We’re in week 6 of our home educating adventure and it feels too easy; too easy for Edward and definitely too easy for me! I’m worried I should be ‘working harder’ with him. Of course, what this means is that I’m anxious that I’m not doing ‘school at home’ although I feel strongly this isn’t the right approach for my son! I don’t even like the term ‘homeschooling’ and much prefer ‘home educating’. And yet I’m not committed to unschooling yet, hence the anxiety – that he’s playing too much.
So I keep reminding myself of the oft-repeated-in-homeschooling-books-and-blogs statistic – that a 7 year old only needs 1-1.5 hours of schooling at home to cover maths, language arts/literacy, history, science, arts – everything that would have been covered in school for 6 hours or so. But since my ‘schooling/educating’ is so gentle, am I even covering this? But it feels right. Edward is happy enough to do his 2 Maths worksheets a day (well, 5 days a week since we’re taking weekends) and to do some keyboarding and reading and looking at books together and finding things online that we talk about e.g. peacock tails or looking at the actual Mona Lisa in the Louvre, not just a picture of the painting in a book. And then he has plenty of time to play with friends outside, which often involves dressing up and playing all sorts of different characters, playing with Lego or action figures and to hang out with his family.
So, no ‘school at home’ for us, which leaves eclectic homeschooling or unschooling. Well, for now, I’m definitely going the eclectic route, for my sense of security if for no better reason. I love this definition from http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/unschooling/eclecticorunschooling.html “Eclectic homeschooling is parents having an idea where the children need to go and then letting the children have a big say in what method of travel they use to get there. Science might be videos or experiments or classes or whatever appeals to the child. Eclectics may have requirements that kids will write, but how and what they write will depend on the child’s interests. There will be a focus on specific subjects and skills.”
I’m not sure about knowing where my children need to go other than some amorphous idea of ‘being well educated’ by the time they leave home in addition to being happy, well balanced human beings. I’m also not sure I have ‘requirements’, but I do have ideas about what I’d like them to do. I’d like Edward to do and enjoy a bit of Maths most days, hopefully with ‘Life of Fred’ if I can ever get it to Bahrain! I’d like him to do some reading and writing (and thereby improve his spelling and grammar) hence learning to type, since I figure typing emails or stories will be more enjoyable than handwriting anything. But I only try to get this done by saying ‘Please’ and if it’s a ‘No’, I try at a different time or very gently negotiate for it to be done after something else. This seems to be acceptable so far. I think if I was an unschooler I’d drop the request earlier, if I’d made it in the first place. So I’m probably a ‘relaxed eclectic home educator’ – which gets rid of the word ‘schooling’ altogether ;).
I’m sure my husband would think this agonising about my home educating philosophy is bizarre, until he remembers that Philosophy is ‘my subject’, that it was my degree! He might even think it’s getting in the way of practicing home educating; that whilst I agonise about what philosophy I should be following, Edward is ‘just playing’ all the time. But I’m keeping my eyes and ears open when he’s playing to find out what makes him tick and it’s very interesting. He’s exceedingly creative, not interested in conforming (he likes his hair long and wears a shirt, tie and jacket with jeans and trainers – he looks like a 7 year old rock star – he didn’t get that from his parents, I can tell you, or school or his friends, it’s a totally unique look!) and there’s nothing more interesting to him than his imagination. But he’s very social, so his idea of heaven is getting all his friends to join in his imaginary games, ideally dressed up, usually with an assortment of ‘weapons’ since knights or ‘Star Wars’ or super-heroes are usually involved! It’s quite hard finding out what a kid who likes to be different likes, especially when it’s so much inside his head. When I read about unschooling, people are writing that their kids are very interested in e.g. Maths or writing. This isn’t the case with Edward (so far, it’s only been 6 weeks after all, without any kind of proper ‘deschooling period’) and so it’s harder to know how to follow his interests whilst doing something I think is edifying.
But I will feel more comfortable when I’ve decided an approach, at least to be going along with. And I think I have. Funnily enough, reading an unschooling blog helped me decide NOT to do it! I agree with most of this http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/academics/alltheywantistoplay.html but the writer keeps comparing the kid/parent relationship with the husband/wife one and I don’t think they’re the same, for many reasons. It’s an interesting comparison but I do think, as an adult and as a parent, I have more knowledge and experience of the world and that I can use this to gently guide or encourage my kids. She says, “ But try to see all his interests as valid, not just the ones you or someone else can find value in. If you found it relaxing to read romance novels, it wouldn’t feel very relaxing and would sap some of the pleasure from the novels (and from his presence!) for your husband to criticize them and suggest you read something “better”.”
That’s it for me! I don’t want it to be OK for my kids to read the equivalent of romance novels all day! If I did, I would understand why my husband might worry! I would have died if my parents had let me do that! I know lots of unschooled kids seem to spend huge amounts of time playing computer games. Their parents are fine with this and maintain they learn a great deal from them including Maths. I admit, I could do with knowing more about video games but I do find them very addictive. At the moment, I feel like video games would be like reading romance novels and doing that for more than a few minutes a day would worry me and I would feel compelled to limit that particular interest. So, I can’t be an unschooler and the learning in our house won’t be ultimately child-led, but very nearly.
A wonder of home educating happened yesterday when Edward said, “You know, I’m starting to like Petra”!! Poor Petra hearing that, although, as usual, she looked totally unfazed! Petra is very phlegmatic about her brother’s high emotions and subsequent dramatics. He’s often shouting passionately about something! Soon enough I think she’ll be rolling her eyes kindly. Anyway, we explained to Edward that she’s getting older and so she’s getting more fun for him to play with and so he’ll like her more and more! He didn’t say anything. He probably thought to himself, “We’ll see”!
Edward never wanted a sibling and still says he wishes he was an only child. We try to be empathetic, although it’s hard to think of him wishing away our beloved daughter! Home educating has definitely brought them closer together though and as I thought, I think he’s learned from her modelling kindness and sharing which she’s so good at doing with him (she’s pretty bossy with her friends though, so we don’t need to worry that she’s a pushover!!) I think like myself with my brother and both my parents with their siblings, my children could have grown in very different directions and, as a result, grown apart, but home educating will enable them to appreciate their differences to a much greater extent I think and therefore to cherish each other. Sibling love, now that is a huge bonus of home educating, whatever philosophy you follow!
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