Wednesday, March 4, 2009

So much to share

I'm not sure why the time between posts is lengthening. Obviously, I've adopted the BWO (Blogging Without Obligation) motto with gusto, but it's beginning to bother me a bit.
I think it's bothering me in some of the same ways that "unschooling myself" is bothering me. I'll see if I can explain.

In my daily experiences of learning at home with my two boys I've come to realize that I am, at heart, an unschooler. I really, and I mean, REALLY, appreciate being able to completely go with the flow with the boys. They have proven to me that they do have interests that they will pursue, especially if provided with resources and opportunities. Over and over again, Aidan has approached me with things that he wants to learn about and, more often than not, I have absolutely no idea where he got the idea. Granted, some things have come naturally. The eternal Medieval obsession was obviously born out of the love of swords and knights and shields and dragons that have always been a part of Aidan. But the other interests, especially related to History, have been discovered while leisurely perusing the shelves of the library. Sure, when he mentions a subject of one kind or another, I will follow that up with some book choices of my own, in order to provide a variety of materials from which he can glean whatever it is that he is looking for. But, thus far, our subjects of study have been, 85% of the time, driven by Aidan or August.
So, what is the problem? Well, the problem is that I wasn't "unschooled." I was "educated" within a system that had a precise formula for what and when you learned things. These were, purportedly, logically and chronologically sequenced to best enhance learning and retention. Thus, some folks got a head start on reading in kindergarten but most kids nailed it in first grade. Third grade, for me, was all about long division, dinosaurs and cursive writing. Fourth grade-fractions and U.S. and Missouri History. You get the point. You lived it, too. That sequence, that connection between particular grades or age levels with specific content, is deeply embedded in what we, traditionally schooled folks, understand "school" to be.
The rub, for me, comes when the "adult who is in the process of unschooling herself" bumps into her alter ego, the "adult who is the product of a traditional schooling background."
How about an example?
This past Monday I came to the realization that Aidan's "one month off of Phonics" plan had oozed into the "over two months without" reality. And so, I did what most of my family is probably doing right now as they read this, I freaked! I completely went crazy--with worry, with guilt, with self loathing, with disdain, with what... you've probably got a few suggestions for me yourself.
And then the "other" voice in my head said that "it really wasn't that big of a deal and to let it go. Relax. He's not going to be illiterate. He's not slow. You're not slow. You're fine."
No, seriously, really?
And then Tuesday dawned. And the boys only wanted to read about Egypt. They wanted to eat, sleep and breathe Egypt. For crying out loud, enough about Egypt! No, I actually was eating it up myself because I was learning so much, too. Pharaohs, gods and goddesses, pyramids, Tutankhamun (which August pronounces perfectly, if you can believe that!?!?), the river Nile, Nubians, papyrus.... and we now have our own miniature Egypt, in a Rubbermaid dishpan, complete with desert, river silt, river bed and delta. We can't wait for the grass seed along the river to sprout so that we can get a real visual on the lushness along the Nile in stark contrast to the desert sand as far as you can see beyond. Oh, and did you know that you can see the Great Pyramids at Giza on Google maps? Yes, type in Egypt and choose the satellite view and you identify them by the triangle shadows they make on their west side (it must have been morning when the picture was taken). Incredibly cool!
And then today, as if by magic, while I made lunch at the counter, Aidan climbed up on one of the stools with a set of Bob books and proceeded to pull them out, one by one, and read them to me and August. And he was really reading them, because although he had "read" the first one he pulled out for us some time before, the others that he chose he had never opened before. He was obviously trying to guess certain words by context (his default method) but many, he was sounding out.
So, two months off from formal Phonics instruction has not been all for naught.
Do you understand my difficulty?
Although I am really sold out to the relaxed approach and see how it works really well for us right now, I am also a product of a system that simply cannot jive with that perspective. It simply can't.
And so, for now, I must be content with the tension. Perhaps that is the real lesson in all of this.

“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson