Thursday, February 14, 2013

Deconstructing Education #3

Beezy understands that learning happens all of the time, not just when we are "doing school".  But she is also conscious of the lesson plan book I keep, of checking things off and being aware of how many separate items we accomplish.  I feel compelled to deconstruct these lesson times a bit.  For instance, last night Beezy was having trouble falling asleep, so she read a chapter in her Ginn reader and then told me that she read an interesting story about a pancake. She gave me a narration of the story without my prompting her in an obvious way while we were lying in the dark.  I had originally put the idea into her head to read if she can't fall asleep, and on her own she sometimes chooses to do this using a book light, which adds an element of fun.

I am torn. I like the Charlotte Mason idea of doing formal lessons in the mornings, being finished by 1:00 and having the rest of the day free. Is that like unschooling "part time"? I think it's fair to say that those unschoolers who believe that, from a philosophical standpoint, you can't unschool part time have a valid point. The consensus seems to be that unschooling is not doing school at home, so it is quite a different animal from homeschooling methods which duplicate the public schooling experience within the home environment. Yet allow me to argue that any method of homeschooling is indeed a radical expression of liberty. I know, now I am co-opting the term "radical" from the radical unschoolers!

I agree with Astra Taylor that it is important how we name things, and that unschooling, while a form of homeschooling, is something different from the styles which use a set curriculum and are adult led, etc... I also agree with the homeschooling mother in the audience that there is too much division between the two camps, and that it is a very brave decision to homeschool one's children in any shape or form. I also agree with that mother that homeschooling does not equal "helicopter" parenting.

The other night Beezy asked if she could have some gum. Since unschooling had suddenly come into my radar, I told her that she didn't have to ask for gum; she could have gum whenever she wants. She was surprised at this, but I told her that I thought she was responsible enough to make her own choice. I reminded her that brushing one's teeth is especially important if one chews a lot of gum. The thing is, we have always had candy in plain sight, available whenever Beezy might want to have some, yet she has always asked first. She doesn't feel a need to sneak it, and she typically doesn't eat too much of it. She loves sweets but doesn't over-indulge. Since allowing her to choose gum without asking, I have noticed no increase in her consumption of it.

I have also been allowing our days to flow organically this week. Yesterday I pulled my back out right before my RCIA director came to catch me up on classes I had missed. Beezy helped clean the house before the director came, and she ran errands with her dad during our meeting. Since I was in too much pain and couldn't move around well at all, we didn't do school. Beezy decided to visit her grandma. Then her cousin came over to play, and the three of us went to the Ash Wednesday Mass. Her dad and I both read to her yesterday, and she read to herself. No doubt plenty of learning took place despite not having "school time".

I still want to keep track of the books and materials we are using, but I think maybe I will put the lesson plan book aside and not write each activity into a subject box. Sometimes I feel stressed in the effort to get a certain amount of things done. It is nice to have school out of the way early in the day on the one hand, but on the other that gives the message that the most important learning happens during that specific time frame. There is an advantage, I think, in not having sharp lines between school and the rest of life. I also think it is nonsense to say that in the unschooling method one must use absolutely no curriculum. Charlotte Mason advocated a broad curriculum focusing on living books and exploration of the natural world. The whole world and everything in it qualifies as educational curricula! In the Montessori Method, role modeling is the best practice to teach children in the way they should go.

What I want to work on is better preparing the home environment to be interesting and stimulating. This will require more organization and closet cleaning, and Beezy can be a part of that. I want to let the day unfold organically but with a purpose toward creativity, spiritual growth, and learning that is both teacher-directed and self-directed, and I want to extend such open source learning more into the community, traveling and going to intriguing places. Now it is time to make Valentine cards, according to Beezy, and she isn't hungry yet for breakfast. So begins our day!

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