Monday, July 6, 2009

Unschooling ...

Adventuring with their mama.

Recently, I've been thinking about my kids and the whole schooling system thing. We've been blessed to get a pretty good bunch of teachers in primary school and Intermediate, with a few average ones chucked in for good measure. Overall though, I am left feeling dissatissfied with my sons' educations, and wondering what can I do about it anyway.

Rich and I aren't the most organised kind of people. We aren't high earners, high achievers nor are we highly educated despite our attempts to try and gain higher education in our thirties. We have both managed to gain diploma's and I have two unfinished degrees that are just looking so ridiculously unattainable now that I have a new son to play with. We get by on a modest income supplemented by all sorts of goodness and miracles. We don't own our own home but live in a wonderful little house minutes from the sea. We live adequately and our vacations are mostly spent at home or visiting relatives. A good night out might mean a meal at the foodcourt or a movie with the kids at home and goodies to munch on. A day out is usually the beach or park or hanging out with friends. We live a simple life. I am grateful.

When the boys were little, I loved being involved in their lives. I loved the way I knew them so well, that if something was up, it flicked across the 'mama-scan' long before it actually eventuated. You know, things like illness, an 'off' day at school, fear, etc. I knew they were thirsty before they did! I knew what they liked, what interested them, what put them off, what they ate, what they needed. It was good being that intimate with my kids.

Then they went to school. And suddenly six hours a day, five days a week, I had no idea what was going on. Who they were with. Who was influencing them. And what they were learning. I could hardly support it because I wasn't there and able to help them along in their context. I became busy with other things and suddenly was fitting my kids in around my life. It was detached and I felt very uncomfortable about it.

I remember justifying it by thinking that they needed to individuate, to cut the strings from my supposed apron and become their own people. Now I find it difficult to reach them sometimes. They don't communicate as much as they used to. They seem kinda switched off actually.

I have good kids. People tell me they are good kids. My big boy has a heart of gold. He is like a big uncle to his little brothers. The baby is always in his arms or on his hip. He is logical, calm and likes to think things through. He can also be a couch potato. My second youngest is full of life, exuberant and chatters non-stop. He loves to talk about anything, has an opinion about everything and barely pauses to let you answer before he's off again. The couches are his launch and landing pads. My third is just a babe, a big beautiful still innocent baby.

We are thinking seriously about homeschooling our boys. It's a new idea to us. I used to think I had to be a some other kind of teacher, but now my thoughts are different, they're changing. I think my heart is so inclined towards my sons, and my passion for living so strong that I am well equipped to prepare my boys for adulthood. Couple that with their intelligent tech-head musically talented father and they couldn't have better mentors I am thinking.. I am so idealistic and I have a few (not many) doubts but mostly I want something else.

I have some major peeve's regarding the school system:
* it revolves around passing 5th and 6th form exams rather than sets you up to live life;

* out of that six hour period of time my son's are at school, the individual time and attention they probably get would be mere minutes;

* the system flatlines everyone by age with no extra attention going to a students abilities and strengths. So if you have a kid who loves to perform but their peers don't then that is likely to be squashed. Likewise if your kids loves maths and has a great aptitude for it, then he will still only get 30 mins teaching even though it would be to their advantage to specialise and spend hours doing what they love.

I am biaised I know because I had a love/hate relationship with school. I was a deep thinker, loved anything that involved people, and had an aptitude for words. On the other hand I was terrible at maths and anything that involved equation-like thinking. Science was like that too. But for years, I had to do maths one hour a day and science too, even though I have never done anything with those subjects. Even now, I reach for a calculator.

I would've been better off, if they'd stuck me in the library to work with books, cataloguing them, handling them, writing reports on books. I loved spending hours in the library as my punishment for not bringing my sports kit for PE. I hated sports. Being asthmatic and not very sporty, I sucked at all those things. If it hadn't been so competitive, I might've enjoyed it. But no, the fastest bestest kids got the credits while I labored at the back wheezing and looking for a way to escape and have a smoke with my mates.

More importantly, in recent years I have learned about the various learning styles that we all have. I am all three. I need to see it, hear it and experience it. Then I am good to go. I also have to be interested in what I am doing, otherwise it's a big fat waste of time.

I loved drama at school but my caregiving family at the time prevented me from doing it because it wasn't practical and they were very controlling. They forced me to do boring homework at nights when I could have been doing art and creative stuff. I was invited to perform in the school play. Not allowed. I was invited out with my peers. Not allowed. I had to study. I could've been involved in the school magazine a year earlier. Not allowed. My caregivers at the time were old school. One went to school to do school work. No extra curricular activities for me. I couldn't be trusted. So what could've been fun, social and interesting turned in to laborious work with no let up and no sense of personal satisfaction.

I developed survival skills for the amount of study I was required to perform. I got fancy stationery and I drew all over my assignments making them look pretty. lol. It set me up in good stead for tertiary study. The upside was that my marks meant I gained entry into the top journalism course at the time in the country. Out of 500 plus applicants, they took 30. I was one of them. However, I wish I had been allowed more time to 1) Grow up while in the safety of my home (I had to leave home as soon as I was able to work due to a strained relationship with one of my caregivers at the time, so at 17 with barely any life skills, I left); and 2) I'd had more one-on-one time to develop my writing.

I wish someone had inspired me and mentored me. See, that is how I learned best. I had a couple of English teachers that gave a damn about me, and it really paid off. I love the creative writing I did at high school. I wish I'd been able to pursue that. I also wanted to help people. I wish I could've pursued that. I loved making things. Again, if only things had been different.

In my thirties I started to pursue these things that actually interested me. I am grateful that I can renarrate my life. I want different for my boys. I figure no one will care about them like I do. No one will ever want to invest as much as I do. Others may know more than I know about some things but I do know my boys.

I want to teach them about life. How to do a budget (and maybe I'll learn in the process as well). How to keep a house. How to cook. How to buy a house. How to look after other people. How to be part of a community. How to motivate themselves. How to find out something. Learning how to learn so that they can access whatever they need in the future. To discover their learning styles. To pursue their strengths and interests. To play for fun and with intention. To look at the world with enquiring minds and different eyes.

I am starting to research all the alternatives to school but would love to know if you have tried this, or whatever. Let us know. We love our boys. We want to set them up for life with skills that will actually help them. Not just tick the curriculum boxes.
The world - our classroom.

1 comment:

Idzie Desmarais said...

I'm an 18 year old longtime unschooler. Unschooling most definitely "works", and is a wonderful, unique-to-the-individual journey! :-)