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Back to home learning

13 Sep

So, we brought the boys back home this year, and I am pretty sure it’s for good. At least for this year, it is! I have so many things to say about why public (or private) school is wrong for my boys, and I don’t feel like I need to go into them all here. What I will say, however, is that it just sucked the love of learning out of them, and took something wonderful and turned it into something frustrating and exhausting and annoying. Thankfully, they were not too far gone, and they are coming back around.

It was not a difficult decision to bring them home. While other mothers breathe a sigh of relief when their kiddos head back to school, it was nothing of the sort for us. Every single morning was a battle to get one out of bed, and to get both dressed, eat their breakfast, and out the door without a huge shouting match. There were a few hours of peace and quiet at home with just me and Parker, and John when he wasn’t working or sleeping off a night shift, and those were nice. But then once school was out, it was an hour or two of getting Pierce to do his homework, and dealing with a grumpy, exhausted Will. It more than negated the peacefulness of the day while they were at school.

And, most of all, they were so unhappy. Now, Will had a wonderful teacher last year, and really enjoyed his class, because she made things fun, and enjoyed learning herself. It didn’t hurt that his cousin (they are 2 months apart, and are almost like twins) was in his class with him. 🙂 But just the nature of teaching and learning and curriculum in public school is a beat-down. Third grade begins the all-out focus on standardized testing, and every day is based around learning how best to take and succeed at the test. EVERY DAY.

Seriously, I could say so, so much about all of this, but so many other people have said so much more eloquently than I could, so I won’t. We just know that our boys are where they need to be right now–at home.

And what are we doing “school”? Not much, and we like it that way! John works with them some on math, and has them copy down a Bible verse (a short one, to work on their handwriting). I do housework with them, and ride bikes with them, and sit outside while they ride down the street, or play basketball, or dig in the dirt, or swing Parker in his swing.  We go to the library often and pick out a wide variety of books. I am implementing a short devotion in the morning (seriously, 10 minutes or less). And that’s about it. Oh, and we do art stuff sometimes.

Will it always be just like this? I doubt it. But they needed some time to decompress, to get the bad taste out of their mouth of being forced to learn what some smarty-pants somewhere said was important and was necessary for them to “make it” in life. I doubt we will ever use a formal curriculum. We will read often to learn about our interests. We will go fun and thought-provoking places. We will visit with interesting people. We will explore nature. Sometimes we will just chill at home and watch tv and play games on the computer. But we will always be learning, in our time, in our way.

What prompted this post tonight was my realization that pretty much anything I know today did not come from my formal schooling, until college level. I have told people frequently that though I graduated summa cum laude from high school (a U.S. top 150 public high school), I honestly don’t know how I did, because I couldn’t really think of anything I took away from it. That’s not true. I learned about the Aryans (the original ones, who settled in India and intermarried with the Indians), and I learned about economics–as much as my brain could understand it (because we had a fun and unconventional teacher). I’m not exaggerating there. The things I know and use today, I learned myself, because I wanted to learn it. I was helped by people who mentored me, in a sense–people who were there to share their knowledge and help me further my understanding and answer questions. But mostly, the baking and gardening and cleaning and parenting and sewing and crafting and home repair, and whatever else I do on a day-to-day basis, I learned because I read, and I researched, and I asked questions, and I DID. I might as well give my kids the opportunity to have time to do that for themselves, instead of wasting so much of their day “learning” facts out-of-context of real life, then being too exhausted to spend their free time learning what they want to learn.

Just my thoughts here. Obviously my approach to home learning is different than many others’, and that’s ok! We all have to figure out what is best for our kids, and our families. The left-brained, organized, step-by-step learner/teacher would likely flounder in such an environment. Thankfully, in our family, we are more (or very!) right-brained, creative, whole-to-part (we don’t learn in steps, we just take what we need and figure it out) learners, and this kind of unschooling is working great for us, at least for now!