment the children have results in much learning being absorbed and subsequently turned over and over in their minds later.
As an example the other day before I could get out of bed I had four little boys in with me. The baby was playing quietly, Joseph was on and off the bed playing with cars, our 8 and 10 year olds were cozy under the blankets. Our 8 year old asked me about Winston Churchill and the bad guy that he couldn’t remember the name of. Then they both listened very intently as I told them about Hitler, and the state that Germany was in after WWI, and Jewish people, concentration camps, gypsies, gas chambers, Corrie Ten Boom, Churchill etc etc. If I had an expectation that everything I said would be remembered, then I would perhaps become exasperated that some of it was forgotten. However, I see life learning as a large number of “jigsaw puzzles” in a child’s mind. Every time the children hear some new information they might taken in a bit of it – or all of it depending on their interest and their ability to take it in and relate it to other information they know – they gain a piece (or pieces) of one or some of the puzzles. Next time the subject comes around they may already have many pieces of that puzzle and they will gain some more and start to see the picture more clearly.
An example of that was when I was speaking about Churchill I mentioned the BBC Documentary “Wartime Farm” that the children enjoyed, and I said about Churchill keeping the hope of English people live, that they needed to believe they could win the war. The children remembered the bits in that documentary where the folks did without things and endured hardship.
Therefore, if I could see into their minds, and I could view their “jigsaw puzzles” I might see that the “WW2” puzzle had more pieces in it since our talk about concentration camps, and their “Winston Churchill” puzzle had more pieces in relation to making noteworthy speeches, and their “Hitler and commanding officers” puzzle had a few more pieces in relation to cyanide pills.