Chapter 27: Learning by Study and by Faith

The modern day Prophet, President Brigham Young said, “Could we live to the age of Methuselah … and spend our lives in searching after the principles of eternal life, we would find, when one eternity had passed to us, that we had been but children thus far, babies just commencing to learn the things which pertain to the eternities of the Gods (DBY, 249).

“We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it: never, never (DBY, 249).

http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-27?lang=eng

From Whom Should the Children Learn?

Let’s discuss whose job it is to teach our kids. Let’s talk about nature. Here are a few examples from nature:

  • There are always ducklings waddling behind their schoolteacher ducks and the schoolteacher ducks have been taught how to teach waddling to their students, by the government ducks. The schoolteacher ducks are the only ducks properly trained to teach swimming, diving for food, seeking mates, quacking, defense strategies, pecking, preening of feathers, flying and running. Parent ducks are only the ducks who provided life.
  • Lion cubs are always taken from their moms when they learn how to whelp, and put in dens led by schoolteacher lions. These schoolteacher lions are the only ones properly trained to teach the correct standards in being Lions. Schoolteacher lions have specialized tools for the training in hunting. They have been given the tools by the Centralized Lion Government. They are the only ones able to teach roaring in the correct way. They are the only ones given the knowledge of how to teach the little lions and lionesses how to pass the lion tests (of course, they do not know what is on the tests–that would be wrong–only the government knows).
  • Fish swim in schools because they leave their parents immediately and their parents do not swim in the same school with them (because that would be ridiculous). The little ones swim with ocean life of many species, born at the same time they were. They are taught safety and science by a schoolteacher. We learn this in the movie, “Finding Nemo,” wherein a stingray is the valued and respected teacher for many species from the same area. They must be taught alongside other species because diversity is valued and, after all, learning alongside a bunch of others in their own species or family, would be very laughable.

This makes it logical and natural for children not to be taught and nurtured by parents, but by teachers who are trained to teach Federal government-approved standards. Learning from  parents and in the company of siblings is downright unnatural. Even ducks do not learn that way (as I have established above).

The Difference: Never in a Public or Charter School

2 of my kids went to public school for few years and 2 have never been to public school, nor to a charter school. I wanted to write about how I honestly feel about this.

I am so glad 2 of mine have never been to elementary school. My 2 older ones learned things I cannot unteach them. One of my kids feels constant pressure and constantly compares herself to others. She feels pressure to “stay at the top” and to be doing exactly what her top performing oublic schooled peers are doing! My son who public schooled still talks about killing at the drop of a hat, which he learned at public school recess. He also unlearned empathy and kindness. They both learned things like: learning is drudgery, mom’s job is to clean up (like the custodian’s job is to clean up), if someone is crying, ignore them and do your work, kids who are normal do not like their siblings, people must play with kids their own age, and much more, that I have been working on unteaching them.

My daughter who never went to public school has been doing very well in learning and I would say she learned so much more and is so much more advanced than her older siblings were at her age. It is amazing how much farther ahead some can get if not sent to school to get behind. 

Do not take a kid who could learn Items A through J that you want then to learn in homeschool and send them to public school so that they can learn A through d that you want thej to learn and A through J that you do NOT want then to learn and some that you may never be able to unteach them!

As for junior high and high school, my two oldest are now in baseball and softball. They said their teammates use swearwords like crazy and it bothers them really bad. My daughter is also bothered by how immodestly her teammates dress for softball games. I told them ai am so sorry and tood them, that is the way it is in Junior High and High School. 

I think today, I will have a talk with her about doing something bood and brave–asking her teammates not to use those words in her presence. I have done that in my life, and it has worked. People will respect people if you ask them to boldly.

Some people want their kids to have the social experiences that come with public school. I think without those social experiences, my kids will be fine. They have the positive social experiences I think kids need from other kids growing up, without all the negative social experiences I had growing up. 

My girls and I recently went to a homeschooled mothers and daughters retreat and learned a lot of really great, positive and uplifting things in a very social setting. My sons and I are going to go to the same, but with boys and their moms. It is great that the social experiences they have are positive and healthy, and chosen by me. I do not get to handpick which boye and which moms will come to this upcoming event, but the fact that I will be there and lots of moms will be there, helps! 

My eldest daughter just got to go to her first boy/girl dance and she is 7th grade age. It was part of a weekend of learning and socialization with peers. The kids were homeschooled and of our religion (LDS) and they learned how to be queenly or how to be chivalrous. They learned table manners at a special dinner in semi-formal attire. They played games which teach moral and leadership lessons. They had classes and listed to speakers. It was like an LDS Youth Conference, only there were just 18 kids there (plus 20 more who just cane to the dance) and they were all homeschoolers. My daughter laughed, learned and really enjoyed herself. She said the boys were not shy and were great at conversationalism. She said, “they were not how you said they’d be.” She seemed to have had a great experience. She is full of wonder and excitement. She danced with 10 boys. Her experience was very different from my first 7th grade dance.

