Integrating Real Life With Education
- Monday, January 24, 2005
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." - Mark Twain
Is some knowledge purely academic, while other knowledge is useful? We can't help laughing when we read Mark Twain's wry statement; yet, unfortunately, students increasingly share his sentiments today. Formal education is often viewed as a necessary evil in which students are forced to "do their time" until they can walk away with a diploma. Regrettably, when subjects are taught in school, they are often not integrated into real life, which causes them to appear irrelevant to it. This highlights the single greatest difference we have encountered in our own educational experience. We have had the blessing of seeing most (if not all) of the subjects we've studied related practically to life and to each other; this has given us a context for learning, and has made it easier and more enjoyable. Most importantly, through homeschooling we have seen that growth and learning are neither limited to a classroom nor incongruent with it, but rather that they continue with equal validity in a variety of situations.
Perhaps we should provide a bit of background on how our journey through homeschooling began. Our parents did not have any background in homeschooling as a viable educational alternative, nor did they have any plans to homeschool us originally; in fact, our mother was afraid that she might find herself incarcerated for attempting to do so! But at three or four years old, we asked her about the letters of the alphabet, and as we learned those, she showed us how to build words and read simple sentences. Though this could all have merely prepared us for going off to school, as we approached kindergarten age our mom became convinced that she could not give her precious children up to be taught by someone else. And thus our homeschooling experiment officially commenced.
Even at an early age, homeschooling allowed us to combine our studies with development of life-management skills. For example, as evidenced by our early curiosity, we were (and still are) very detail-oriented, and this made us extremely sensitive to prolonged periods around large numbers of people (or other excessive stimuli). Homeschooling allowed our hypersensitivity - otherwise a handicap - to be controlled and channeled, and our home environment protected our sensitive nervous systems as we learned how to live with them. In addition, our parents' constant presence allowed them to observe areas of immaturity/character deficiency in us and address them, which would have been unlikely in a "traditional" classroom setting.
Applying our studies to real life was always important to Mom. Because of this, we were able to see that what we were studying was real life and had relevance to us. For instance, when we studied California history, our parents incorporated field trips to numerous California missions. This gave us the opportunity to see and touch the places we had studied about – causing the history to be more than merely names, dates, and places on paper. Also, as our mother planned each year and chose our curriculum, she looked for those — like Rea Berg's "History through Literature" approach — that captured our attention by incorporating our interests (such as reading); and that made the distant past almost touchable for us. Rea Berg's curriculum allowed us to study books written in the period we were studying, as well as historical novels about it, which engaged our imaginations while providing us with necessary information. Some form of re-enactment was always incorporated in order to better immerse ourselves in the period of history being studied. This trend of integration continued with classes such as Latin. For this endeavor, we followed a course entitled "The Latin Road to English Grammar", which was constructed on the premise that knowing the structure of our own language was the best foundation for understanding the structure of another. Through this course, we gained both a solid conception of English grammar and an understanding of Latin as the origin of many foreign languages. Such studies showed us that subjects and disciplines overlap each other, and having the opportunity to study them with their interrelation in mind has enabled us to apply them more effectively (and possibly innovatively?) in our lives.
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