Now that we are approaching the end of our second year of home education I thought it was appropriate to document our progress so far. I haven’t done this in previous posts, mainly because we don’t test and/or monitor the boys as this will make me nervous and wobble more.
I trust my boys and their natural abilities to let me know when I’m needed to help them. I don’t tell them when they need help because to me that shows them that I don’t trust them or their abilities and that maybe they shouldn’t either.
So… No tests, but how do you know that they are progressing?
I think that question is easily answered when you meet the boys, or in fact the question doesn’t need to be asked when you look at them or better even when you talk to them. When I look back more than two years ago, our boys seemed ‘fine’ to the outside world. Normal boys who got on with their lives, go to school, do their homework etc. doing all the right things that are expected from a child. Expected by society that is.
We knew our eldest (B) was very bright (we didn’t know yet that he was of-the-scales smart though) and that he had emotional issues like meltdowns and/or tantrums.
To the school system our second son (D) was just average except for maybe being too sensitive to ‘teasing’, but I secretly think that they blamed me for being overprotecting. We however knew that he is very bright and very fussy about labels etc., but that his older brother had similar issues/sensitivities so we were not too surprised. He was always hard working in school and both B and D were (and still are) quite the perfectionist, which I always viewed as a positive. After all, I was a perfectionist too. (Now I know that it is not necessarily a positive all the time as it has the ability to get in the way of learning, because what is learning without making mistakes?)
Our third son (N), who is four years younger than D was just a baby. He was in preschool and seemed to love it.
In December 2011 we started our home education journey. In the beginning the boys just loved not having to wake up at 7am and be rushed in any way, even though I still felt they should do certain things, like getting dressed and go to sleep, at particular times. I was under the impression that this was best because the rest of the world did this as well. (Thinking about that now, this seems a rubbish reason!)
I also felt that the boys had to hit certain levels at certain times. I was conditioned to think that a child should be reading at a certain age and that he should read certain books, that he should be learning to do handwriting and that he is probably not going to like Maths because it was hard and children don’t like hard work or putting any effort in anything considered ‘important’. Now, through my own learning, both by doing research, reading a lot and most importantly personal experience, I know for a fact that this is pure nonsense!
I have learned that a child will learn best and most efficiently when they are ready and interested. Just the same with walking, talking and potty training.
So, now about two years after we started our unschooling journey without tests, without workbooks (even though we do have them available), without strict bedtimes, without ‘should’t, with a few wobbles, but with lots of time, laughter, messiness, humour, lots and lots of conversations and questions I can honestly tell you that it works!
B has decided to sign himself up for an online course on Astronomy, which he will start after doing a mathematical biostatistic course which, we hope, will help him. I’ve signed up as well with the idea that I can support him in his studies, but of course it might end up being the other way around.
D has shown an interest in cooking, especially making bacon sandwiches. He is actively working on his shyness and enjoys being more independent by going to the shop around the corner on his own. This may seem to some of you like nothing special, but believe me, it is. D has had very negative experiences in school, which he’s only talked about in detail ages after he had left school. It had a major effect on him and he has been and still is struggling with self esteem issues and is still displaying school type behaviours. He still has a lot of internal shoulds (‘I should do this’ etc.), but he is slowly getting more relaxed and opens up which shows the lovely, caring little man that he is.
N is very interested in astronomy, anatomy (bones especially), cooking and reading. He has asked his dad to read a science fiction book (‘to your scattered bodies go’ by Philip Jose Farmer) as a bedtime story. So they have been doing this and he seems to be loving it. His interest in astronomy is probably from talking to B and looking at B’s astronomy books.
All of this just confirms to us all we are on the right path. And don’t get me wrong, I am sure there will be other security wobbles ahead, but I believe this is more down to parenthood than to our chosen path and maybe this is the true reason why I felt the need to write this blog (with a little encouragement of a friend – thanks R.!). As a reminder.
So to remind myself and anyone else who is having a home education wobble:
‘You are doing a good job! Look at your kids and ask yourself: Would they be happier in school?’
Isn’t that what it is all about?