My first 7th grade dance found me in shock. The music had lyrics that were awful and made the Holy Ghost leave. They music was so loud! There was not much lighting, so it was really dark. It was extremely crowded and I remember feeling a great fear and nervousness. I remember praying it would be over soon. Boys were not asking girls to dance and girls were huddled in groups. Everyone was pretending to have fun, even though I bet most felt as nervous as I did. I had friends who “set me up” with boys who were short like me, because that is what you gotta have in common–height. I know they meant well, but from that I learned that even some of my friends only saw me as “our friend who is short.” My companion dancers and I were so afraid and hardly talked to one another. We did not have much in common. We did not have similar interests. We did have fear of school dances in common! 

I Love That My Daughter Asked, “What’s a 4.0?”

Just now, my daughter found out her cousin of the same age, is in all likelihood, going to get a 4.0. She asked, “What’s a 4.0?” It will be difficult to explain my elation to most people around here, because in my “neck of the woods” here, things like that are so important.

I am an Alfie Kohn fan, and Alfie Kohn does really great job explaining why grades are bad. I will sum it up and then give you a link somthat you may read his awesome and very true essay.

Why grades and grading, in school, are a bad idea:

-Society cares about them, gives importance to them, and does not ignore them. (Ignoring and not valuing them would help a ton).

-Grades can cause suicidal thoughts, whether they are good ones or bad ones. Kids with good ones feel very much pressure to keep getting good ones, because others value grades so much.

-Kids do not see their value the way God does when they see their worth through their grades. They feel like the love they receive is received by merit.

-They do not feel unconditional love when their parents or teachers are “proud of them” for their grades. They feel love dependent upon the achievement of good grades.

-Grades do things to teachers. They make teachers say things like, “If you do not, you will have a lower grade.” The grades make the teachers forget the real reason why the child should do as they ask, which should be, to learn. I would prefer no grades so that thr teacher could say, “If you read this book, you will become more wise, and wisdom is a great treasure!”

-Kids feel like as long as they have perfect grades, they are done with the learning in that area. If they have a perfect score, they figure they are perfect at it and cannot go higher. Grades give the sky, a limit.

-In Alfie Kohn’s book, he talks about a study that shows that kids who get a 3.99 feel a lot worse about themselves than kids who get really low grades, because they were close to perfect but did not make it to perfect. These kids are so dramatic that they feel like their lives have been destroyed, if they get a 3.99

-See with the other perspective for a second, which is my perspective. If there is no “A” or “C” or 4.0 or 2.0, the child can focus instead on learning and learning and learning some more. There is not the pressure to achieve. Whatever is learned just makes the child want to learn more.

-My daughter’s reasons for writing a story now are, “because the article made me want to.” Desire fuels learning. She just read an article in the paper about the McKenzie Wagner’s “Benotropia,” which my daughter bought just because she wanted to read a book, because reading is her hobby. She used to be in public school. In public school, she says, she hated reading. She doesn’t know why she didn’t lie it then. She just didn’t.

-My son loves to learn science because it is awesome. He loves learning about animals, especially. He loves learning history because you can learn about the past because it might happen again. He loves learning about other cultures because when you learn about what they do, you may want to do it, too. My son likes learning math because it will help him with science.

I know to most people around here, my family is very strange and these ideas are so foreign that I belong in a museum of the weirdest things on earth. Only experiencing it would allow you to see how great learning for the right reasons, really is!

I promised an Alfie Kohn link, but I have found a few really good ones, so I will post all of them.

No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning

The Case Against Grades

From Grading to De-Grading

Grading: The Issue is Not Why, But How

The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation

It’s Bad News If Students Are Motivated to Get A’s” (Youtube video of lecture)

Achievement vs. Learning (youtube video of lecture)

L.D.S. Coached Eclectic Curiosity, Interest and Real Life Learning Method

The title above is how I have decided to label or name the method we use to learn here. It is so long that I am not sure it needs explaining. I will, though.

It is L.D.S. We learn religion here. We are in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We use the discover the scriptures series. I spiral bind the books. I like them because they ar fun for the kids to do. I do not force the kids to do them, but they are here when the kids choose them. I invite thipe kids to do them together. They do nit usually choose tim but they do them with me sometimes. They do them together sometimes. We read the church magazines and learn our articles if faith. We talk about the gospel and try to incorporate it into everything we learn.

I am the Learning Coach. I call myself this because that is really what I do here. The kid ps teach themselves. Even my kids are coaches, to one another. They coach each other to help each other to learn. A coach is there to help find learning materials based in the interests if the kids. The coach helps and ansers questions. The coach finds out things, like who is a paleontologist, and what does she really do, by interviewing over the phone. The coach passes on information that she knows her kids would be dying to hear. The coach makes sure internet use is safe.

