So, there’s been a lot of lead up…
What IS “adventure schooling”?!?!
Well, not to delay for ever, I still must start by telling you what it’s NOT. Sorry!
First, adventure schooling is NOT unschooling.
According to wikipedia, “Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning.” John Holt defines it as “you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an “on demand” basis, if at all.”
So why is Adventure Schooling not Unschooling?
First, I would say that I believe the art of unschooling has its place in home schooling, especially the early years, when we are so excited to start, but overly structured schooling will quickly backfire and kill the love of learning in children. The other place I find it invaluable is when you are transitioning into homeschooling from a bad experience in the public or private school sector. Often kids go through a detox period known as de-schooling where you attempt to remove the “automaton” brain from them and re-insert natural curiosity and delight. At those times unschooling can be highly advantageous.
However, long-term I find unschooling to be counterproductive. Why?!? Well, in short, because of depravity. My children’s? Certainly! My own? Without a doubt. Allowing their curiosity to determine not only what we learn but IF we learn on any given day is dangerous. Because in our culture and in our wicked sinful hearts, there will be lots of days when they and I have no natural curiosity. In an ideal world, we would wake up in the morning excited to learn something new and to add to something old. But we don’t live in an ideal world do we? Not since Eden. So, we wake up lazy, distracted, muddled, restless. Sometimes we don’t even want to wake up. The dangerous freedom of no expectations causes us to roll over and go back to sleep, physically and mentally. Expectations seem to follow the rule of rising to the level demanded, if there are none, we almost always meet them! So, Adventure schooling is not unschooling.
Adventure Schooling is also not delight-driven learning.
Delight-directed or driven learning is generally defined as child-led and parent-facilitated. What the child is interested in or curious about determines the course of study and they are encouraged to research, read, study and implement in areas of their interest and curiosity. THe parent stands as research assistant, material gatherer and overseer of projects, ensuring that learning is actually taking place.
How is adventure schooling different from delight-driven learning? Well, first, I love the idea of delight-driven learning. I believe that is how we tend to learn the most and how we continue to learn long after we are out of school. In fact, if our school/tutors/parents have done their job of making us life-long learners, this is how we will learn for the rest of our lives.
HOwever, I have two main reasons for this not being my path of choice now. First, and the biggest factor for me, I have SIX CHILDREN!! Who, in my home, should get to determine what we are learning on any given day? And while I see delight-driven homeschool homes where each child pursues their own course of study, that seems isolating and still not pursuing learning as a family. So, I wanted us all together and therefore, we would be picking one persons interest over the other 5 at any given moment making it NOT delight-driven but prescribed learning for 5/6ths of my children.
Secondly, I believe, again, that delight driven learning, being how we learn as adults, has its place in schooling, but after you have been taught the structure and building blocks of learning. In fact, you must not only be taught HOW to learn but WHAT there is to learn and WHY you would want to learn any of it before you should go off willy-nilly in learning whatever you want. THe reason we are able to pursue our own interests as adults is precisely because we were given a wide variety of things we were required to learn as children that gave us a taste for one in particular. I don’t know if I like grilled asparagus until I have been given a bit on my plate to try. I may even have to try it several times before I develop a taste for it. And I find children who would love very much to study nothing but cheetahs and snakes for years, later become engineers or preachers. If they were allowed to pursue only their own interests and not forced to try something new, they would not have discovered physics or theology. That’s my job as a parent to push them in the other directions.
Thirdly, Adventure schooling is not strictly classical schooling.
First, I adore classical schooling. With all my heart, I wish I had been classically educated. The rhythm and flow, the natural alignment of subjects with the historical period being studied, the building blocks laid down first, the beauty of the trivium following our natural maturity all appeals so greatly to me that I almost have a crush on it! And I will admit that both the scope and sequence and the structure along with the rigorous demands of classical education serves as my general outline, the skeleton if you will of my plan for adventure schooling.
However, I will restate my struggle over this: I. have. six. boys. I’m not trying to give easy excuses. It’s not laziness or lack of discipline. Rather it’s sheer science. Boys, especially boys all pack together in a home without a single feminine counterpart, build up an intensity of energy so great that we could often light a fire from the electrons sparking in my house. They are so full of gusto that they can barely keep from humming! So, while I began classical style grammar with my 11-year-old this year, and he learned a great deal (he can diagram a sentence like a pro), it was with weary acquiescence that he opened his book, and a review page that ought to take 20 minutes would take 3 times that long because he had no drive for it.
Does that mean I throw grammar out? My oldest struggles with spelling which makes writing difficult and slow. Do we break all the pencils? Give up? No! May it never be! But do we strive harder and more fervently in the same manner and expect magically that all things will come right in the end? Also, a hearty “no”! “The quickest way forward is often back!”-Lewis
Finally, Adventure Schooling is not entirely Charlotte Mason
For those dyed-in-the-wool Mason-ites, you make me trilling with the idea that you have guessed what Adventure schooling is! “It’s Charlotte Mason!” you’re squealing. But no cigar. It’s not strictly Charlotte Mason, though she’s so close. Why is it not Charlotte Mason? To be honest, I cannot claim to be a CM educator when I have never read more than a few blogs on her ideas and ways. I would hardly want to call what I do by her name when I don’t adhere entirely to her methods or ways.
What I do take from her is her adamant rule of sending children outside every day, short concise lessons, rich literature and plenty of narration. We do all of that. And I have found so much freedom in learning how to do as she does, freedom to release my children after lunch to pursue their interests. That’s when “delight learning” can happen with my full approval. However, we don’t learn 4 languages at a time (right now) or any other than English. We certainly don’t study multiple histories at once. Our composer studies have much lacking from them. Sometimes we wing it (gasp).
So, what then IS Adventure Schooling?
Adventure Schooling is directed delight! (see what I did there? ;)) I point my children in the direction I want their interest and curiosity to go, and then we walk the path together. We follow a classical sequence, a charlotte mason schedule, and in the midst chase a few rabbits down unit studies that lend themselves. In adventure schooling we do grammar, learn our multiplication tables, copy Bible passages and our favorite passages from good books, work on memory work, learn world history in order, read rich literature, biographies, Shakespeare and science books. We expect high quality work. We strive for excellence. And we also get really, really, dirty and sweaty and wet and muddy. We wade through creeks, pick up caterpillars, study leaves under microscopes, look at meteorites, collect rocks, test water density, act out history scenes, listen to audio books as we drive to new trails, take pictures, draw pictures, paint pictures, analyze pictures. We build scenes from the Bible, history and literature out of legos, peg boards or just sticks. Narration comes verbally, or pictorially, or dramatically. We’re homeschoolers who are hardly at home (which helps with chore time–if we’re not here to mess it up, then it stays clean),but we can be found most mornings on the porch with coffee and tea and our Bibles and novels and poetry books.
I guess Adventure Schooling, to me, means making learning delightful again. I do not see myself as their “teacher”, after all, there’s so much I don’t know and am learning along side them. I see myself as their “tutor”. I learn a little ahead of them and then hold their hand as they climb up on to the higher step next to me. But I lead the way. Not their whims and fancies, but rather what I know will feed them. We may occasionally eat a piece of candy, but I’d hardly allow them to call it a meal. They feast on the rich ideas that I know will sustain them.
I’m not inventing the wheel, or reinventing the wheel. I’m putting the wheel on my vehicle. I invite you to do the same. Decide what you believe about learning: WHAT one should learn, HOW one learns best, and most importantly WHY they should learn. Why they should at all and why they should learn any one thing. Does it glorify God? Does it drive them deeper into Him? Does it sanctify, instruct, and bless?
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Think about these things.