For the unschoolers out there, here’s a great website which I found when I was looking for ways to make an inexpensive weaving loom with Jay. Lots of crafts and science projects.
Posts Tagged ‘unschooling’
….who plays Scrabble with a group of senior citizens every Thursday night.
Not to be kind, not as some sort of civic duty, not to rack up volunteer credits. Just because he loves playing Scrabble.
How cool is that?
I started homeschooling when the oldest boy was eight, after three years of trying to fit him into a school system that wasn’t designed for the way he learns. He’s ferociously bright, in a way that was obvious from the time he was born. I’ve been dragged along by this child, forced to research everything ever written about giftedness and gifted education, driven from morning till night by his relentless quest for challenge.
He taught himself to read when he was 18 months old, he was asking about fractions by the time he was two. I saw him devouring the non-fiction section of the library while he was still in diapers, and I worried about how he would adapt to kindergarten. He was thrilled at the idea of school, where he imagined himself sitting at a desk being taught algebra. When he was four, he found a book called “101 ways to do better on tests” and read it from cover to cover in anticipation. He was four-and-a-half when he started kindergarten, and I did everything I could to prepare the school in advance, but what could they really do with a child who was immersed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy when the classroom was set up for learning the alphabet? He was okay in kindergarten because it was mostly play and it was only half a day, leaving him plenty of time for working on his own stuff at home, but by grade one there were problems. He balked at the idea of “circle time” and outright refused to participate in most of the activities, preferring to read at his table. He went to the grade 6 classroom for math and novel studies. The class worked on building models of structures, and he brought in his styrofoam model of a water molecule, nearly in tears when none of the other kids were interested in learning atomic theory. By grade two, he had been in the grade 6 classroom for math for two years, and a grade 11 tutor was brought in to teach him algebra, but it wasn’t enough of a spark in a long day of tedious drudgery, and the little boy who used to vibrate with excitement when he discovered a new concept slowly dwindled away. I saw him shrink, curl in on himself, and plod his way through the day. Even at home, he seemed sad, withdrawn, forlorn.
I saw it, but the teachers didn’t. They saw a polite, kind, thoughtful, considerate, well-behaved boy who was able to work at grade level. The adminstrators told me that they were doing all they could, and we would have to be satisfied with the “enrichment” he was receiving.
It seemed like such an enormous decision at the time, taking him out of school. It seemed like such a dramatic step. I worried that I was overreacting, doing the wrong thing, depriving him of an ordinary childhood. I worried that he would be isolated, that he would feel different, maybe even in some deep and dark way, wishing he wasn’t so different. In the end, I made the decision not so much for academic reasons, but for emotional ones. I imagined what it must be like to feel so unseen, so unheard, so misunderstood and so powerless. Sent every day to a place that provided nothing by a parent who insisted it was okay. Forced to endure endless hours of tedium with no escape. When I allowed myself to feel the pain and the sense of betrayal he must have been suffering, I realized how abandoned he must have felt. It pains me to this day to think of it.
That was a long time ago, and in retrospect, homeschooling seems like it was the obvious choice, but it sure was a difficult decision at the time. It’s really hard to go against what “everyone else” is doing, what society has deemed correct, what the “experts” say is right. I listened to the principals and the teachers and I tried hard to convince myself that I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of me. I went to meetings, helped design “individualized educational programs”, volunteered in the classroom, nodded, smiled, ingratiated myself. I was careful not to offend anyone, I was modest about my son’s achievements, I went out of my way to avoid seeming like a pushy mother of a hot-housed child. I thought that I could tiptoe my way through the system, and still get my son’s needs met. It took me a long time to stop and pay attention to what my child was trying to tell me, and to put his actual needs ahead of my own need for him to be “normal”.
This post is not a rant about schools, or educators. It’s a little story about my experience with raising a child with differences, and of the mistakes I made along the way.
None of my kids are particularly artistic. This is a picture that Tee crayoned when he was about six, or maybe even seven (on what I’m guessing must have been a gloomy day). Note the lack of detail, the wing-like hands extending directly from the trunk, and the missing facial features.
That being said, I don’t think that many people are born artists.
Outside of the few people who do seem born with natural drawing talent, I think that most of us get good at drawing or painting in the way that we get good at other things. By practicing. Kids who are interested in drawing do it more than kids who aren’t, and they get better and better at it. They’ll be the ones that are more likely to take art classes, and they’ll get better still, which will spur them on to practice even more. A lovely positively reinforcing circle which leads to artistic skill.
When the kids were homeschooling, I used Drawing With Children to teach them a bit about art. I was surprised at how quickly their drawing improved, even with just a few small pointers. Once the lessons stopped, their drawing skills stagnated, and they didn’t progress much at all, but the experience cemented my belief that if there’s something you want to do, just go ahead and give it a try, even if you don’t think you’re going to be good at it.
Almost anything can be learned.
Going to school hasn’t seemed to diminish Jay’s desire to learn the things she wants to learn. She just has less time in which to do it. From the moment she crashes through the door after school lets out until she’s tucked into her bed at night she’s on a relentless quest for data. Sometimes she gets the information from books, other times she’s busy googling, but most often, she hounds me for spelling lists and math questions. Recently it’s been a mini-obsession with division, which she begs me to test her on when we drive to gymnastics. She insists on doing map work before she leaves for school in the morning, so we’re working our way through the countries of South America. I wanted to learn the official languages of the countries, but she only wants to memorize the spellings of the countries and their capitals, in the hopes of having all of the countries in the world in her noggin by the end of the year.
There’s no stopping this kid.
It’s like being in the path of a train.
….completely abandoned this summer. I lost all interest in it what with my obsessive, desperate fight for you-know-what, and now that September is knee-deep in leaves, I’ve been looking out the window at the weedy, shambly, out-of-control mess, and feeling despair. In a fitting sort of symbolism, the tomato harvest was ruined by an infestation of some sort of pest, worms most likely, judging by the holes in the fruit. I went out there to find the culprits, but they must only come out at night.
Part of the fun in gardening was how much interest the kids showed in it. I loved being able to give them the satisfaction of pulling carrots right out of the ground and eating them, and I never minded that I was the one that did all of the grunt work. They’d help with shoveling, or planting, when the mood was right, or else they’d go about their own work of the day, playing games deep in The Secret Garden that is the bottom, wilder end of the yard. It was enough for me to know that they had a sense of what I was doing. I was happy to have something to do outside when they were out there, so that we could all be busy together.
Now, when I garden, it’s by myself, and it’s going to take a little getting used to. I corralled Big Boy R when he came home from classes this afternoon, and asked him to help me yank the tomato plants. He’s nothing if not agreeable, so he came out and made a show of helping, and we had a nice long discussion about whether athiests like he and I could ever be theologians. He’s taking a class on the historical investigation of the bible as a form of literature, and is finding it fascinating. I was happy to have his company, the sun warm on my back.
I harvested all of the basil plants, and they were kind of holey and moth-eaten. Completely gone to seed, too. So I snipped the flowers off, and put them in a glass of water and now the house smells quite pungent.
Sad little garden.
Next year will be better.