Usually I post my five favorites at A Romantic Childhood, but I thought I should probably put this one on this page since it's all about homeschooling! In the past 3 weeks I've learned a lot about homeschooling: what needs to be done, what can wait, kind of pace we should attempt, what's important, what we can skip, etc.
I had homeschooled before in preschool and it was a disaster. I was way too hard and intense with my expectations and most days ended in tears. So we stopped. That was a large part of why we decided to start with a schooling program, just because I had to acknowledge I had no idea what I was doing. I think I've read too many Victorian novels about children listening attentively to Homer to have realistic expectations about what my daughter should be doing.
This time, soooo much better! And here's why:
I've stopped worrying about every little thing in my house being cleaned. I am the kind of person who annoys everyone in my house with my need to every thing to be put away, dirt to be off the floors, and every one to be sitting quietly in their chairs. Obviously, life never works like that, and I've had to compromise. Even so, I kick my children outside often because I can't handle mess (also because sometimes kids just need to run), and try very hard to enforce bans on toys staying in the playroom. But with school supplies being added to the mix, I've stopped trying to keep every thing away all the time. I'm still waging a hard battle against dirt and smudges, but right now there are math counting blocks all over the floor, the iron and board are still up from last night, PJs have yet to be put away, and there are a bunch of yucky leftovers in the fridge that are begging to be thrown out. But....
My house is so much more pleasant. It feels so much more lived in and happy. My son isn't sulking all day because he has no one to play with, the animals are chipper to all be together, and life is generally peaceful and content. Mostly it's because we've all stopped to smell the roses. I've realized that schooling isn't something we're going to be doing just from 9-3 Monday-Friday. It's something we're going to be constantly doing all day every day. If they're having trouble concentrating, it's ok to take a break and come back later. If we're having an off day, it's ok to do more tomorrow. If we're having a really productive day, it's ok to blast through lesson after lesson. In short, taking a lassaiz-faire attitude toward schooling has made it so much more relaxed and pleasurable. There is no work that needs to be done so we can have the rest of the day to do what we want. We have to create school to be what we want to do.
Repeat repeat repeat! I love being able to constantly incorporate what we're talking about and learning into everyday life. Although at school teachers are always sending home stuff telling you what they've been doing in school, whenever I would try to talk to my daughter about it I would get an effusive shrug and an "I don't know what that is." Same thing if you try to ask her what she's doing in school: "I don't know." Now, there is no way for her to escape haha. I KNOW what she's doing, she knows I know, and constant repetition and practice is always going on. She learns things so much faster.
I know this Calvin and Hobbes isn't real. I mean, obviously it's real, but it was created by someone else. Not that it matters, because it is probably one of the best comics I've ever read. Tragically sad and unfortunately spot on. Neither of my children have anything like ADHD or something they would need medication for, but unfortunately I think just by the nature of school most children tend to have to deal with this kind of abandonment of childhood for "real work." As I said before, we have so much more time, so much more time to do nothing. The children spent most of their day today making blanket forts around the house, which is such a typical child thing to do, but how many first graders get to wake up on a Tuesday and just do typical child things?
There is nothing I hate more than statistical data on education because of things just like this. Data would suggest that to be successful, to be on track, to be like other children, Calvin needs medication. The end justifies the means. But for Calvin, right now, in this moment in his life, he needs something very different than being on track. Does that make sense?
It's the same when I hear people say "Well, children in daycare have GPA's equivalent to or above their peers, so daycare doesn't harm children in the long run, and in fact may do them good," which is probably true, but to that little child right now crying about Mommy leaving, it is doing harm. As parents I feel like we sometimes focus too much on our children's future, doing what's best for them in the long run and completely forgetting that they are already humans with feelings and needs and desires that demand even a little bit of respect. Which brings me to....
I am so happy that I feel like despite everything not always going smoothly 100% of the time, my children get respect for being people. They are not constantly talked down to by authority figures, made to interact only with children the same age, spoon fed material they need to regurgitate later. I feel like such a hippy dippy person saying this, but I really do feel like it makes a difference that they feel like people. They have valuable ideas about learning, they have valuable opinions on topics, they have valuable friendships with people, they provide a valuable service in our family and community. And I think that in a million minuscule ways they understand that. They are more confident, more open to questioning things, more receptive to learning, and more personable. Every day is full of play and learning and they kind of weave in and out of each other rather than This is school time so I can't have fun/ This is play time so I can't learn.
I don't mean to sound like this has been the end all be all for us, but rather that our eyes have been opened to a new way of living that doesn't involve set perimeters and deadlines but rather living just to live. I've talked before about the French system of the Cadre, the framework of discipline within which children should have absolute freedom, and our education has now fallen into this pattern as well. We have things we do, a cultural framework which we still follow, but within that life is boundless. For me, it feels like becoming a child all over again.