What My Momma Taught Me About Learning

My philosophy about homeschooling my children can be boiled down to this basic tenet: Learning is fun. If we’re not having fun, we are either using the wrong method or our timing is off. My momma decided right from the start of our homeschooling experience that she didn’t want to be tied into any one curriculum or school of thought when it came to designing a curriculum. Being an avid reader, she read every book she could get her hands on about homeschooling, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, learning styles, and anything else concerning learning. She also attended numerous homeschool support group meetings and conventions and ordered catalog after catalog. Our house held books, microscopes, cuisenaire rods, magnets of all shapes and sizes (including magnet powder), books, flash cards, rulers, pencils, books, crayons, globes, maps, books, balls, scissors, glue, books, games, computers, toys, books, books and more books. She never gave me grades. She used to like to say she didn’t understand the A – F grading system – in our school, I either learned a subject or I didn’t. We would just keep working on an area until we fully understood it. If a subject or area of learning was introduced using a particular method and that method didn’t get the concept across, she tried another method and then another and then another until she hit on what worked. I am so thankful for her determination in her homeschooling methods for a reason that may not at first be obviously apparent. I am not only thankful that she taught me “reading, writing and arithmetic,” giving me the tools I needed to move out and do well on my own in the world. I am also incredibly grateful that she taught me how to teach my own children. The truth is that I am one of those strange people who actually likes “bookwork” and tests. My mom laughed one time when I came home from a job interview at age 17. The interviewer had told me on the spur of the moment that she wanted to give me a typing test. “What did you say?” my mom asked, knowing that she would have been apprehensive at the prospect of an impromptu test. “It was fun!” I told her. She just shook her head and laughed. Had my parents not made the choice to homeschool me when I was six years old, I probably would have done fine in public school. I make friends easily, I like working in workbooks, I usually pick up on new concepts pretty quickly.

My daughter, on the other hand, would probably not do nearly as well in a school setting. She becomes nervous in social settings and has a very difficult time playing with more than one child at a time. Like me, she picks up on concepts quite quickly, but where she and I differ is that she nearly has an anxiety attack if you ask her to look at a black and white problem in a book and figure out the answer. When I read the problems to her she rattles off the answers with ease, but put a paper in front of her and her eyes widen and she begins to squirm and I can practically see her blood pressure raising. Because we homeschool we have the opportunity to deal with each of these areas in stages and in keeping with her own personality and learning style without just pushing her out into an environment in which she would have to sink or swim -either go with the norm or be labeled and pushed aside. We have put her into classes at the performing arts studio where I teach part time. The limited time she spends in a class environment here allows her to develop necessary social skills in a way that we have some control over and say in. We keep workbooks around so that she will learn the skill of reading and solving problems visually, but we are also able to encourage a lot of learning that doesn’t involve written problems.

I am so grateful that God put not just the idea of homeschooling, but the concept of discovering learning styles and catering to each individual child into my Mom’s soul when we began our homeschooling journey all those years ago. From His vantage point He knew that those concepts would be incredibly important to me as I began a new chapter of that journey 25 years or so later.

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