Eclectic means we use a variety of learning methods, ones which the kids like or learn from best, with their own learning preference, choice and style. Some things, all of my kids love, like learning through music. We are a musical family, singing all the time. My kids all love learning through iPad apps, too, though they all have different faves. I only buy educational apps for the iPad. I get free versions and the favorites, eventually are turned into full versions when we have the budget money. I have many things available, and the kids choose whqt they want to learn with each day. Their interests, styles and materials change with time and with growth.

Curiosity and Interest drive my kids to learn. They learn what they are curious about and what they want to learn. I do not force anything. If you ask me how my kids possibly learn all the academics, I can assure you that they do via their own curiosity and interests. This is the best way. It works best, because when a person is truly filled with desire to learn something, they will do what it takes to learn it.

My kids learn from real life, too. I had to add this, because nit everything they learn, is because of whqt interests them. S metimes what they learn, is not what they seek. If someone in the grocery store says or does something, or if the server at a restaurant says or does something, that helps them learn, that is learning from real life. When they learn about their place in the world geographically, via riding in the car and looking out the window, that is learning from real life. When they calculate things as we shop, that is real life math.

It is about learning and not about teaching. What someone teaches and what someone learns, are not the same. Sometimes, the coach is the one learning, here. I am not always the coach. My daughter loves teaching pre-school. She does it not because I am a slave driver, or delegating. She begs me. She says, mom, please, today, can I teach pre-school? She has to beg, because we have not always used this learning method, and she is getting used to this learn as you will, what you will, thing.

This is our method of choice for learning. We love it, and it changes with us. I might add, I do not give grades or tests. I no longer care to collect and create a portfolio. We do not have deadlines unless we choose to participate in something with deadlines, and even then, if we do not meat the deadline, we do not stress over it or care. There is no pressure to learn grade level stuff. I am “so done with that.” I understand that in iur culture, grade levels are important, so for when people ask, I keep track of that a little. I have been in the past, teaching according to grade level, but now I no longer care. I wince inside, in my soul, when I have to answer to, “What grade is he in?” I do not care. My younger kids do not know about that system. I am glad for it.

What grade are you in, reader? The likelihood that you are not in one, is high. My point.

On “De-schooling” and Me

My friend posted a link on a local homeschool group board. It has really made me think, a lot. Here is the link. It is an article by Leo Babauta. You’ll have to read it, before you’ll understand my blog post today.

http://unschoolery.com/de-schooling

It includes 8 bullet points for beliefs we carry with us, given us by our society and culture. These are:
“Kids should get up early and start learning as soon as possible.
“Students should learn reading, writing, science, math, history, etc.
“Students should be learning at the same pace as others their age.
“They need to learn certain things by the end of high school.
“They need to focus hard and really study and be tested to make sure they’re really learning.
“We need to force them to learn because otherwise they’ll just watch TV and play video games.
“They need to go to college.
“We know what’s best for them.”
I will modify them to what my current beliefs are. They are:

1) Kids can learn without the kind of “focus” school requires, though they will have an even greater focus, when learning things they want to learn. When they are focused in this way, internally motivated, they learn at an exponential rate. I do believe that when in this mode, the “really study” is there, but it is not forced. It is the child’s choice. There are academic subjects that the children will not “really study,” but will learn more slowly, with their own learning style. but they will not remember it well because they simply do not care. I do not believe in “testing.” I do notice, though, when my child wants to understand, but is frustrated. I do notice when their eyes light up, hear them say, “Oh, I get it,” and see that they can do it quickly with little effort. This is how a homeschool mom knows whether their child “really understands it.” It does not, however, necessarily mean they will retain that knowledge. If they don’t use the skills in real life, they will lose them. This has happened to me, with many things my school teachers think I “learned” by “proving it” with a “test.”

2) Kids should get up before noon and we should do the personal, family and homeschool routine, before bedtime. The daily routine includes personal health and grooming, household chores, the learning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my reading aloud to them and reading to themselves. It also includes 2 additional weekly academic subjects of the day (chosen by me). If they do not do these aforementioned, then every day, at least during the same calendar week, I will push them to “catch up” before they can have “just for fun” (not for learning) technology time, or play with friends.

3) I think my children need to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to have good values and character traits. I think they should love books and enjoy their parents reading to them. I think they should do their part in and learn how to clean the house, cook, and care for their family members. I think they should learn to spell well. I think they should have a regular habit of, and enjoy, reading on their own. I think they need to learn math in order that they might avoid debt and so that, with the entrepreneurial hearts they have, they’ll be able to do well in their future businesses. I think they need to learn science, as it is a part of us everywhere. I think that they need to learn to write and to draw, because knowing how to do these will be essential in their lives and will help them a lot. I think they need to know about their world (geography) and about what has happened in the world in the past (history). I think they need to understand freedom and how to keep it.

