November 6, 2013

Avoid Categorization: Appreciate Relationships

Relationships and Categorization
As home educating parents, it's impulsive for us to try and categorize each activity into a particular subject; spelling, math, social studies, science etc.  This is mainly because we ourselves became acclimated to this process of categorization and we automatically try to implement the same concept, even though we often struggle to decide exactly which "subject" each experience falls under.  It's worth realizing and accepting that we struggle to fit experiences into categories because they don't belong in categories.   When we embrace the reality of education, we also embrace the reality that separation of ideas is necessary.  An exercise in sharpening math skills can occur during an exploration of the stars; and writing skills can be utilized in journaling the constellations seen on a winter's night. Curiosity about how the constellations were named can lead to a fascinating read through ancient culture.  These are relationships and the natural discovery of those relationships is so important and dreadfully missing from the standard school prescription.

One summer night can span math, history, spelling, grammar, science and more.  It's perfectly normal for us to make a mental note of what is being covered - it's comforting to many of us parents who have experienced a categorized education; or for those of us who live in States that require reporting according to subject; but it's really unnecessary to draw actual lines in a child's exploration and discovery.   Let the organic development of those connecting relationships be what they are because this is what strengthens deep understanding and reinforces a love of learning. 

We are not meant to learn in categorized subjects.  Why? Because life does not happen in categorized subjects and reality is not categorized into subjects.  We don’t segregate our spouse and our children and friends.  Perhaps we segregate our work from our play and enjoyment… and if so perhaps that is something to think about.  Perhaps the categorization into segregated subject matter is a habit conditioned into us from our years of institutionalized schooling?

Incorporating Everything
Subjects should not be segregated or categorized.  "What’s your favorite subject?" should not be a question we ask or one that children can answer.  Life is life.   So you can follow your child's lead and help find fun ideas and activities to explore the topic, leaving the natural relationships in tact.  

For the sake of practical examples, I'll use Ancient Greece.  Many children become curious about ancient cultures because they truly are fascinating so it's a great way to practice the concept of whole learning.  Here are some ideas using Ancient Greece as an example:

Read about ancient Greece from library books, online and/or watch documentaries (history, social studies, geography)
Read the Illiad or the Trojan war or any variety of historical fiction living books on Greece (history, literature)
Use The Oddessy for copy-work (reinforce good writing skills and a love of poetry)
Explore ancient architecture (art appreciation) or Make a Trojan horse (art, history)
Watch a movie set in Ancient Greek times (there are many good ones to choose from) and discuss the theatrics vs. what you've learned from other sources. (history, culture, media)

Older children can explore the intricacies of ancient architecture (geometry, math, physics, history)
Make Greek foods (cooking, math in recipe and also shopping for ingredients)

Learn the Greek alphabet (Foreign Language, reinforce English Grammar)

Compare the myths to modern religions and discuss the evolution of myth to religion and how humanity and cultures change – philosophize on why and lament on the variance of change as well as how some things remained the same.   

Consider how ancient cultures still affect some modern habits (the use of many Greek terms and ideas and philosophies in our modern society).  

I hope this helps provide a sounding board to help you learn to discover the opportunities in your child's own self-driving curiosities.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share to help other readers discover more.

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