Monday, January 9, 2012

Me? Homeschool?

It all started just before Christmas when I was googling dairy and soy intolerance in babies. Somehow I landed on the Analytical Armadillo. And while I was exploring older posts there, I read one about homeschooling. It's pretty compelling, especially the bit that points out that if you think about all the herding that has to take place at school, the kids really only get a couple of hours of real instruction. And then I read this Fraser Institute report on homeschooling that says that in all measures - academically, socially, emotionally, behaviourally - homeschooled children perform at least as well as and often better than their institutionally-schooled counterparts.

So I'm considering homeschooling. For real. This is kind of a shock to me. I've always been intrigued by the idea, and reading Nan's reports of exploring the educational content in Star Trek, among other learning she's embarked on with her kids especially piqued my interest. But I was convinced I wasn't patient enough or earth-mother enough or crafty enough or [insert any descriptor here that you think might describe the cliched homeschooler] to do it. I also didn't think I would want to spend 6 or 7 hours a day actively teaching my kid at a desk.

But my mind is opening. First, it doesn't have to be many hours at all of formal instruction, if any. My kid learns from the conversations we have and things we do just going to the grocery store and the post office. Not to mention the learning he does on his own through play and pursuing his own passions. Second, I've had many niggling concerns about his experience at school. He's not struggling particularly and he hasn't complained this year, but there are many ways in which the school really doesn't model our values (I'll share more on that later).

In June 2010 (before my child was in school), I actually photographed two families who "unschool" their kids. One was more radical than the other, and although I totally understood and even agreed with their reasons for unschooling, it seemed so radical, such a hugely dangerous experiment. Now that my son is in school, it suddenly doesn't seem so radical or dangerous at all. School clearly brings its own set of dangers (as both my husband and I experienced personally during our earlier lives). And parenting is always a big experiment.

On Saturday, I found a copy of The Unschooling Handbook at my local used bookstore. That night, as I was reading it, something fell out of the chapter entitled "How can you tell they're learning?" It was a pressed stalk of lavender, known for its calming qualities. When I brought it to my nose, it smelled delicious. It feels like a gift.

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