Friday, April 13, 2012

homeschooling update

We've been homeschooling for six weeks now, so it's probably about time I gave some kind of an update. I've been pretty silent on the whole thing, because it's such new territory for us. If you'd told me last November that we'd be homeschooling in March, I would have thought you were crazy. It wasn't even on my radar of distant dreams.

But then my mind started working, and since I'm on mat leave, it seemed like the kind of thing we should just plunge into and see what happens. So we did.

It's been pretty good. We're taking a pretty unschooling approach, although we're careful never to use that word around family. Instead we describe it: we believe that children are learning machines so we use the things that we do anyways, the things that Eldest is interested in and the things that I'm interested to learn from. The first few weeks were heaven. The weather was mighty fine (26C in March!) and my parents were on a cruise in Asia. So every time we got an email from them, we'd look up where they were in an old 1984 world atlas I picked up at a thrift shop. Sometimes we had to google the old names of cities to find them on the map. Did you know Beijing used to be called Peking? You probably did but I didn't. And if my parents mentioned a specific site, we'd google that too and try to find pictures and videos. Eldest said he felt like he was right there with them. We'd go to the library and he'd type his search into the catalogue and I'd find the titles. Then we'd read them over the next week or so.

He also wrote emails to my parents himself. Given that he can't read (yet -- although he's making marked progress over the last several weeks), this was a time-consuming process for both of us, but very valuable. Sometimes he did all the typing and composing (I helped with spelling when he asked) and sometimes he narrated and I typed. And we spent lots of time outside -- at parks and in our yard. He's such an observer.

Then the baby started teething and waking up at all hours of the night and I felt awfully exhausted. We didn't do much in the way of deliberate, focused learning. Mostly it was about keeping our heads above water. He asked to learn how to operate the washer and dryer and has now taken to doing the laundry at every opportunity (Yay!) -- and there are many, trust me. He also asked to learn how to fry an egg and how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He doesn't do all the steps but he did flip his egg successfully on the first try.

One day he announced he wanted to buy a toy hay baler he'd seen in one of those sneaky toy catalogues that sneaky toy companies put into their toy boxes. So he had to count up all his money before we went to the store. Then he had to figure out what he could afford (sadly not the hay baler) and whether he wanted to keep saving or buy something else. Since then he notes the prices of stuff at the stores we go to (which, because I'm still adjusting to the not-so-new restricted diet, is pretty much every other day).

But other than that, the learning has been a bit harder to track more recently. I did start to have some doubts. We haven't connected much with the local homeschooling group yet, so it's also a bit isolating. I still feel it's way too soon to tell one way or the other. But I'm feeling more confident again today. I read some blogs and a bit of a homeschooling book, and there are so many reasons we want to do this.

Today when we walked to a friend's house, we noticed the different trees, and we talked about when my grandparents were born and when his was born. We noted the native plants coming out in the small woodlot (trout lily leaves, mayapples beginning to unfurl and bloodroot already finished blooming). We talked about other stuff too, but of course I can't remember exactly what now.

I really don't think I need to worry about Eldest. He's such a curious scientist all on his own. He's picking up reading now that we have more time to read the books that really interest him, and also, I believe, because we've had time to talk about how being wrong or making mistakes is how we learn. And he also gets to see me making mistakes and feeling frustrated and disappointed about it, but also learning for the next time.

But I think my family thinks I'm crazy. Or at least my parents do. On Easter we visited with them and the homeschooling only came up if I mentioned it. And then I swore I saw a pinched expression on their faces that I haven't seen since I was much, much younger. And probably drunk. So that part is hard.

Anyways, this whole homeschooling thing still feels like a fragile little flower I'm cupping in my hands. One strong gust could blow it away, so that's a lot of why I've been silent.


  1. I'm so sorry you had that reaction from your parents. Sounds like you are having a great spring and if E is reading, that is pretty impressive. He's JK right?

    1. He's SK actually, and I wouldn't say he's reading but he's recognizing more and more words (he seems to be taking more a whole-word approach rather than phonetics). I think reading in English (he was in French immersion) is making a difference, because he's motivated to get at the content.

  2. I was just thinking this morning that I wanted to ask how it was going - so I'm glad I checked in.

    I'm sorry you're getting a not-great reaction from your parents, but not really surprised; homeschooling is an emotional issue, and for the previous generation it seems pretty radical. As Eldest grows and gains confidence, he'll start impressing them with what he's learning and I'm sure they'll come around.

    We do a lot of those types of activities with our boys now, to supplement the sometimes all-too-limited curriculum at school. Homeschooling is just not for me, but I do see the attractions. We're trying to strike a balance where there is the best of both worlds. Hopefully we're succeeding. :)