this is homeschool

30 May 2013

Grown Up: “Hi Luna, how are you?”  Luna, “I’m FIVE!”  Grown Up, “Oh you must be going to school now, which school do you go to?” Luna, “I go to homeschool.”

The next response is often something like, Grown Up, to me, now, “What’s that?”/”I didn’t know you could do that!”/”Oh” (knowingly) sometimes, it’s a bit more uh, uncomfortable.  But then, most of the people we see are nice, and at least thoughtful, or perhaps they just expect the strangest things from us by now.

I thought I ought to write a little about our approach, and they way it works for us, since saying ‘we home school’ is actually quite loaded.  There are a few stereotypes out there, which seem to get in the way of what it’s all about, and it’s those stereotypes that really seem to freak people out, I *think* that’s what freaks people out anyway.

In New Zealand, a great diversity in approaches are accepted, this can mean that a homeschooling family might provide a highly structured, ‘school at home’ to the more radical end of the spectrum, ‘unschooling’ – that’s close to where we sit with our family’s approach.

Unschooling, as I understand it, often involves rejecting the idea that children or people need to be ‘schooled’ to learn, it’s about breaking down the barriers that uphold institutional learning, trusting the child and their desire to learn about everything and anything that captures their imagination.  Trusting that, as much as an infant is driven to climb, to master walking, talking, running, they are also driven to master the real world, of reading, working, playing and all the other things that we adults do.

For us it’s not about giving free reign to desires, with no structure or boundaries, I’m a facilitator.  This has to work for us, as a family and as individuals, so we need to be able to live and work together with harmony and feeling fulfilled in our daily activities.  So we are expected to eat together, wash up, get dressed if we are going out, clean the house together, there are sometimes conflicts of interest, sometimes we just have to go out, sometimes we can’t go to the playground, so we work it out, life is like that.

The kids don’t get a lot of screen time, I try to get out most days, the local beach, for a bike ride, fungi hunt, to collect leaves, seeds.

Fungi is where it’s at right now.

Children learn by doing, and it’s been interesting for me to see that we don’t have to come back from an adventure and ‘write’ or draw about our activity for things to stick.  But that it is the walks and talks we have had, with our NZ Fungi and NZ Trees books at hand, are where the information sinks in, it’s impressive, but not really that surprising that Luna and Blake have a good recollection of trees and fungi they can recognise.

With all this time at the beach, they know many shells and sea creatures too.

So, our days are about the day to day household work, cooking, gardening, getting out doors, reading books, going to the library, running errands drawing painting, sewing…

We have conversations about many things, and most outings or tasks bring out interesting and sometimes challenging questions!

At the moment, I’m impressed with Luna learning to write, perhaps before she can actually ‘read’ (though her recall of favourites stories, poems and songs is incredible) she has her favourite letters, ‘A’ ‘M’ ‘i’ and ‘P’, when she was reading a lot of Tintin books, she was writing ‘T”s and ‘N’s too.  She gives these symbols her own meanings, ‘A’ often means ‘love’ and she writes it in letters to friends and family.  She is left handed, and writes from right to left at the moment, and sometimes sits tracing letters on record covers learning the shapes.  Suffice to say, we go through heaps of library books!

So, that’s the story so far, I’ll be writing in-depth about some thoughts in learning and ‘education’ that resonate with our family from time to time, and I’ll be delving deeper into some of my reflections on social and cultural misconceptions that have shaped our journey.

This is really just the tip of the ice berg!

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