Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whirling, Twirling...And a Shift in Direction?

My brain is full...very full.  You'd not think this is possible given that we are mostly on a break from formal schooling around our house, but it's true nonetheless.

Between starting an online course a little late (and finding time and head-energy to watch over 7 hours of DVDs loaded with head-throbbing content in just a short period of time), making time for some personal therapy as well as for some consulting about the kids, attending an afternoon seminar about an upcoming community mentoring program for h/school kids, and going through some pretty huge (for me) transitional and transformational thoughts about how we 'do' learning at home, my brain is on complete overload these past few weeks.  My thoughts whirl around my head throughout chunks of the night; I find myself gazing off into never-never land while I ponder some thing or another; and sometimes I forget the words I was planning to use to complete my sentence.

Something seems to be changing in our house...maybe it's mostly me, I don't know.  I'm thinking so much about how we do life, how we pursue learning in our home, what our life's priorities are and how (if at all) they need to change.  Because if the kids' resistance to school is an indication that something's not working, then something's not working.

Here's a thought, a question, I keep having:  Given that we have decided to educate our children outside of the standardized school system, why do I feel it so necessary that we follow the curriculum created by and for that same system that we've chosen to keep our kids out of?  I get that a massive school system needs to have order and structure and a plan...I'm not being critical of what seems to work in a larger system.  But, beyond societal norms, and beyond my own inclination to follow a standardized approach because it was my own experience growing up, what makes the standardized school curriculum so magical that I assume it will also work for my children?  When we 'do school' around here, it's usually been oriented first (for Matthew, anyway) around accomplishing curriculum materials and then pursuing any other curriculums or avenues that I've found and liked for the kids.  The priority has always been first curriculum completion.  But didn't we make a choice to h/school because we didn't want our kids in that same system?

Why?  Why?  Why am I so oriented to follow curriculum that was designed for a large classroom, a larger system?

What is so magical about that system, that curriculum?  Why do my children need to read by the age of six or seven; why do they need to write by the age of seven or nine?  Where do children's interests and passions fit in to how we do school and life?

I think the priority should be learning and specifically I mean learning about how to live life so that the kids someday (hopefully) are driven by what brings them joy and excitement, are able to contribute to the society in which they choose to live, are life-long learners, are committed to loving God and loving their neighbours.

Does it take completing a standardized curriculum to accomplish these things?

Increasingly, the answer that's coming to my slow brain is no, of course not!

Increasingly, I realize that curriculum may well be at cross-purposes with the priorities in our home.

Increasingly, I understand that much of the learning, much of the maturity, that I dearly hope my children possess some day are spontaneous things that well up from the inside if they are 'merely' provided the right environment and not impeded in some way (by me!).

These last few weeks have been a little revolutionary, a little evolutionary, for me.  Because it's as we've stopped school that suddenly my children are enjoying learning.  I mentioned that about two weeks ago that Matthew suddenly started asking me about aboriginal people and whether we could learn about them.  Yes, I thought and said, and we started that day with some books I had lying around.  Since then, he has been hounding me to learn more...and more...and more.  We've tackled the Inuit in a fairly big way and have gone through the basic books that I bought a few months back, and are plunging into library books now, too.  One day Matthew came to me in tears because I hadn't come quickly enough after lunch to start our reading on the subject.  This boy who has resisted every single freaking bit of curriculum work for the past year was crying because he wasn't learning fast enough about something that interested him.  I didn't realize until these past two weeks how much I've missed that curious, philosophical, question-asking kid.  My seven-year-old, though he doesn't express the same intensity or curiosity about the subject, sits there with us and learns right along with Matthew (and me)...and picks up a little more vocabulary and world view along the way.

I haven't been perfectly prepared for this course of learning...not even halfway prepared.  All I've done is research and check books out of the library and read out loud and and ask questions and look for and think about answers and pull out maps.

Simultaneously, also because of some other initiatives we're trying with our nine-year-old to help him expend his frustrated energy, we're seeing some of his massive frustrations of the past two years settle just a wee bit.  He's been whistling again, singing around the house, dancing a little, skipping.  Not all of the time, not even much of the time, and his adaptation to life with siblings will surely continue for a long time to come...but it's more than we've seen in a very long time.

I'm not quite sure yet precisely which direction we're headed around here, and I admit to being more than a little terrified about it all, but there's something swirling around in my brain and heart that needs to be processed...the kids are more than worth that effort.

But man, my inner life needs a vacation!


  1. I feel exactly the same way. We "have to" finish the curriculum so we can get on with the fun learning. I'm ditching the reading text and workbook next year and just reading and discussing good books. I'm thinking about turning to a spelling computer game or something instead of that workbook.... I guess I'll keep math and English....

  2. Thanks for sharing that Maria. What's leading you to this change?? And if you find a fun computer game for spelling, I'm all ears!