Thursday, December 3, 2009


Well my last post was really just setting up this one. About the time I was pondering these schedule/time-management issues, I read a comment from a mom I've come to respect on the Well Trained Mind Message Board who said (and this is my paraphrase) that is a red flag to her when a mom spends a lot of time researching the perfect curriculum (as if there really was such a thing ;) instead of self-educating to fill in the gaps of her own schooling and becoming an expert in certain areas. Choosing the right curriculum for your child will then be much simpler because you know exactly what you are looking for after having done your due diligence.

As I really looked at my schedule I realized that so much of my time is/was spent researching each tiny step along the way and then looking back and examining every tiny bit of progression - or lack thereof. Now before I start getting cyber tomatoes thrown at me, what I am not saying is that research and evaluation have no value. Not at all. It's just that I have come to believe that what we are doing in the elementary years is small potatoes compared to what's coming in the higher grades. Do I want to spend the limited time I have researching every minute what we are doing now or spend the time filling in the gaps of my own education to be better prepared for those years that are fast approaching? Years when I won't be able to spend 30 minutes each evening to prepare for the next day but will need hours. Years when I will be teaching subject areas where my own schooling barely even scratched the surface of what I want for my own children. Literature analysis, advanced grammar, languages, higher level math, science and more are all areas where my own public schooling did not adequately prepare me to teach my children.

Here is a (modified) post I put on the Well Trained Mind Board as I struggled through these issues:

For quite some time now I have known that I needed to embark on a journey of self-education. I even posted about it a few times and received great encouragement, ideas and support. I purchased The Well Educated Mind, read the first section and bought Don Quixote (the first book recommended by Susan Wise-Bauer, the author of TWEM) and then haven't done much else other than wait for a good time.

I have come to realize that there will never be a "good time". Life will always be busy and there will always be things to compete for my time. For me it has got to be a choice of my choosing between good and better. The things that are occupying my time are good (for the most part) but often not the best.

To be honest, I think it's partly fear that has held me back, too. I am fearful of taking a risk and failing. I have come to realize that while I always made great grades in school I am one of those who validated the system. And the system I was in wasn't great. I, to this day, don't know how to really read a book and engage it well. I am not a good thinker; I am a good doer. College wasn't really that much better - except for one philosophy class my sophomore year. I was never challenged to think and still graduated with high honors.

As far as homeschool is concerned I searched "self education" on the boards and read a post by one of the board members I really respect saying that self education is a much more important endeavor than constantly worrying about making future plans that may or may work, researching curriculum and such. Guilty, guilty, guilty. I am a planner and researcher to the max - sometimes to the exclusion of doing because I am so busy researching! The best thing I can do in preparing for the future of our homeschool is grow myself in the areas where I am weakest. This is not a condemnation of how anyone else is doing things. I just knew there was truth in her post that really hit me just where I am.

Okay, therapy session over...

Here is where I think I am going to start:

I am going to start Don Quixote and work through the other recommendations in TWEM.

I am going to learn how to play chess because it's not just books that I need to work on. I have always shied away from strategy games because of the thinking factor, too. Dh loves chess and I know he'll be happy to teach me. It will be something fun we can do together.

I also am going to work on geography. This is not a thinking thing but honestly I am tired of reading news stories and wondering, "Now where is that country again?" Ds8 has a puzzle map and I am going to work on one continent at a time until I can fill in an empty map with all the country names.

I know that there is much more I will need to do in the coming years but this seems doable for now. I don't want to start too big and then feel frustrated that I am trying to do too much. I know that in the not so distant future I need to study an advanced grammar program and start my own in depth study of history as well.

So where am I now? I am 270 pages into Don Quixote and enjoying it. I feel like I am taking part of the "Great Conversation" that has been going on for centuries between writers and their readers. And Cervantes was a great place to start since it is considered the first novel having been written in 1604!

Has anyone else had these thoughts about self-educating or started on their own journey?



Paige said...

I completely agree! Although Don Quixote scares me a bit. I've been working through books that we will use in the logic and rhetoric stages. I've learned so much and it's a much more effective use of my time :).

