Livingmath.net

Julie Brennan is the MIND and the HEART behind LIVINGMATH, and participates in her yahoo group called livingmathforum as well.
As a response to a post we had in the forum entitled “Parent self-education and inspiration” we were discussing how we keep the excitement and are able to do a better job educating our children when we continue reading, learning, and combining different approaches. Julie replied to one of my posts and her writings can be showcased as an spontaneous interview that reflects the exceptional person she is.

In her words:

When my kids were young, I read aloud challenging books to them, a LOT, and we had challenging audiobooks on in the car when we went on trips or regular commutes somewhere. I still read aloud, and now my youngest 10 year old can go through the Old English version of Pilgrim’s Progress with ease, only asking me what some of the most archaic words mean, and she enjoys the language. When they were young, they would read picture books and easy stuff on their own, but over time, they got to the point they could and would read more challenging literature on their own. The one thing I didn’t do was push difficult reading on them until they were clearly ready, that would have been a big mistake (the mistake I made with math, in fact, and had to learn how to do damage control with my oldest :o).
Regarding discipline, if you are following CM then you are probably reading that keeping formal lessons really short is key. You want them to want to learn. I got to where in the early elementary years I didn’t have scheduled formal lessons. I took every opportunity that presented itself, and we did lots of “studying” at bedtime reading sessions, in the car, or impromptu sessions.

Discipline at these ages focused on family contributions with chores, and music lessons, both of which were areas they could understand why discipline is needed, what the end goal is. With music, it was especially helpful when we could be a part of groups that provided additional motivation and relevance to the discipline of practice. When they are very young, trying to teach academic discipline is more difficult and can create damaged attitudes because they cannot possibly begin to see why discipline is necessary in academics, *especially* in a homeschooling environment. In school, at least everyone else is doing it, and deadlines and assignments make some sense in that the teacher has to keep the whole class on track together. In a homeschool environment, none of this is the case, so schedules, goals and deadlines don’t make a lot of sense until they develop the maturity to begin to see why these skills need to be developed.

I have always sought out classes for my kids like an art history class they took for several years, where the class was wonderful for them, and a certain amount of in between class work was necessary for them to be able to participate in the class itself. This fostered discipline in that there was a clear reason to do the work in between, and the motivation was the fact they *wanted* to be in the class. As adults, this is what we do – if we want something for ourselves, we will do some things we might not otherwise do if we consider the end goal worth the effort. We don’t go through motions having no idea why we are doing them, except in situations where we’ve hired say, a violin teacher or martial arts instructor to teach us, or we take a class, and we defer to their expertise without always knowing why. But we still know our end goal, to play violin well, or to become a black belt, to master a difficult subject we want to master, etc.

About missing college:

Oh boy do I understand this! I was on the fence between an English major or business (pretty funny huh) after high school, and I eventually chose the more practical business major with an emphasis in accounting and finance.
But I took a number of literature classes, and now that I find myself reading classics, I look back and realize all that I missed in those readings. We had to read so much in such a short time, much of it excerpts, which didn’t allow one time to understand any context. It would have been much better to cover less ground, but more deeply. One of the few highly memorable experiences I have from high school was reading The Scarlet Letter over an entire semester in my junior year with a great teacher (one of the few whose name I can remember!) taking the time to thoroughly understand the work. I had no idea until that time how much could be communicated through literature like this. I am glad seeing my 9th grader go through the Odyssey over an entire semester with a group. Our society does seem to go more for quantity over quality though.

I loved college when I went back in my mid 20’s after taking a few years off to figure out what I wanted to do. And I’ve learned that taking a community college class once or twice a year now has been great both for continuing my education and satisfying my desire to be in this environment again. Plus the deadlines make sure I complete a course, home study with a family can definitely get put aside very easily! I always do my homework though to get a good teacher, now that I’m going to classes just for myself, to learn, vs. satisfying credit requirements, I don’t want to waste my time.

About educating yourself as a parent:

Freakonomics is an interesting book that challenges some assumptions and beliefs we have about things that may be taken for granted. One idea that I walked away with is that who we are has far more influence on our children than what we do. The author gives the example of someone who learns that kids who go to college were exposed to lots of books when they were younger.
But simply stocking one’s home with books won’t do it. The fact those kids grew up with books in their homes reflected the fact their parents were educated and valued books themselves. Who the parents are matters more than what they do. So, if you have a desire for your child to be educated, you need to be educated yourself. On the flip side, if we are educated, learning all the time, we can relax that even with all the mistakes we might make, our kids will turn out all right, because of who we are.

Julie

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