While most kids were off to a school building this week, my kids and I finished our last week of summer school. Next week is a vacation (from school) week for us...to mark the transition from summer school to our new fall/winter schedule.
I posted it last week already but I can't say enough about how good summer school has been for our kids. Seth has made some significant strides in learning, Lizzie just loves school any old time, and Matthew has taken some terrific strides in both reading and math.
I said to Geoff a couple of days ago that watching Matthew in these past few weeks has been like watching a machine's wheels clicking into place - wheels that I didn't even fully realize needed clicking. Watching him has been a gratifying experience in my efforts to h/school. In particular, his understanding of several math concepts has really deepened, especially when it comes to concepts around multiplication, money, and telling time.
Just one small example. A few days ago he said to me, "Mom, 25+25+25+25 must equal 100. Four groups of 25 must be 100."
I said, "It does equal 100, you're right. But why must it?"
Matthew: "Well, four quarters of something make up one whole thing, and if that whole thing is a loonie, and if a loonie is 100 pennies and if a quarter is 25 pennies, that means that four quarters must make up a loonie. So 25+25+25+25 must be 100."
I told him that he was exactly right, to which he responded: "Mom you should have told me that before; it would have been helpful."
The thought that I squelched was yeah, buddy, I HAVE told you that before...you just weren't quite ready to learn it yet. What I actually said was "well, whether I have or not, it's always better if you can figure it out for yourself."
His new understanding of a math idea might not sound like a huge thing, but there've been a whole lot of these smaller things happening and all of them together show me that concepts are coming together in his head. We haven't practiced counting by 25s, so there really was some genuine understanding that went into his assertion.
I'm amazed by how much better our kids learn when they're actually ready to learn something. I've heard that over and over from other h/schoolers over the years, but I'm not sure that I believed this until recently, until watching all three of my kids make strides in their learning that they couldn't have made even weeks earlier.
I'll understand this more for Seth and Lizzie than I have for Matthew to date. Given that Matthew is my first to go through h/schooling with me (my guinea pig, of sorts), I've had to learn that, really and truly, learning will happen (despite me, at times) and that I don't need to be overly anxious about it...also that learning really can happen, maybe even in a better way, when it's at their own speed rather than by a stated date/time/curriculum. I haven't known what I haven't known.
As I see these real learning pieces happening, I start to think more and more that unschoolers have got things right, at least to a degree - by enabling their children to pursue their interests as those interests manifest themselves in natural life experiences, and knowing that the necessary learning happens best this way. (Note: I know that this is a gross and unfair simplification of unschooling, but that's maybe a topic for another day.) Now, I don't have it in me to be an unschooler, but I surely can understand these days some of the reasons for doing it.
Anyway, as our family moves shortly into our new school year, things feel quite different than this time last year, when we hadn't done school for months leading up to fall. I know we've talked about this here before, and that some of you understand and agree with this concept, but really I can't understand why schools in the school system don't move towards a year-round concept, allowing for breaks to be interspersed throughout the year rather than in a couple of big clumps. What a difference it makes.