Thursday, August 16, 2012

Confessions of an Evolving Unschooler

So, my kids are really in for it. Who am I kidding -- I'm really in for it.

We are homeschoolers. Geez, I hate that term. I used to say that we are unschoolers, which some people understand and most don't. Let's just leave it at this: I don't send my kids to a school. We learn without it. Now, I suppose I might scandalize my UnschoolingCatholic friends with this (then again, I know they are a great bunch of women who don't scandalize easily, plus I highly doubt any of you are still reading this blog since I've pretty much dropped off the face of the UC group in the last few years), but we are moving steadily away from true-blue unschooling. I've always been about finding what best serves my chidren's needs, and really I think that's more what the intention of unschooling is (unless one just really wants to grind an ideological ax, and yes there are people who groove on that sort of thing).

I found a few years back that my son was complaining to me about his academic formation. Specifically some of his friends were calling him stupid and spoiled because he didn't spend as much time on schoolwork as they did. My son took this to heart. Now, it doesn't help that most of my son's friends are older than he is, and some of them really delight in demonstrating at every possible turn how smart they are. But while he could read far beyond what would be considered normal for his age, he could barely add single digit numbers without counting on his fingers.

Well last year I (gasp) bought him a math textbook. And with great effort on both of our parts, he went from 0 to 60 mph in about nine months. He also really got a kick out of telling his friends "I can't play now; I have to do my Latin."

Now he is 11, and I informed him that this year I will be expecting a lot more from him.

In a way, I have been waiting since his toddlerhood for him to be 11. It is such a great full-speed-ahead age, and such a perfect age to not be in school, fighting for one's life against the social shark-infested waters.

And then there's my daughter who is as smart as a whip but tries very hard not to let on. She has an amazing capacity to memorize, and she is so dutiful. She's a girl, for crying out loud. The child's academic world is made for her.

So, I've announced that we are going to move full steam ahead, doing all sorts of not-very-unschoolish looking things. We are going to master some great skills. We're going to study and learn so much.

Can you hear me salivating?

And I'm in for it.

See, I love learning, and of course all of the stuff my kids are learning right now is very simple to me. My very big problem, I admit, is that I do not know how to patiently come alongside someone who is learning. I think I should coach football, because my style is more the push-and-yell-and-challenge style. Think! Use that brain! Stop being lazy! Do it over again! Go, go, go!

My son, I think, needs this. I know God matched me correctly with the children He gave me, but I fear I will crush my daughter, and I know I am capable of deeply frustrating my son, too. I need to take breaks to go off and do push-ups or something, because I get my choleric dander up and I just lose my ability to be patient and understanding and encouraging. I love working hard, and probably my primary way of bonding with my kids (or anyone) is to work hard with them. But there's a big difference between working hard with someone and dragging them along by their hair. Unless, of course, I hit a snag of depression, and then I say "Oh, hell, go watch a movie, I'm going to lay in bed today." I suppose this will eventually (if it hasn't already) leave the impression on my kids that if I'm pushing them it's because I'm happy. Hopefully that will balance out whatever other psychosis I impress on them.

And hopefully the years of personal formation I did with the ideology of unschooling will keep me from going really bonkers on them and forgetting that learning is everywhere and always. And I do already know deeply that they are more important than their performance and grades. I haven't completely lost it!

So, ask me in a few months how it's going.

On second thought, mind your own business.


Faith said...

Cultivating restraint is hard! I know! For me the key was realizing that the minute there are tears or resentment, learning goes down the tube anyway. It is better to have 10 happy minutes of Latin then 30 minutes of negative emotions. Be your own football coach when it comes to learning patience. I mean focus that kind of energy on yourself learning to be a good teacher instead of on teaching the kids certain subject material. I am on a very inspirational yahoo list right now. It is a mix of more unschooly all the way to very structured and advanced but the binding common factor in the list is that we all love the ideas that the Circe Institute promotes. Circe, if you aren't familiar, is the organization that has a diferent vision of what classical Christian ed is (different from TWM). It is led by Andrew Kern and his cohorts. Kern is so inspirational. It's all about bering a good and inspired teacher.



Marie said...

That's exactly it. I have to keep myself in check before I sabotage the learning effort. There are things we've been doing together, I mean all three of us, and then I have to try to keep the giggly-sillies from sabotaging... I guess no one said being a parent would be easy, right?

The whole idea of sharing the joy of learning is great in theory, but it's like hiking with my SIL who can literally run up a giant hill several times without getting winded. I need to let go of the joy of grammar and find the joy of encouragement instead. !!