Thursday, April 15, 2010

Extreme Homeschool Makeover

I've always been a homeschooler (not while growing up, just with my children), but I went through a major homeschool makeover four years ago when I changed from the "conveyor belt" education model to "leadership education" or TJED. (See tjedonline.com if you need a primer on that.)

I have read the 30 page ebook offered at headgates.org about giving your children a classical education. This is one mom's interpretation of TJED and it is VERY THOUGHT-PROVOKING. I would appreciate all of you homeschooling moms reading it and giving me feedback. Keri, the author, basically says that if you set up your home in a certain way, you don't need to do any school, your children will just choose to study, and you won't need to buy any curriculum because they will just read classics a lot. This is TJED to the max. Keri compares children's natural progression to water. Just as a farmer can water a whole field with one skinny irrigation ditch by controlling the headgates, so can a child naturally flow to scholar phase if certain headgates (distractions, cheap thrills, and worldly conveyor-belt entertainment) are closed. I/m OK with that. That's how I have pretty much raised my children so far.

But here's the kicker. She says there will be no school materials in your home, the more you make your home like a home and less like a school. I am OK with no spelling textbooks or history textbooks (we haven't used those in a long time), but no math drill books or manipulatives or handwriting books until scholar phase? Even the DeMilles talk about having McGuffey readers and I know it's not their scholars reading those.

I went to a discussion about all of this Headgates stuff on Tuesday led by my friend Lara Gallagher. She has been mentored by Keri. See Lara's explanation of Keri's philosophy in her recent posts at lazyorganizer.com. I came away feeling invited to come out of my comfort zone. If I did everything Lara and Keri are saying to do this would be an extreme homeschool makeover. This is really getting off the conveyor belt ladies! They say to only have 15 toys total in your home, and no toys that have any "script" or pieces to them. So puzzles and "educational toys" are "bad." Keri also says it's OK to have movies (classics I presume) and the Wii, but no educational shows or audiobooks. You will have to read the ebook to understand her reasoning. She has rules for what toys and activities pass the test as to a proper headgate and what ones don't. They also say don't let your kids go play at friends' houses, unless the whole family goes to play and that Dad should be the only one who earns money, not mom or the kids, so as not to infringe on his role as provider. Lara has outlawed Cub Scouts in her home because it doesn't lead to true learning and accomplishing she says. That almost sounds good to me, I have to confess, since I lost my thrill for going to pack meetings after son #1 became a Webelo. With five sons, my Cub Scout days are a long row to hoe. Lara says the goal is to teach your children to find joy in real activities and real play from their imaginations, not pleasure in man-made activities and scripted toys.

This all sounds very lofty, joyful, and noble in theory. Liberating in a way too, to winnow my toys down. But also very painful and unnecessarily spartan. I like our Legos and Lincoln Logs, which Keri and Lara say are not proper toys. It also sounds very isolationist. Practically, homeschoolers are often perceived as weird and I wonder if they went the headgates direction they would be perceived as even more weird, when these little children proclaim at church that they can't play with such-and-such toys or got to a church activity because it is entertainment instead of learning. I don't want these children to "jump ship" when they are grown and leave the headgate philosophy so they won't be perceived as weird anymore. Just like kids who are forbidden sugar go gorge on it at the neighbors'. Already I perceive a little bit of an "us versus them" between some homeschooled children and the nonhomeschooled kids at church. If any of you homeschoolers out there have older children who are grown and borne great fruit raised by this headgate philosophy, please let me know.

So far I am pleased with how my children are turning out, especially my two scholars, ages 14 and 16, but I have to confess they have had lots of scripted toys (puzzles, Lincoln Logs and Legos, among others) and school materials before they became official scholars.

1 comment:

  1. Love to chat with you.
    Mom of 6. Want to know how you used the Headgates material. I just learned some of it.
    HOw do you do TJED? Math texts? What is your schedule?

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