Welcome to LOLIPOP

LOLIPOP began as my master's thesis - an experiment in group learning with twenty homeschool families, including over sixty kids between six and fourteen years old. I coordinated 2-4 projects happening simultaneously, in 6 week sessions. The kids had a lot of fun, and the parents learned a lot about how this energetic and enthusiastic age group can have a successful learning experience. Since this first experiment, I have conducted seminars and webinars based on the LOLIPOP concept, and published For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Child a LOLIPOP Education.
This BLOG is for all those out there, trying to give their children and students the foundation they need to grow into great scholars, thinkers, and leaders. The principles align with the Leadership Education model and foster a love for learning, build individual confidence, and teach learning strategies that apply to a life time of great learning.
Check out more info about the book, seminars, webinars, and more at www.sdlaa.com.

Lolipop Learning, and terms and concepts such as "Love of Play", "Love of Sampling", and "Love of Producing" are the sole property of Amy Edwards. “TJEd", "Leadership Education", “Love of Learning Phase”, “Inspire, not Require” and other similar terms and concepts are taken from the works of Oliver & Rachel DeMille, and are used by permission and under license. For more information, visit http://tjed.org/.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The End of Another School Year

This story was originally posted on LOLIPOP's Facebook page, which you can LIKE at  https://www.facebook.com/LolipopLearning?ref=hl.  I posted this story to encourage the many hard-working and stressed-out homeschool parents whom I meet and correspond with from all over the country. I repeatedly hear the same worries everywhere I go...Am I doing enough? How can I make sure my child is ready for high school / college...What will my neighbors/in-laws think if she can't spell...  This FB post got such an overwhelming response, it must be even more needed than I originally imagined, so I share it here--the long version--in the hopes of encouraging even more of you devoted parents out there trying to ensure your children have the best possible education.

My 14-year-old daughter just completed her first year of high school, earning all A's. She is a full year ahead of schedule, according to public school age guidelines.  Despite her young age, most of her courses were advanced or honors, 10th-12th grade level courses. She studied Comparative Literature, in which she read The Odyssey, Antigone, Faust, Dante's Inferno, Canterbury Tales, Don Quixote,  Les Miserables, short stories by Russian authors Tolstoy and Pushkin, and sonnets by Shakespeare.  She wrote analytical and synthetical essays (AP level writing) throughout the year and passed two Blue Book exams (typically reserved for college).  She studied World History, reading selections from Aristotle's Politics and Plato's Republic, investigating the causes and effects of world events from Ancient Greece through the Middle Ages up to the 1980s.  She participated in a document study of the United Nations Charter and several simulations that would have been a challenge for many college students.  She also took a Biology lab class, Math, Advanced Fine Art, Speech & Debate, Classical Acting, and PE.  To top it all off, she attended religious seminary every morning at 6am, (her choice, not mine, trust me).  

So why should this be encouraging to other parents? Shouldn't this just stress you out more? Here's the good part! 

Although I do believe my daughter is very bright - as I believe that every child has genius within them simply waiting to be unlocked, I will tell you that her success is not a product of exceptional intelligence. She does not have a photographic memory or the ability to learn something immediately.  Her success this year is the product of a good foundation in her early years of learning, specifically the years before 12, and a lot of hard work.

This is a child to whom I never taught a spelling or grammar lesson before the age of 12. She didn't work her way methodically through phonetic readers during her "elementary school years". She simply listened to me read great classics to her, got inspired, and jumped into reading around age 10 with books like Jane Eyre. I never required her to do pages and pages of math worksheets or memorize her times tables in 3rd grade.  I did not start teaching her essays or any form of academic writing before age 12.  Her experience with Science, in elementary years, consisted of random, hands-on experiments and absolutely no worksheets or tests.  In her first 6 years of "elementary school", she only participated in standardized testing twice, and both times I threw away the results before anyone could see them.

