I decided to abandon a formal structure to our days and just see what happened. We would only do what the boys asked to do. I would respond to any and all requests but I would not push an agenda of any kind. It was a de-schooling exercise, per se. I wanted to give the boys, and myself, the opportunity to shake the whole bottle of creek water and see what settled after the water cleared. Here is just one example of what remained.
Aidan and August LOVE history. Not only that but, evidently for Aidan, the amount of time that I invest in reading and exploring the subject with him is in direct proportion to the amount of love he feels that he receives from me!
In a weepy moment recently, Aidan started bemoaning the fact that he was, "just sad about his life" in general. When I began to wade through the sweeping generalizations that he was throwing at me it slowly became more and more clear that what he was really upset about was that we had stopped reading from our history book. "You've stopped spending time with me reading history," were his words. Because he loves the pursuit of kings and kingdoms and eras and epochs, because this is so much his passion, the fact that we were no longer partners (albeit, temporarily) in that journey represented some grand withholding of love. The simple act of sitting down and reading through our history book (or any other history book for that matter) and discussing it with him is a way that Aidan receives love.
This kind of turns everything on its head for me.
Could it really be that this education, this learning, this whole way of receiving what the world has to give us is, first, rooted in love?
I believe the answer is a resounding Yes.
Once this incredible realization was made, more began to unfold, in time.
We've been reading our fool heads off. Any and everything. Nothing has been off limits. Full access has been given to all literary mediums. And for the first time, Aidan began reading fiction books independently. He has always read non fiction books independently but I was often curious as to whether he would ever make the switch to fiction himself. He has always loved fiction, don't get me wrong, but only when I read it to him. He could sit and listen to story upon story read aloud, either by me or audio book, all the day long. But picking up one of those same books and reading to himself was not something he chose to do. I suppose part of that is because much of what we read aloud is on a higher reading level than he could do on his own, so he just defaulted to listening, rather than reading. But suddenly, he is lapping up books by the armful. His latest obsession is the Magic Tree House books. Now, his reading ability is much higher than these books, I realize that. But what I've also come to realize is that he is using these books as tools. He has chosen books whose topics are reflective of those which we have already studied in history. So when he reads (very easily) these books , he is reinforcing the facts that he has previously visited through our reading of history. He's making the information his own in a way that speaks to him. An added plus--I've caught him reading aloud to his brother. This morning, I found them cuddled up on the couch together reading about Vikings.
This is the kind of thing that I cannot come up with on my own. I can't plan for this or pencil it into a lesson plan (figurative or real). This is an organic creation, arising when all of the right ingredients come together, unfettered by me and my dictates.
But don't get me wrong. I will not be just an innocent bystander. I can't help myself. I love to discover new things--new birds at our feeders, new words in the dictionary, new ways to make the greatest pizza dough in the world, new ways to add numbers in my head. And I will continue to share these with my boys as they come along. That's just the way I roll. In fact, I'm beginning to think that one of the greatest contributions that I can make towards my boys' education is to show them me being myself.
Again, it is all about balance. I refuse to make this adventure in learning a mere copy of someone else's experience.
We are just going to have to continue being ourselves.
Rabbi Zusya said that on the Day of Judgment, God would ask him, not why he had not been Moses, but why he had not been Zusya. ~Walter Kaufmann