4) I would like my kids to have the desire to constantly learn and to progress. I do not believe that others their age learn at “the same pace.” I think all people learn at different paces, depending on their abilities and intrinsic interest levels in each area. I do enjoy instructing my kids and giving them the opportunity, should they want it, to learn all of the things that were required of kids at their “grade level” in public school in Utah from 2003 to 2011 (before the Common Core).

5) I want my kids to learn certain things by the time they reach adulthood. I do not have the same goals that the school system has, but I do have goals for them. I hope they will gradually improve themselves so that by the time they are adults, they will know:
a) To have lifetime habits that will help them keep themselves as healthy and well-groomed as possible
b) To be kind, considerate, good listeners, Christlike, wise, thoughtful, polite, honest, true, chaste, virtuous and to have wonderful manners.
c) To have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ
d) To be able to see and understand boundaries in relationships and decision-making; To be able to “stand up” for themselves and their own beliefs and decisions
e) To be “responsible” for their own actions and decisions: To know they are accountable for their own decisions and actions; To understand that there will be natural consequences for their actions and decisions in life.
f) To be hard workers. To be determined. To set their own pace and their own goals. To learn from failure rather than give up because of it.
g) To have been given the “opportunity” (meaning, as stated above, that I “offer it” continuously until age 18, but if they choose not to learn it, that is fine. At least they were given the chance) to be instructed in, all of the things that were required of kids at each “grade level,” in Utah, before Common Core.

h) To be enabled to make and reach their own personal goals as they are on each given day and moment.

6) I believe I need to offer the learning aforementioned, each academic or calendar year, so that if it is that child’s desire (which desire some of my kids have), then they will be at least as instructed as their public-schooled peers. I have promised this to these children, and I must deliver on that promise. I know I will have kids “just goofing off” (with non-instructional stuff) some days, even when I am “offering” instruction. Some days, they will have the eagerness to learn that cannot be held back. On these days, I must give them those opportunities to learn, as well as I am able.

7) I do not believe people need to go to college. I do have the desire to offer them that chance, should they desire it. If that child desires to be ready to enter college by a certain time, I will do my best to give them that opportunity which they desire.

8) I do not think I am “better than” any of my kids, and therefore, do not think “I know what is best for them” in every aspect of life. However, I know I have gained much wisdom and experience in this life which can help my kids have happy lives. I will impart my wisdom when they ask for it. I will offer it but will not force it upon them.

Whole House Homeschool Organization

I have surfed pinterest and the rest of the internet, and have found there is no organization system even close to mine, so I thought I’d have to post this to make my system pinterest-able and known by others.

Some home ed moms only have 1 or 2 kids. The same organization system they use, would not work for me, since I have so many different ages and so much less space in my small house. I don’t have a spare room to turn into a “homeschool room,” so we use many parts of the house.

We use the dining room table to do a lot of it. We have a very large white board (non-magnetic) in there.

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We have a small bookshelf and a portable cupboard for organization in the living room, along with a soft chair & 2 soft couches (none which match another) and a piano, which we also use for home ed. That cupboard hosts our day boxes, with each child’s name on his or her own box. It has 2 plastic drawer caddies with a subject name on each.  It hosts dictionaries and textbooks. It hosts plastic bins for art supplies, school supplies, creme divider folders, paper, notebooks, construction paper, etc. In the kitchen, we have another homeschool cupboard, which I plan to use mainly for learning games and Montessori items.

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I have the “cutesy” school calendar downstairs in the den. (“Cutesy” is a word my elementary school teacher dad used to describe how the female teachers’ rooms. I looked.) Also in the den, I have 3 6 ft. tall bookshelves with book organizers from “Really Good Stuff” on them, which I highly recommend. These keep books separated by category, i.e.: Human Biology, Animal Biology, Plant Biology, (child’s name)’s Reading books (a few of these), U.S. History to 1849, U.S, History 1850 +, Geography, Art History, Math, Language Arts, etc.

I then have the office, which has a 6 ft. tall bookshelf, a computer and computer desk to ceiling, and a 5 drawer filing cabinet. It also has a desk, a tall craft caddy, a short and stout craft caddy, a black table, and a 4 shelf thing, loaded with printer paper, cardstock paper, construction paper, 2 pocket folders, 3 hole wide and college ruled paper, drawing paper, binders and spiral notebooks.
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The upstairs bathroom and the shower downstairs don’t fail us, either. They have our spelling lists, calendars and learning schedule, math challenge, spiritual thought, etc., inside plastic sheet protectors.