Our priority when she was under 12 was to foster a love for learning, build up her confidence, and support her in learning about what she was interested in. Despite her lack of traditional, academic foundation, she blossomed into quite a scholar around age 12, reading documents and literature typically reserved for upper high school and even college. She manages her own time and studies with little prodding by me. She asks for help when needed, but she also knows how to self-learn most of the time. 

Here's a great example from this first year of high school.  She was cruising along in math all year, doing just fine, as nothing was particularly challenging.  Then she got to a section that required more memorization of formulas and steps.  This slowed her down, and I could see that she was heading for a problem.  What did I do?  I stood back and watched.  Ok, I did say once that it might be a good idea for her to take more notes, but she rejected that suggestion and I let it go.  When it came time for her to take the test, she got a very low score.  She was not a happy camper!  Did she blame the test?  The teacher? No, she thought about what she needed to do.  We discussed options. She then asked me to buy her a composition book, which I did (we had used "math journals" in her early years).  From that point onward, she proceeded to take copious notes as she went through her math program.  She earned As on the last two tests, ending the year with an A in the course.

I am not advocating that parents teach nothing when their children are under 12.  I taught a lot during those years.  I read aloud from classics, for at least an hour each day.  We discussed them as we went along, identifying plot elements, characterization, setting, and literary elements (of course I didn't call them that at the time).  We played a lot of games that taught reading, math, science, and history.  We read stories about people from history and did hands-on activities to learn about different historical periods and cultures.  Writing focused entirely on creative writing.  I never mentioned book reports or essays before the age of 12. My goal was for her to love writing and to learn the value of writing.  

I pointed out math in our everyday lives, so she could see "why we need this stuff".  I read stories about mathematicians and scientists to show the relevance of math and science, and to inspire her to love these topics.  We did science experiments to answer questions she was truly interested in.  We did a lot of thematic learning, integrating all subjects around an idea or topic in which she was interested, so she could see the value of learning.  

I taught her strategies of learning - gave her tools that she could use whenever she wants to learn anything on her own.  For example, she knows she can read a book, research online, talk to an expert, organize a class or club to work out thoughts and experiments with friends, hire a teacher, write about it, do her own experiments, or simply give it quality time and thought.  

Most of all, I taught her, by word but mainly by example, the value of work and that the product of work is joy.  This is probably the most important lesson for budding scholars, because the work of true scholarship is challenging.

Some approaches to learning view knowledge and skills as external entities that must be crammed into each student. This approach requires drills and testing and repetition. But I truly believe, and I teach my children and students that they have genius within them...it's all inside them somewhere, and my job as teacher is simply to help them figure out how to get it to come to the surface. I can provide environment and tools for learning, but only they can choose to become educated.  

Once my daughter was about 12-years-old, armed with a love for learning and self-confidence, we really went to work.  She began reading and analyzing challenging texts, including The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech, and many classic literary works.  We began a more focused work on writing academically, and formal scientific process through high school-level lab courses and writing many lab reports on various experiments.

I have taught many students over the past 20-plus years, and I say...once again and confidently, confirmed by one of my own...the foundation they need when they are younger is a love for learning and self-confidence in their ability to learn anything they want to (with some work). They truly can learn very quickly once they are a little older and inspired to do so. They don't need to have been practicing spelling words or grammar for the past 6 years. But they do need to have been encouraged, and they do need to have been exposed to classics and quality educational material. 

I attest that the foundation offered in too many of our mainstream schools, and carried over into many homeschool families, is not only lacking what our children need, it is actually detrimental to their development as scholars and life long learners. This conveyor belt approach--forcing children to learn specific facts and skills on an arbitrary schedule rather than when they are individually ready--fosters a hate of learning by pushing too hard at the wrong times and erodes their self-confidence. That is much more challenging for a teacher to overcome than bad spelling or a lack of math facts.

Enjoy those early years, and relax! Trust your instincts. Encourage your children. Learn side by side with them. Relax and enjoy your time together.