Sunday, January 27, 2013

When we Unschool

A recent conversation on www.secularhomeschool.com got me to thinking about the fact that our style shifts over time, and sometimes we Unschool, which I just think of as letting go of the curriculum and all other regimentation for a while, for whatever cause has emerged. When we are doing this, we aren't doing a style of homeschooling that is called unschooling; we are just living life and not concerned with output or external motivations.

I let go when I realize priorities have had to shift momentarily (sick kids or sick me, or else a new food allergy, or my daughter is just feeling burned out, etc). We scale back to a simpler existence, where there is no pressure, and we just take time to cuddle on the sofa, and I take time to really listen to them. And I've learned that those exchanges of real attention are so much more important than whether DD got another page done in her curriculum that day.

And then things get better, and I feel more on top of it, and housework and studies get done regularly, until we hit the next slump. Learning to slump gracefully must either be a character defect or a state of grace, I am not sure which.

But slumps are never lost on my daughter. She doesn't sit around bored, ever. She gleefully absorbs herself in deep thoughts, drawings, imaginings, her own internal dialogue, creating things with paper and pen, glue and scissors, sometimes cardboard and cloth. She always comes back from that, refreshed, and when we're all ready, she does well at her studies again for a while. Trying to go straight at the studies as a form of discipline day after day, week after week, wears her down, wilts her, bores her, and her progress grinds to a very resistant halt.

So maybe for some kids, letting go is important. 

I went to school, and I let go whenever I needed to, which was often. My prolongued episodes of staring out into space to have Deep Thoughts, would have gotten me a label and some medication, undoubtedly, had they happened in this day and age, but really, I was engaging in important creativity and authentic self-hood. It didn't mean I couldn't apply myself to anything interesting or valid...but wild horses couldn't drive me to focus on that which bored me to death. I'm still that way. Listening to the nattering conversation of some women in a cluster at a local preschool playgroup in a public place, I realized I actually couldn't follow their conversation, because it was so BORING! It all became so much bleating of sheep, to my ears. Baaaaa! They probably would have thought the exact same thing about it, if someone discussed news about the Large Hadron Collider, in their earshot.

And that is exactly what my daughter, and most other kids (whether they attend school or not) do, when sitting through a dull lecture on something. It's what I do when reading through, over and over, something that is so badly written as to boggle the mind, like the reading comprehension questions in the grade 3 standardized test. Somewhere there must be a think tank that trains people to write in overly simplistic terms with the devious intent of creating gobbledegook that will befuddle the mind of the reader, and grow more incomprehensible each time the victim re-reads it! For what purpose, who can say, but there must be, or else why would official reading comprehension questions aimed at kids, paralyze the analytical portions of my fully-literate adult brain?

I'm learning that learning itself, is not the same thing as impressing concerned relatives that your child is indeed not brain-dead as a result of not going to school. It's not the same thing as scoring well on a test, though one can score better by actually learning the material, usually. And I am also learning, that letting go from time to time, isn't letting go of the ability to learn. It may actually be nurturing the ability to learn, because the ability to engage in prolongued Deep Thought, or prolonged Diffused Awareness, increases creative insight.


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