Ditching the plan: a home education update

When we were first planning for our son  to leave school and rejoin us at home I had wonderful visions of spending our days curled on the couch reading classical literature together. He would of course then give me a dazzling narration of what we had just read. We would enjoy our mornings traipsing through bushland before settling in the shade of a large tree to sketch in our Nature Journals. Upon our return home we would listen to Beethoven whilst painting Monet-inspired watercolours before a quick science experiment. The next day we would do it again, but this time find the time for a maths lesson, a grammar lesson, maybe a little Latin practice and then bake some bread. By hand. Naturally.

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Well to be honest we have done all of those things. Except the Latin. I don’t know why I thought a 6 year old would want to learn that, or even know what it is to begin with. Although there is a stray notebook somewhere were he has diligently copied out the words, ‘Noun comes from the Latin word nomen, meaning name’. But none of the activities have looked quite the way I picture them in my head.

That’s because it was my fantasy. My beautiful fantasy where Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori got together and had a magical education pedagogy baby and called it Our Homeschool Life. It had very little to do with how my child actually wants to learn. How he needs to learnat this point in time.

Kids are naturally curious. Spend 5 minutes with any two year old and you will know for sure that children are hard-wired to seek out knowledge. The 1001 questions they ask kind of tips you off that they can’t help themselves. That doesn’t suddenly disappear when they turn 5. That isn’t a magical number that turns them from passionate, curious truth-seekers into empty vessels for us to pour our wisdom *cough cough* into.

The first few weeks went well. We started our days with some handwriting practice,  recited some poetry,  took turns reading novels aloud and launched into MEP maths lessons. But learning cursive isn’t as much fun when it goes from ‘I want to learn to write pretty like Mum’ to ‘I am being forced to practice writing even though I think my writing is pretty good already’. Novels can lose their spark when you are made to give a narration just when the story takes an exciting twist. Maths worksheets just plain suck, no matter how clever the designer was. Cue yelling and tears from us both. Suddenly my little mathematician didn’t like maths anymore.

We had brought our child home in part because we could see school was sapping his desire to learn…and now we were doing the same thing.

Whoa! Time to step back. De-school. Not just him, but us parents too. Let him spend a week reading a Harry Potter novel. Play board games. Bake. Hike with no pushing for a realistic sketch in a Nature Journal. You know, just for the sheer love of it. Like we used to. When we let go and trust our kids to learn, when we surround them with the tools they need to explore and make sense of their world, and when we let them see us learn and engage ourselves, the learning begins to take care of itself.

And so we spend our days curled on the couch reading together. We hike and go to the beach. We listen to music. We bake bread. We play boardgames and draw on our wall (don’t worry, it’s a hall-length blackboard). He plays on the tablet and helps in the garden. And he is learning! Even more importantly,  he is learning how to learn and LOVING IT!

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The recipe says 2 tablespoons but I only have the half tablespoon.
So how many will you need to put in? I’ll put in four.

This pupa looks different from the last one. Different butterflies must make different kinds of pupa!

Mum! I made my characters talk on Scratch. What should I make them say?
Hmmm. I’m not sure. Would you like to look at some books of plays when we go to the library?
Yes! And then I can make awesome stories on here. Look, I can make them move when they talk to each other.

I added heaps of water to my painting and now it looks like a Monet!

How did the flowers turn blue? Maybe the water travels up inside their stems?

Mum! I did 304 times 3 on my Montessori times app and got the answer right. Soon I will multiply THOUSANDS.

Learning happens naturally and at their own pace when we give our kids space and freedom, along with the tools and encouragement they need. We just need to let go…and deschool!

This post was originally entitled ‘Ooops. We turned into unschoolers’. Since I first posted this we have moved away from that term as we have refined our views and adjusted our approach, realising that for us unschooling was an important part of the deschooling process but ultimately not our true path. I would now say we are taking a more ‘holistic home educating’ approach. More on that in this post!!

~Edited 10th March 2016~

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12 thoughts on “Ditching the plan: a home education update

  1. I simply love this! I really believe unschooling is how we all naturally learn, but it can be so hard to step out of our fantasies and trust the process. This is such a good reminder for me, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is such a leap of faith to discard what we have been conditioned to believe our whole lives, and to try something completely different. I admit my faith waivers some days, but I truly believe we are on the right path now. So glad you enjoyed the post xx

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  2. Can I pick your brain please? It’s about screen time.
    We started ‘homeschooling’ in July. I have three boys 9, 6 and 3.
    So far we’ve tried a mix of everything: Time playing board games, reading etc to deschool. Which felt like school holidays. Xbox or computer games were happening maybe an hour or two a day.
    Then we tried a few weeks where I provide a list of tasks for them to choose from. Things they’d do at school like reading to me, writing (which they really don’t want to do) and maths – hands on with our Montessori materials or a worksheet. Problem is they will do these things if they get Xbox time. I hate this because it’s suggesting that learning is the work to suffer through to get the fun.
    I’ve also tried time where I leave them to choose their own tasks. Thinking my ‘classroom’ full of Montessori and learning tools will provide inspiration. The little ones will play Lego most of the day. Mr 9 , however, usually whinges about having nothing to do until I let him have screen time- either watch a movie or what he calls ‘research’ which is watching you tube videos about soccer players or dinosaurs. I keep wanting him to take this information further- a story, report or PowerPoint about dinosaurs for example – but it never does.
    How do you approach screen time? Any other advice on the best way to promote learning?
    Thank you, Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sarah 😊
      Screentime is a tough one to tackle. For us personally, I do set limits on tv time, but not often on computer time. Due to some sensory issues my son finds it difficult to self-regulate so we as a family agreed no tv before 4pm. Computer time doesn’t seem to be a problem for him, I think because it is interactive? I know a lot of unschooling families who choose not to have screens in their home at all, and I know many who choose not to restrict screens at all as they trust in their child’s ability to choose what they need. If you go that route, be prepared for a possibly period of binging on screens which eventually balances itself (trust and patience needed here).

      When taking an unschooling approach I truly believe it is quite difficult on the parents when we are coming from a background of conventional schooling. We have a lot of our own baggage to give up. De-schooling is just as important, if not more important, for us rather than just our children. My advice would be to let go of your expectations, let go of the lists, and relax. Easier said than done I know 😊 Try your hand at strewing, load up the tablet with some games and videos you think they might like, let them see you sit down and read for fun. This is definitely more about process than outcomes.
      I’d also recommend reading Lori Pickett’s Project Based Homeschooling (give her a google and she’ll pop right up). I think it may be helpful to you, especially with how you’ve described outcomes you’d been hoping to see in your 9yo’s time.
      Hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading the blog x

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    • I’ve discovered this seems to be a commonly shared story Rosie, which is encouraging for me 😊 I think unschooling is a massive learning curve for most parents. The vast majority of us went through conventional schooling so the need to de-school (which I totally passed off as a myth before haha) quickly becomes apparent. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts x

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