Cori Lynn Berg said...

Okay... I want to learn how to play chess too! Let's play together online! :)

Karin Katherine said...

I so agree. If you want to teach your children to have a LIFELONG love of learning...then you need to lead by example.

Great post

OrganicHomeEducator said...

Kudos to you for your self-educating effort!

I should warn you: I bought the Well Educated Mind several years ago and did the same thing, but it got me into a real fix! I was reading so many books, that I thought, "Hey--I should be getting credit for these!" so I found an online graduate school, enrolled in their online Master of Arts in English program, and now I'm one semester away from my Master's degree.

Hello? I was just trying to be a better mother-teacher, and I ended up in grad school! How did *that* happen??

I dunno, but I'm enjoying every second of it, and my kids love studying alongside their mommy! :)

School for Us said...

Ouch! I, too, am a mega-researcher & planner... and sometimes don't get around to 'doing!' And, I, too, have been thinking about self-education.

About 2 years ago, I read TWTM... and I read Don Quioxte!!! I even did it with an online group complete with notes on each chapter, etc. Then, I started the 2nd book...and put it down. I believe it had an affair and I was thinking, "Why am I reading this when I wouldn't even watch it on tv?" Anyway, I stopped.

Well, while at my moms a few weeks ago, I didn't have a book to read and picked up A Separate Peace off her bookshelf. I'm about 2/3rds done. It is one I read in high school, but I don't remember it. I was planning on doing a post challenging other moms (& myself!!!) to read one high school "required" book each month next year.

I also LOVE your idea of learning more geography. I,too, was really good at playing the game of school, but didn't get a very good education.

Well, if I continue, my comment will be longer than your post. :-) Thanks for this terrific post!

cellista said...

Great post! I'll admit I too am guilty of spending way too much time researching and planning when I should be self-educating instead.

Two years ago I was going to do the WTM rhetoric stage recommendations while my son did the grammar stage in ancients but it was so over my head. I haven't had to do serious thinking like that in a long time. So last year I made a goal to read the WTM 6th grade medieval lit list (most of which I had never encountered before) and I have just about finished it. I still have a Shakespeare play to read, but I feel so good about (almost)accomplishing that goal. This year I was going to do the 7th grade lit list, but so far have only finished A Christmas Carol. I'm also working through Latina Christiana I this year.

There is so much out there that I want to study, but like you I don't want to be overwhelmed and I don't want to fail either. I like your plan and I'm so glad you're enjoying Don Quixote. If you want another good strategy game, we really love to play Cathedral here. It's fun and plays a lot quicker than a game of chess.

Amy said...

Thanks for this post. I see myself in it (and the previous post) a good bit. Even though I have taught English at the (junior) college level, I still feel like I'm over my head in so many of the things I WANT to give my own children a good education in. It sounds like I need to purchase The Well Educated Mind.

Pam said...

wow! what a lot to think about. I had never looked at it from that perspective, but it makes total sense. Now how do I go about this without getting overwhelmed?

mom24 said...

It's nice to hear this from someone else since I've been thinking about it recently. I have ALWAYS felt that I got through school by just 'doing' what was required and that I never learned to think. When my hubbs & I were in engineering school, he would take an equation and work with it logically to get to the equation he needed, while I would just memorize as many equations as I could so they would be available.
But I want more for my kids - I've always wanted them to be able to think like their father, yet I find that my brain wasn't taught that way AND what knowledge I have is so dusty. Reseaching seems to be easier to me than actually putting my brain to work and GROWING - lol!
You've got some good goals here and I am encouraged to do the same....

Jennefer said...


I would love to play chess online...once I learn how to play. Right now dh and I have learned a new domino game called Block! It's fun. :) I must get back to learning chess soon though. I'll let you know when I have some basics down.


Makita said...

Well stated! I am so with you - I, too, spend so much time planning & researching that lessons frequently get omitted. I find myself doing too much for others while my own education and that of my children gets overlooked. Thank you so much for your insight. :)

Anonymous said...

Интересно написано....но многое остается непонятнымb

Anonymous said...

Интересно написано....но многое остается непонятнымb