Posted in Curriculum - Robinson

Investigating Robinson

All right…I’ve bit the bullet and paid for the Robinson Curriculum mainly so that I can get my hands on a copy of his teacher’s manual.  I agree with his teaching philosophy in so many ways that I decided I needed to learn more about his methods.

That is to say, although I like keeping tabs on what my children are doing, I agree that learning is not a team sport and that the effort must come from within the individual student in order for that student to succeed.  This point was driven home to me recently when I mentioned to a family member that I seemed to have managed to have received a quality education in the public school system.  Her response?  “Yeah, but you were mainly self-taught!”

What she said was entirely true — most of my learning took place outside formal school when I was able to follow and develop my own interests (history, literature, art, science, etc.).  The main skills I learned at school were math and writing.  I can’t even credit the schools with reading because I actually held my mother hostage my first week of kindergarten and made her teach me to read after finding out that my best friend could already do so (I was a wee bit competitive back then).  Fortunately for me, my mother, an old-school teacher, taught me to read using a phonics method because that is what she knew to do.  Thanks Mom!

I have been fairly happy with our homeschooling curriculum choices and have found that basically everything suggested by Trivium Pursuit works best for our family.  This is due to the fact that the Bluedorns tend to recommend self-teaching materials which use short, to-the-point lessons. I have found that to be the most effective approach to teaching my children, and my children would agree that school is most enjoyable when taught this way.  As a matter of fact, they would rather read anything and try to learn it themselves than have me try to teach it to them since that “takes too much time!”

So why Robinson now?  I am mainly looking for advice on how to help my children become even more self-teaching and more motivated to learn.  The basic issue I have is motivating my children to work to the best of their abilities.  With the Robinson method,  my children will become more responsible for their own education and will learn to be motivated through the expectations given to them.  This will enable me to give our little ones more attention and hopefully ease my slightly panicky feeling that I somehow MUST prepare my students for high school over the next year.

It also seems I have been drifting toward a Robinson-style approach over the past year without even realizing it.  To begin with, I am constantly picking up unabridged versions of good books for the children to read, and many of the books I have purchased are actually on Robinson’s reading list (Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, etc.).   In addition, several months ago I scrapped separate classes for history, literature, etc. and just made a reading list for the children to follow.  This would correspond to Robinson’s reading time.  More recently, I decided to have the children notebook their thoughts on what they read instead of completing the actual assignments included with our courses.  This would correspond to Robinson’s writing time.  My reasons for adopting this approach were that I came to realize that telling someone what to write down or making him fill out worksheets, complete projects, or participate in activities does not constitute learning.  Learning takes place when truths are discovered, apprehended, and later applied by an individual through his own efforts.  All the rest is just playing at learning while consuming valuable time.  I am not the first to discover this, as you can see:

What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child — George Bernard Shaw

Teaching does not make learning — organized education operates on the assumption that children learn only when and only what and only because we teach them.  This is not true.  It is very close to 100% false.  Learners make learning — John Taylor Gatto

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon — E.M. Forster

The newer and broader picture [of language development] suggests that the child emerges into literacy by actively speaking, reading and writing in the context of real life, not through filling out phonics worksheets or memorizing [lists of look-say] words — Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius (1991)

I admit I am also intrigued by Robinson’s approach to science.  It seems intuitively right to me.  All we are really doing with science at this time is “playing with it,” as Robinson would say.  By this I mean we are reading facts and information discovered by other people, but we have made no real discoveries of our own.  This can be dangerous because many of the so-called “facts” taught today are actually dead wrong.  At this point, the children are not advanced enough in their math to reason through science proper, and I am not sure if I will leave science as a subject entirely to grade 11 as the Robinson Curriculum suggests.  I may include some lab work before that using The Rainbow, but as of right now, my science plans are under consideration and further development.

I am well aware that many of the resources included with the Robinson Curriculum are available for free on the internet.  That is not my concern.  My concern is learning from someone who has succeeded in what I hope to succeed in.  I am willing to pay a small price for that assistance and will appreciate, among other things, having an encyclopedia handy which does not require an internet connection to access.  It is not necessarily the curriculum but the philosophy I am seeking, which, once mastered, can be applied to a variety of learning materials.  I will post more on how this approach has been working for us in the future but for now I am eagerly awaiting my shipment from Robinson.

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