It appears I will be homeschooling three of my older children again sooner rather than later. When I say sooner, I mean four days from now.
Those who know us know that we are strong believers in life learning, and have both experienced that when one’s natural curiosity is not meddled with, or when there is an actual need to learn something, human beings will learn and retain both information and skills much more solidly than if they are forced to “because someone says so”. In high school, I loved drama class (fun fun FUN). I loved some of English class (ooooh, literature!), and that was about it. My grades sank from the 90%+ and all A’s, A+’s (because we did that back then), and occasional B’s, to sometimes even failing classes out of sheer boredom and inability to associate the importance of what was presented before me to everyday life. The jackasses, cliques, and bullies didn’t help, either… Did a brief stint in Creative Arts at the local C.E.G.E.P., but again, was bored and felt as though the people surrounding me were simply there because they were “supposed to be”. When I was accepted into the practical nursing program at the nearby vocational school, my grades were always top notch. Suddenly math and biology had a purpose, and I never had trouble with any subject while I was there. I noticed that my classmates varied in ages and backgrounds, and all were there by choice as well. It makes a difference.
Unfortunately, there is always the risk of (cough cough) concerned people interfering due to their belief that unschooled children are being neglected as far as education goes. Generally this concern comes from people who cannot bring themselves to think outside of the box and acknowledge that a child will learn more about frogs and streams by being near them than by reading about them in a text-book and filling out a worksheet. These are people who measure how well a child is learning by how much they are able to memorize, regurgitate, and supply the right answers on a test. My son struggles with writing out meaningless equations abstractly on paper in a classroom setting. Take the same equations, convert them into cooking terms, building terms (he helps his carpenter father regularly), or financial terms and he’ll figure them out. But to many, this is not good enough for a boy his age, because it is not the way all of the other 13-year-olds around him “do math”. That is the way we have been trained to think: we “do” math. We “do” science. No, people, we don’t; math and science are part of what we experience in everyday life. They are interwoven in all that surrounds us. A flock of birds is biology, ecology, math and English all rolled into one if you insist on breaking it down into subjects. It irks me. But for the sake of keeping certain people off my back, and for the sake of having something in place as far as the Department of Education goes, we will be (briefly, lightly, to a very core basic) “doing” subjects on a daily basis. Sort of. In our own way. There is the added factor of the size of our family: we need a bit more rhythm and structure that a smaller family could easily get away without having.
The I Hate Mathematics Book is a blast.
All The Math You’ll Ever Need is useful for the older ones, and for myself as well.
They love it when we read from The Story of the World series, and load up on library books related to the different time periods.
Netflix has a few great documentaries & different science shows that blow the kids’ minds. Janice Van Cleave has some fun experiments in her books. And again, library, library, library, and the world around us. Walks on the trail, Hikes in the woods, trips to the beach, star-gazing…
I’m glad my children will not have their stomachs in knots every Sunday evening to Friday afternoon any more. I’m glad they will be joining us for trips into Charlottetown and work around home. Mainly, I am glad that this weight that has been on our shoulders, this cloud hovering over our heads, this feeling of uncertainty that lingered in the background regardless of the well-meaning conventional people telling us that is was such a great thing that we had put the children in school (I think maybe it just made them more comfortable ;)) seems to be disappearing already. The children have each expressed gratitude and appreciation for their teachers and the staff at the school, and will miss many of them and the friends they have made, but have plans to keep in touch. But aside from one, who is fine just about anywhere and will be transferring to a school five minutes away as opposed to, well, pretty damn far in school bus terms, they have been ready to leave for a while. They had gone from being unhappy about a situation (which is normal for children; they are unhappy when I say “no”, make them do chores, tell them they do not get dessert if they do not eat their supper, or make them work for extra privileges) to simply becoming… unhappy. Children should not be unhappy in general. Nope.
It is unwise to ignore one’s inner voice. As parents, we are responsible for making decisions to enhance the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of our children, and to foster their growth. Sometimes we must make unplanned changes, because the plan is not working. It is wrong to silence one’s inner voice, one’s mother heart, one’s instinct. It is foolish and unkind.
Let a new chapter begin…