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My Home School Philosophy: Remember, I'm Running An Art School Here

alec vanderboom

I'm rereading some of my husband's textbooks from his Masters of Fine Arts Program and figuring out how to better handle critiques of student work. This is fascinating stuff to me. This is a quote from a famous Graphic Designer Rob Roy Kelly:

"In criticizing student work on a one-to-one basis, first ask the student what seems to be a problem and what they think can be improved. Asking before telling is for the student's benefit. ... A similar approach is to point, or circle, with the finger the problems. Usually the first response is that they don't know. When ... suggested that they respond intuitively, it is amazing how often they correctly find the problem. This procedure helps students build confidence in their own judgment."
                                                                              -Everything is a Work in Progress, pg 168

This quote just reminds me how radically different my homeschooling approach is from most of my friends. It is frustrating to not have a set curriculum. But my goal isn't to merely replicate school inside our home.

My husband is a working Artist. My kids' innate creativity is outrageously high. My job isn't to mold them into little robots who get As in deportment and handwriting. My job is to turn them into the best person that God wants them to be. Part of that task is going to be learning how to best harness their creativity to make things in a future work place.

It's such a hard balance. I can't ram my personal agenda down their throats. (I learned humility in my previous attempts to "Master Reading Right Now--You're In The Third Grade Already!"). But my job as an Art Coach isn't just to sit back and let the kids do whatever they want in their school work.

That's why this quote is so cool. The teacher is teaching. There is a critique of the student's work. There are standards, even in a subjective subject such as Graphic Design. But the teacher is giving feedback in a way that "helps students build confidence in their own judgment."

That could be a huge overarching goal for me as a teacher. Helping my kids build confidence in their own judgment. Think about what a difference that approach could be in the subject of Writing. I wouldn't grade silently on my own with a red pen and hand a marked up Report back to my Fifth Grader. I could circle the spelling mistakes or awkward sentences with my finger and say "What kind of things could be better here?"  The goals shouldn't be to get one perfect paper done for our portfolio review in May. The goal should be to nurture a new writer who is confident in her own abilities and can write beautiful stuff on demand.

Homeschooling is a really healing thing for me. There are days that I hate it! But all good things are hard some days. Over all, the more I come out of our established Education System, the more I have to define for myself "What is it that I want my kids to Learn? How to I best teach them that?" Those are interesting questions and its a joy to be asking them.