My first year homeschooling my daughter, we did school at home. We didn’t have bells and timers on everything, but I did have a set curriculum of what someone else thought every child that age should know. By the end of the year I had changed my philosophy of how children learn and what education could look like. Although I had read extensively before that point, my reading after my practical experience changed. I knew what I was looking for in a philosophy of education. I wanted my children to love learning, I wanted a challenging education, I wanted something specific to each child and I wanted it to be possible with a big family. I knew I wanted a big family and I wanted to start something I could continue. I wanted something I could enjoy doing!

homeschooler reading in window seatTime after time, as I read philosophies and curricula, they would let me down on this fourth point . . . they would not be easily implemented with children at different levels.

Then I read Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMIlle.

Oliver DeMille presents 7 keys of learning:

1. Classics, not textbooks. Oliver DeMille has a phrase “face to face with greatness”. I have read classics and I have read textbooks. I want my children to spend their time face to face with greatness.

2. Mentors, not Professors. I know I have my strengths and weaknesses. I cannot be a professor for every area my children may need or want to study. I can mentor. I can encourage. I can facilitate. I can lead them to other sources. I can sit down with them regularly and review their goals and hold them accountable. A mentor is a powerful part of a great education.

father and son learning at home3. Inspire, not require. I’ve talked a little about this concept. Requiring kills love of learning. It does. I’ve seen it. Over and over again, whatever I do a lot of (and love), my children will try.

4. Structure time not content. I know this sounds strange. Consider your own education, remember being in the middle of something, it’s just getting interesting and a bell rings? Ugh. Here we don’t have bells. We answer questions. We follow leads. We let the discussion take us on a wander. We go see. We try it out . . . or we let it fizzle if we aren’t interested right now. 

This is also why my mornings are so sacred. I scrape out time. No TV or iPads or technology as toys.

5. Quality, not conformity. I don’t grade. Why would I? My older children either have acceptable work or they do it again. They learn more from redoing something than they would from settling for a B- or some such.

Learning at Home

Learning at Home
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6. Simplicity, not complexity. This encourages love of learning. This makes it possible for me as a mother of many. Simplicity allows a child time to think. Simplicity leaves the child with classics instead of workbooks, textbooks, video conferencing and everything else.

7. You, not them. We have all had amazing teachers–teachers who love what they teach. Teachers who study it for fun. A science teacher who still has questions and is collecting spiders for fun. That teacher. I want to be that teacher for my children. Instead of preparing lessons, I want to prepare myself. I want to be learning. This is the key, in my experience, to prevent burnout. When I’m learning, I’m enlivened. No matter what I’m reading and learning, my children learn. They learn that education doesn’t stop. They learn that it’s fun and important and will always be a part of their lives.

Pondering and applying these keys in our homeschool has changed our lives.

About Britt Kelly
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.

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