Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How we spend our time

So how does this eclectic/unschooling style really work? What do we do all day? That depends on the day! It would be easier to give a run down of what an average week looked like. Even an average week varies, but this will give you an idea of what it looks like for us.

Most important, my kids have lots of free time. So many kids today seem to have very little time to discover what moves and inspires them. It's like parents think that bored kids are being abused somehow. Boredom is really an invitation do discover what it is you think is worth spending your time on!

Not that I see bored kids that often. With 3 boys in the family, there's always some one to play with. With shelves and shelves of books, there's always something to read. Art and craft supplies are available for those moments when inspiration strikes. We can access indoor games and outdoor activities whenever we want. Our problem has more often been trying to decide which thing we want to do next.

We go to the library at least once a week. There are so many resources here! I use the on-line catalog to make holds on items I think the kids or I will be interested in. I pick those up and then we cruise the shelves and chat up the librarians in search of the good stuff; movies, books, audio lectures. I don't have a schedule of topics. We seem to manage a wide scope just following our interests. We don't have a set time we sit down and read together (except for bedtime). I do read to/with the kids several times a week, it just isn't scheduled.

If the weather is good we enjoy park day with our local homeschooling support group, even though it means a late nap for the little one. A budding entrepreneur, my oldest has been bringing used books and trading cards to sell to park day. In addition to getting a little math and a business lesson, he's also sharing his excitement about good books.

When the weather is poor, or we are just tired, we might stay in and play games or watch videos. With the kids' ages spread from 4-10, it can be challenging to find something for all of us to watch together. Science documentaries are one thing we all enjoy. We get our videos from the library or netflix. (No cable out here - and I'm too cheap to get sattelite TV!)

Usually one or more of the kids are in a class of some sort. Some things they've chosen are pottery, pinao lessons, archery, pony lessons, or farm classes. I try to limit these to one class at a time. In the summer time I don't let them have classes on the weekend so that we have time for the family outdoor activities we so enjoy.

We tend to have a one-on-one playdate with other homeschool families about once a week. Combined with park day, church, and classes, this gives us our social time. For one of my kids it's not enough. He'd do great living where he could play with friends all day everyday. For one of my other's, it's right at his limit. He'd rather stay home a little more!

The kids have on-going projects they've chosen. Lego and K'Nex creations are perinnial favorites. Creating stop action animation, drawing, and making movies are things they come back to as well. I also ask the kids to do housework, laundry, gardening, etc. We never lack for activity, although some is more ...appreciated, than other. :-)

Then there are the irregular things that pop up pretty regularly; visits from relatives, field trips with the homeschooling group, trips to museums, the zoo, travel, etc. Our flexible schedule gives us the ability to take full advantage when these opportunities come up.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Missing something?

Last night another parent told me that if she homeschooled her kids she'd be worried they might "miss something". From her tone and the context I took that to mean she was afraid that without school there would be topics and skills that her kids would need, but not have. Here's why I don't have that perspective.

First I think that those who view school as the only, or best way, to learn make some assumptions that I don't. Here are some of the unspoken presumptions I've seen.
There is a set body of knowledge that all people/children must know.
This knowledge must be acquired at a certain rate and by a certain age.
If knowledge/skills are not attained by a certain age it is no longer possible to get them.
People (or at least children) can't/won't learn unless someone "teaches" them.

These assumptions do not match my experience, nor those of the people who have taken the time to explore this topic with me. It's just sort of a cultural assumption. You know; girls can't do math, boys don't cry, everyone has to go to school to learn. These cultural assumptions are false, but only when they are challenged to people come to realize that.

There is a set body of knowledge that all people/children must know.
Um, no not really. Plenty of good stuff out there, for sure. My husband finds machine language useful in his line of work. Not a lot of call for that in most circles, eh? What about diagramming a sentence? Know anyone who needs that one everyday? Right. 'Nuff said.

This knowledge must be acquired at a certain rate and by a certain age.
Says who? This is just something that comes from the school model, making it easier for teachers to figure out what to do with kids of x age. Outside the institution of school we learn what we need to when we need to. When something is learned it might be much later (or earlier) than the institutional model, which causes no end of troubles within an institutional situation. Doesn't matter a whit otherwise.

If knowledge/skills are not attained by a certain age it is no longer possible to get them.
Not in my experience. I went from knowing Sesame Street level Spanish to ordering a pizza in Mexico, over the phone, for delivery. When a person is self-motivated there's practically nothing that can stand in her way. John Holt's book "Never Too Late" addresses this if you're interested in further reading.

People (or at least children) can't/won't learn unless someone "teaches" them.
I will grant that a good teacher can help. I won't grant that any teacher, even a bad one, is better than none. I've taught myself plenty of things; cooking, gardening, mandolin. (I did my share of burning, killing, and mangling - food, plants, and music, respectively, but that was learning too!) Getting back to the self-motivated thing, if a person needs a teacher to learn what they want, they will find one. It doesn't need to be thrust upon them.

I'm sure my lack of eloquence doesn't do justice to this topic. Many have done more and better, I'm sure. But, maybe, if enough of us talk about it, we will challenge these cultural assumptions enough to change them.