Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cathy Duffy

A friend loaned me her copy of Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks a few days ago. I'd already been using her website and reading a bunch of her reviews, but there were a few I wanted to see in the book - the ones for which the website just says, "See my full review in my book." So I read those, but I also started reading at the beginning of the book, and was surprised at how much good, useful information I found there!

The first few chapters offer questions to help you understand what you want to teach your children in school, and also detail different types of homeschool approaches, such as traditional (textbook/workbook), Charlotte Mason (lots of literature), classical (lots of books there too), and 5 others. I'd heard of all these approaches and knew some about all of them, but the book has a questionnaire which helps you determine which approach is best suited to you. That was very interesting, as I came out higher in "classical" than I thought I would.

It wasn't the most helpful for me as it might be for some others, because my "scores" actually came out very closely packed together for all 8 types of approaches - between 41% and 55%.  My top 2 were Classical (55%) and Independent Study (54%).  That, in itself, is kinda funny, since the classical approach "generally requires more direct instruction and interaction than do some other approaches. It is often more parent controlled and directed than other approaches."  The independent study approach is, well, independent - student-controlled and directed. It might be a bit difficult to combine those approaches. I agree that I like both styles though. The classical approach can mean many things, but it often involves reading lots of great literature, follows the Well-Trained Mind concept, deals with understanding connections among fields of study, and favors logical thinking. As for independent study - with 3 kids, and plenty of my own interests, I do favor having them learn on their own as much as they can! Aside from personal motivations, learning to learn on their own is a great skill and one that I value highly.

My other scores were 52% for Charlotte Mason (which I do like - again, lots of books, and enjoyment of learning), 50% for Unit Studies (which I don't actually like very much, I don't think), 47% for Eclectic (which is what I really am, I think), 45% for both Traditional and Umbrella Program (which means going through a correspondence school which gives you only a few choices of curriculum to choose from), and 41% for Unschooling (which I am too much of a planner and organizer to go for).  Perhaps my results confirm why I seem to like Sonlight and their approach to history and literature so well - Cathy Duffy's book says that Sonlight cores are generally eclectic, combining traditional, Charlotte Mason and classical approaches!

The other main section in the first few chapters of Cathy Duffy's book deal with learning styles, both of the teacher (the parent, or me, in this case) and the students. Some traditional learning style categories are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, but Cathy's categories are "Wiggly Willy," "Perfect Paula," "Competent Carl," and "Sociable Sue." You can get a good idea of what these categories mean just by their names, but Cathy's book talks about them in more detail. My kids are still too young to really understand their learning styles so far, and Cathy warns not to label a preschooler prematurely, since nearly all preschoolers could be seen as  "Wiggly Willy." But I still tried to figure out what style each of my children could possibly be.

Going with my best attempt at classifying them at this age, I ended up with one child in each category - and I'm in the remaining one. 

Hmm.  That makes things a little bit difficult when trying to teach them all together and/or use the same curriculum and yet still cater to their learning styles. Maybe my guesses will turn out to be wrong. But for now, I'd say I'm a "Competent Carl," my 5 year old is a "Wiggly Willy," my 3 year old is a "Perfect Paula," and my 2 year old is a "Sociable Sue."

I think an eclectic approach may turn out to be my best bet, not just due to my teaching preferences, but due to practicality and necessity!

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