Monday, December 24, 2007

Why "agile"?

One of the most interesting things about homeschooling has definitely been the variety of reactions we get from people when they find out about our choice. Of course, we're coming to this at a great time. Gone are the days when people automatically envision a family holed up in a shack in the woods, unwashed and hoarding a year's supply of ammunition in the cellar. I mean, homeschooling is so mainstream these days, along with charter, private, and virtual schools, that it's almost counter-cultural to send your kids to an ordinary public school within whose boundaries you actually reside.

So, although it's slightly irritating to be lumped in with a homeschooling "movement", I do appreciate the growing attitude of acceptance we have encountered. People don't immediately attack with the tarnished sword of the socialization issue, but are usually more interested in listening to the whys and hows of our choice. This is refreshing! (Not that everyone "approves" of what we do and how we do it, but that's okay. We're not doing it for them!)

So how do people respond? More and more often they mention someone else they know who homeschools (proving the growing popularity of this educational path). Sometimes they respond defensively, feeling the need to justify their own differing choice for their children. (This is absolutely unnecessary, since my own decision to homeschool doesn't mean I believe everyone should do the same.) Frequently, they tell me enthusiastically about a "fabulous" program they've heard of where the state gives you "free" materials, including a computer, and takes care of record keeping and evaluation for you. (This is, I'm sure, a great option for many families, but it is definitely not the right scenario for us.)

Another thing people are often curious about is what curriculum we use, or, if they happen to be homeschooling savvy, which educational philosophy or approach we have adopted. The answer I usually give is "a little bit of everything that works!" or "our own unique mix of things" or "I guess you could say we're eclectic homeschoolers." All of those answers are true, but the more I've thought about it, the more I feel the desire to describe in greater detail, both for myself and for others, what our approach to homeschooling is all about. Thus, this blog is born!

I've decided to call our educational philosophy "agile homeschooling". The basic meaning of the word "agile" is "able to move quickly and easily." The term has recently been adopted in the software field, referring to a development style that is adaptive and flexible instead of hindered by predetermined specifications. Apparently, an entire philosophy of programming has grown up around the concept, complete with its own Manifesto. As I learned about this approach to software development, I realized that many of the principles mirrored my own philosophy of homeschooling. My hope is to use this blog as a vehicle to explore, refine, and share my ideas about what the term "agile" means in the context of my own homeschooling experience, both in theory and in practice.

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