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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Homeschooling With Ben

As an uptight overplanner in love with the idea of unschooling but married to the restraints of a classical education, I embraced the lessons of Benjamin Franklin. His education, initially self-directed and informal after just the barest fundamentals of math and grammar learned during a brief stint in a conventional schoolroom, and later, still self-directed but more formal using classical materials and underpinned with a study of virtues, is, to me, the perfect balance of homeschooling.

At the end of last year, in anticipation of the coming year’s education of my youngest, and to appease the government officials responsible for overseeing our efforts, I drafted a simple curriculum inspired by Franklin’s autobiographical blueprint. There would be a Commonplace Book where Elle could daily record interesting bits, a basic grammar with short lessons tied to her reading, a few classics thematically tied to the historical era under study, and a manipulatives-based math program. Anything else would be up to her interests and enthusiasm. Books were carefully considered and a select few made the final cut. Plans were submitted for approval to the powers-that-be. Materials were collected and bundled to be flown back with us to Australia.

Then plans changed, not the written ones, they were still in the hands of the authorities pending their stamp of approval, but our life plans. We were returning to Australia but only to pack up and head back to the States. Dragging books halfway around the globe only to have them take up valuable packing space on the return trip was a waste, so they were left behind. Now though, logistics indicate we may end up here a bit longer than the 30 day turn-around first proposed, and bells are ringing. School bells. I feel the pressure of the government mandated public education schedule and want to officially begin getting some work done, but, of course, I have no materials.

So, what’s an uptight overplanner to do? How attached to my scheme am I? There are loads of books here to use, but they weren’t part of The Plan. (And let me make it perfectly clear, I have no qualms about changing The Plan as far as the state stooges are concerned. Their miniscule human resources have been stretched thin by vacancies and staff changes; their priority at this point is self-preservation, not administration.)

Elle has been passionately writing in her Commonplace Book... We’re still reading aloud... She’s already had a couple years of formal grammar and math... We're always working on increasing virtuous behavior...

Actually, it seems we’re following Ben’s plan more closely than ever.

1 comment:

Becky at Farm School said...

Sounds as if you're off (back?!) to a good start :)