I’ve had a bit of a wake up call the past week. For one thing, I got really sick for two days and lost about eight pounds (eek!) and gained a bit of insight into the disquiet I’ve been feeling regarding homeschooling.
Don’t get me wrong, I love homeschooling, but since getting the curriculum, my idea of homeschooling has morphed into exactly what I never wanted in my home: a home version of public school.
I could kick myself.
I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true, but it’s absolutely true. I began hearing myself say to my daughter:
“We have to do this today, or we’ll be behind. I don’t like feeling behind.”
“If you don’t do this here at home, you have to do it at school. Either way, it has to be done.”
“I’m not going to argue with you every day about the work we have to do.”
“Let’s just get it done.”
“It’s school time. You can do ___________ later.”
Wow. It’s like the curriculum made me forget all about the reason I wanted to homeschool in the first place: to let my daughter LEARN. Instead of trusting her, I’ve basically been a public school teacher (with a better curriculum, however) without the pay and my poor child has been sitting at the kitchen table wishing she were somewhere else, just as so many children are sitting in a desk in a classroom wishing they were somewhere else. The difference and perhaps this is the worst part: my daughter is experiencing this AT HOME.
To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, but as I mentioned in a recent post on Instagram, the really good thing about homeschool is we can step into our power as Mom and adjust what we’re doing and even stop for a while, step back, and start over. There are no time limits to learning.
As a trained teacher (I taught middle school), I cannot keep denying the fact that my formal, institutional education has a serious hold on how I view and approach learning. I tried to tell myself I was free-spirited enough to overcome it, chuck it out the window like an old cassette tape and move on and I almost believed it. However, the look on my daughter’s face tells me otherwise.
My goal has been to Unschool. Yet, I bought a curriculum.
Why did I do this? Because I don’t trust myself to facilitate her learning without it.
Why? Because I have been trained to teach. I’ve never met children who were not taught by other adults. I am not thoroughly convinced children can learn all they need to learn without having a lesson of some sort.
Why? Because I’ve never seen it. Wait, I did have a friend in school who was homeschooled in an Unschooling sort of fashion and she was brilliant, so perhaps I should not be so quick to say I’ve never met children who have gained the knowledge they need without a lesson of some sort. She was super cool. She came to middle school later on (at her request, I believe) and played oboe. She told us that while she was home, she made her own toys. I thought that was cool.
So children CAN learn without lessons and I see my daughter learning all the time. I know that learning is natural. I know she is always learning, but I get worried. Let me be honest. I saw the “back to school” pictures and it bothered me. I see these children progressing in grades and I worry about my daughter not having that label for her education.
Why? I don’t know. I remember feeling proud of how I did in school. I remember counting down the years to get out too! haha! I am not sure if I should take that from her. The thing is, I may be fooling myself again. Perhaps I am worried about taking that from me. My daughter actually doesn’t seem to care at all. She lifts her head and says, “I don’t do school. I’m never going to school.” I always smile, but when faced with the expressions of the other adults (trained in the same institution as me), I wince a little. I shrink two inches and shrug it off with a, “We homeschool.” Then, all is well.
I am sort of pissed at myself, to be honest. I’ve mucked up the works with my own ingrained ideas and while I TALK about shit, at home, I’m not doing or FEELING (more importantly) the things I’m talking about.
I worry about device time.
I worry about “socialization,” although to be honest, the socialization they get at school is NOT good and as a former teacher and mom of two adult sons, I know this. My daughter is a little bit odd in social settings, but that may have nothing to do at all with homeschooling. It may have everything to do with the fact that she seems MUCH older than she is. She’s five. Most people think she’s seven. The confusion is palpable when we go out. I notice these things and worry.
Why? Again – training. In school, the last thing you want to be in an outlier, unless you’re on the gifted side and you definitely don’t want to stand out physically because the socialization they say children benefit from in school can be quite damaging in reality. Speaking of the confusion. The expressions worn on the faces of the adults is rarely seen on the faces of children who welcome her with open arms. Again, we are trained to find differences and point them out, judge them, and decide whether or not they “fit.”
I’ve written too much here, but I think it’s important. There are so many blogs out there from moms doing it. Homeschooling looks great from every angle if you read the mom blogs. I don’t care if you follow a strict schedule or unschool, the blogs regarding the methods make it seem rather easy. I can tell you from my experience, it’s not always easy.
I need to continue working on me and my beliefs regarding learning. NOT education. I’m sick of looking at it like that. I’m sick of seeking out ways to label her learning. I’m sick of worrying about what grade I should say she’s in when I’m asked. I’m sick of even saying the word “homeschooling.”
My son just bought a house and is moving out, so I want to make his room into a useable space. At first, I was thinking “homeschool room!” Of course! We need a special space to learn. Ugh….
Will I ever learn?
Then, as I thought about it, I realized that’s not what I want at all. If I label that room the homeschool room, my daughter will eventually never go in there on her own, just like she has never once opened the “homeschool cabinet” in the kitchen.
Even as I have tried to teach her that learning is natural. Even as I have posted about learning being natural, I have begun conditioning my daughter to believe that school and learning happen here, while life and play happen elsewhere. In short, I’ve failed and all it took was my buying a curriculum. I’m not bashing the curriculum. I LOVE the resources and the books. My daughter loves the math. For me though, I am not convinced the schedule and other things in it are right for my family.
CHANGES I’VE MADE:
So I have made some small changes. For one thing, I’m NOT going to turn my son’s old room into a homeschool room. I’m going to make it into our creative space. Period. It’s going to be a place for sewing, reading, crafting, etc….There. Done. I have so many plans, one of which is to have a daybed in there for guests, that doubles as a perfect spot for reading and chilling out together.
Next: I’ve chucked the Language Arts “worksheets.” I hated having my daughter do them. Why on earth does a child need to do copywork? Instead, she writes on purpose, on her own, with my help when she asks. The crazy part? It happens daily. Since I’ve let go of the how-tos, she’s been attempting to spell words on her own! Yay!
We do math daily, but only because she loves it. And I’m going to add the fun things we used to do back in, because last year I was showing her fractions by letting her bake with me. This stopped when my husband and I cut gluten, but I think it’s time to bring it back and also incorporate other fun real-life things she shows interest in.
We read every day, but I’ve let go of the “I Can Read It!” book in favor of more fun books like Dr. Seuss and any other books she picks up. I mean…reading is reading and why not let her read fun books that will inspire more reading rather than a dressed-up basal reader that is boring her to tears, literally? She actually does enjoy reading the first of that series, so I put it in the car so she can pick it up when she wants, but honestly, she usually chooses Dr. Seuss.
Honestly, that’s all I want to have that is daily and I want none of it to ever come with “have to.” I don’t think anything else except fun learning, travel, exploration, play, local trips, playing video games, and being with people who love her is necessary. She’s empathetic, kind, very generous, gregarious, confident, funny, curious, inquisitive, well-spoken, and genuinely amazing.
Below are a couple of examples of things we’ve done since I’ve let go of the curriculum schedule. All of these were her idea.
I trust her.
I don’t think I actually did before all of this blew up in my face, but I can say it with honesty now.
Instead of worrying about her, because she clearly gets this Unschooling thing better than I do, I’m going to focus on deschooling myself, and showing myself a little grace as I let go of and rewrite my own beliefs about learning, and I’m going to start by closing my curriculum binder and opening my eyes to my daughter’s interests and hey, maybe even give more time to my own interests as well!