Monday, April 07, 2008

Homeschool beginnings 4

The year Erin 'missed the bus' for the first time, we were telling ourselves and everyone that we were just holding back on school enrolment until she was emotionally a little more ready. But even from the beginning of that year I had an inkling that the sort of delight-driven child-led natural learning that had been serving her well for over 5 years was going to continue to serve her well as time went on. And I wanted to do my best to make that clear to the people who cared about her.

That year I put a fair bit in the way of resources and energy into creating a picture of a robust and 'successful' homeschooling experience. It was a robust and successful experience already, from my perspective, but I wanted other people to see it as such. I zealously provided resources for Erin -- software, a globe, reference books and library books, art supplies, craft tools, booklets and games and toys. And I documented her learning experiences in several ways. First, I created and updated a web-page with lists of resources, photographs and descriptions. And then I put together a 'creativity scrapbook' for a couple of the pivotal extended family members filled with photos, art work and other creative output.

I was earnest and I wanted to create an impressive record that no one could argue with. I found photos that 'covered' math, and visual art, and physical education, and I wrote and captioned according to subject area. I was blessed with a kid who was of an age and stage to make all of this easy.

I also wrote a lot for my own comfort. I chronicled our days, I watched my children play and I wrote about what I saw beneath the surface of their play. I adored them, and I processed my pride and adoration by writing it down so that I could admire what was going on right at my feet, in my very own living room, under my very own apple tree. I developed a deep sense of comfort with what was naturally evolving amongst my children at home. It was in many ways an extremely challenging year; Sophie was mobile, Noah was a rascal of a preschooler, Erin was never an easy-going child. Being a stay-at-home mom was a very difficult job at that stage. But their learning and growing was a delight to watch, and I worked on my mindful awareness of what was going on every day over a big bin of Duplo. It helped.

This was the year that I allowed a lot of Erin's eggs to be thrown into the homeschooling basket. I happily let her start piano lessons, knowing full well that it would be next to impossible to continue lessons (out of town) if she were to go to school at some point. I helped her make social connections within homeschooling circles, scheduling regular Wednesday morning playdates. Homeschool art classes and swim lessons, in Nelson, 90 minutes away, were other homeschooling endeavours that I enthusiastically supported her in pursuing.

By the time we got to the end of the year I was able to say "well, we could put her in school next year, but if we did that she'd have to give up piano, and swimming, and art classes, and Wednesday get-togethers with Catherine, and nature days with the homeschool groups ... " It was a very effective tactic. Typically if friends and family have concerns about homeschooling these are concerns over what kids will miss out on. I was able to show them the flip side -- things that were already a part of Erin's life and working beautifully for her that she'd have to give up in order to go to school.

It never really came up as a major issue, though. I had, over the course of that year, stopped thinking about school as a possibility. I don't think Chuck and I ever did what we'd both intended to do, which was to informally re-evaluate together our educational choice. We never got challenged by extended family. A few asked casually that summer at the end of her Kindergarten year whether we were indeed continuing. And we shrugged and said we figured so, and that what the last time it ever came up.

And I think that's the end of our Homeschool Beginnings. I stopped feeling like I had anything to prove. Erin was busy being a poster child for unschooling, reading her eyeballs off and obsessively learning about the human body, dinosaurs, great artists and world geography. She was involved in arts, sports and other group activities. Homeschooling had just gradually become something that we did, a way we lived our lives, rather than a choice that we were making or needed to justify.


  1. Anonymous2:19 pm

    I find it interesting (or I'm just envious) that people "bought" your comment that you were going to wait until Erin was more "emotionally ready". I, too, have a child who didn't fit in well socially and I, too, believed that giving her time to mature was the right course of action. But I can't tell you how many people thought the answer was to force her to socialize more, that school was exactly what she did need to "learn to get along with other kids", etc.

    Love your series on this, btw. It's a great reference to send to others.

  2. Anonymous4:08 pm

    I so love reading about your activities and thoughts. Your weather and setting is nearly opposite mine (you are cool and rural, we are warm and urban} -- so I love dreaming of the beauty that's a particular part of your learning habitat. One part of this post did strike me: when you said the fact that your first child was a "poster child for unschooling." Sigh, my first child is not considered such by my mom (who recently pressed this on me yet again}. My daughter, turned 7 on Monday, is bright and curious, loves birth (aims to be a midwife) and chickens (a midwife who lives on farm :) , draws all the time, has a distinct and amazing and personal artistic sensibility. She is a fabulously marvelous girl . . . who doesn't read. The horror! I know you understand. But much as I appreciate my girl and all she is, some days I can't help but wish she'd read and do the poster child thing. Just wanted to share a bit. I'll keep reading . . . Nancy in NC,


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