Friday, September 23, 2011

Relaxed Homeschooling

The link above is an article by Mary Hood about the relaxed homeschooling style. I'm sure there are other related articles online to give you a better idea of what the definition of relaxed homeschooling is. For this post I will simply share some thoughts, ideas, and experiences to reflect my goal of becoming a more relaxed homeschooling mother. For it seems that to have a relaxed learning atmosphere, the parent who is teaching must herself be relaxed!

Although I was not homeschooled myself, my own mother's parenting style gives me a good foundation to the approach. I am the oldest of six kids, and we are all highly creative people. Some of this may be inherited, but surely my mother's high tolerance for creative endeavors was instrumental. Once when I was an adult visiting my parents, and my youngest brother was still little, I was astonished to find that Mom had allowed him to nail holes in a wall in the dining room to make a tent! She said that he asked her first, and she was planning to paint that wall anyway, so she thought it was a fine idea.

When I was a kid, Mom made us sleds out of cardboard boxes. When a TV movie called "The Apple Dumpling Gang" was on TV, she made us apple dumplings to eat while we watched it! For a grade school project, she created Handsel and Gretel dolls out of wooden spoons. We could play anywhere in the house, we could be noisy, and she didn't complain about us making messes while creating anything that I can remember. We were allowed to just be kids. Back in those days, I remember walking to and from school when we lived in town in Bryan. I imagined all sorts of things along the way, such as that a bee from my yard was following along with me. I don't remember ever having homework until the 6th grade, and we certainly didn't have government mandated, standarized tests in elementary school. Things were different then. I don't recall feeling stress or pressure at school at all until the 4th grade.

I sometimes get impatient and frustrated as a homeschooling mother. The pressure I put on myself comes from things people have said or just generalized fears that my child might not be at "grade level" in a particular area. This is not a relaxed frame of mind, obviously. I don't want my daughter to feel any stress or pressure about learning, only joy.

When I get wound too tight, I know it is time to back off. So yesterday I took Beezy and our dog to the Rosary Garden next to the Catholic Church. On the way walking there, she said, "I love this day!" After we had been there awhile and she had gotten some of her energy out she said, "This is peaceful." She discovered that red berries growing in the garden have sticky juice inside. She spread it on a leaf to make a "leaf band-aid." We brought toys for the dog, and Beezy played with her. She collected acorns. We spied on a stealthy squirrel. She became a "nature girl" who turned the garden into another world. I read a book to her, but it was difficult to hold her attention because she just wanted to play! I was still hanging on to the pressure to get a "lesson" done, forgetting that the entire experience was learning.

A couple of weeks ago a kitten followed Beezy home from a dog walk, and we have since adopted her as an outdoor pet. She has a bed in the garage, and we bought her food and toys. I have been more relaxed about when we start the formal time of "school" to allow Beezy to be outside on the gorgeous Indian summer days and let her take care of and play with the kitten. This too is education. That doesn't mean we have neglected our studies, but rather that this informal time with the cat has its own importance and does not have to be less of a priority than, say, doing addition problems.

A story about another homeschooling family who practices the unschooling method also helped me put things in perspective. One of the kids was not interested in learning to read until age 11, so his mother did not teach him! But in 6 months he was on target for his grade level, and now at 13 is an avid reader. I don't think I could be quite that relaxed, but that story does encourage me to trust the process. Preserving the too brief experiences of childhood is crucial, those days of profound wonder and fascination with the world, so I endeavor to emulate my mother's own great example and relax!!

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