Lacking time this morning, I just want to pull an exchange out of the comments from the Moving the furniture post, and try to continue the discussion here more visibly. It reminded me of a conversation I had on FB with another one of my commenters/friends.
I am homeschooling an 8th, 6th, 4th, 1st, and preschooler. Next year I'll add in the now 3yo as a preschooler. I'll still have a barely 1yo at that time, too. I consider this a one room schoolhouse, for sure.
We're trying to make decisions for next year for high school for my oldest. The thought that keeps running through my head is that "There is a reason one room schoolhouses ended in 8th grade." I want to be able to make it work, and many families do. I'm just not sure I'm capable of adding high school into this mix.
Any of your amazing readers have any thoughts?
Well, my plan for high school has been to try to get my kids as independent as possible before they get there! I figured that we would be spending a pretty big chunk of eighth grade working together -- the eighth-grader and I and my husband that is -- to decide what needs to be in the curriculum, which textbooks and other materials to use, and how we're going to put together his portfolio or whatever it takes for applying to whatever postsecondary institution he winds up being headed for.
I haven't ruled out enrolling any of the kids in a traditional or nontraditional high school, if that is what it takes, to be honest. We are fortunate to live in an area where there are many schooling options, even à la carte coursework at a small independent Catholic academy centered around our parish.
But we are also enjoying the benefits of co-schooling with other families, which has really opened up a depth of learning that I didn't think was possible to organize on my own, because we (the parents) have been able to specialize in areas of personal interest to us. But we're still maintaining the cozy familiarity of being among people who care about our kids and really know them.
I guess what I'm getting at, with all that, is that the high school student ought to be taking on a lot of the responsibility for his own learning. He's got to. He needs to have the kind of self-discipline that most people don't have to show until they are a freshman in college, when Mama isn't around to make him do his homework anymore.
I may be around, but I'm busy with younger kids, you know?
...My oldest 2 are already very independent.
I thought my high school plan was going to work. 8th grade has shown me all the deficits, though, and I don't know if I can overcome them. She needs some one on one time and it's hard to make that consistently happen.
I'm starting to see school through 8th grade as more general and high school as more specialized. I don't feel like I can do both justice. I've long envied your co-schooling set up. You are very blessed!
"I'm starting to see school through 8th grade as more general and high school as more specialized."
My theory: yes and no. You have to be somewhat specialized by that time, because there simply isn't time in the day to do everything, and so your student is going to choose to study some things and not others (or be constrained to do so in order to meet requirements she may meet later).
But you can still be aiming for a strong liberal arts education, which is by definition well rounded and broad, with deeper "dips" here and there into areas of special interest to give a sort of taste of specialization. There is time for specialization in college or on the job.
The proper place of high school is to develop the child's mind into the adult one, and to fine-tune the skills of self-teaching, the "lost tools of learning" that Dorothy Sayers wrote about in her famous essay. The subjects are just the material on which the mind cuts its teeth.
Every school (home or institutional) has inherent deficits, and you could look at the ones in your own home school as teaching tools for learning how to learn -- because identifying and remedying deficits in the resources available to you is a basic tool for self-teaching. I would say, bring the 8th graders into the discussion of what seems to be missing from their environment, and work together on the challenge of restoring it.
There are a couple of different threads here worth picking up. I wouldn't mind writing a co-schooling post discussing how it is that I (with my engineering degree) have so far "specialized" in teaching Latin and History to children, while my partner in co-schooling (with her English degree) has, maybe more predictably, "specialized" in literature and grammar, but also primary-school art appreciation, music theory, and handcrafts. It all reminds me of the post that Amy Welborn wrote yesterday, "Gifts and Talents: Overrated?" To define my mission as "that for which I have been prepared" would be... rather limiting.
But what do you think, readers, about the idea of embracing the "gaps" in the available educational resources as an opportunity to learn how to learn? Bringing the young person into the design of his own homeschool, understanding that no school can specialize in everything, every school of every kind has inherent limitations, and the home school is no different?
(Let's just take landscape as a starting point. My homeschool is in the middle of the city, within easy reach of a huge library system, museums, theaters, historical sites, and parks... but I have a tiny postage stamp of a backyard, a neighborhood where people don't really send their kids outside to play, and not as much time as I would like to leave the city. A rural child would get a lot more opportunities for gardening and in situ nature study, but maybe not so much museum and zoo time, or practice riding the city bus or walking to the library, or even my 11-year-old's beloved opportunity to study alone in a neighborhood coffee shop.)
Anyway, my thought is that as you are approaching eighth grade and the start of high school, it is time to have a frank discussion: What does the young person want to learn? What external requirements must be met? What can the homeschool provide? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How can the strengths be channeled best, and the weaknesses compensated for? What resources does the homeschool have which remain untapped? Where can the parent and the young person work together to bring them to fruition?
I know it's a bit cliché to recast a deficit as an opportunity -- but in the case of the homeschool it strikes me as really true. We are preparing these young people for life as a human being in the world. The world is full of barriers, and human beings are full of deficits. Learning to come up against them, and either work our way around them or live, constrained, with acceptance and humility, is a good thing.