Friday, August 17, 2012

homeschooling angst

I've been meaning to do a homeschooling update for ages, but I haven't. I feel like Eldest is doing great in terms of his learning. He plays soccer weekly with the homeschool group, and it's such a great experience for him. The game is very informal and the kids who play are in a range of ages from about 4 to 11ish. He's gained so much physical confidence, and not only has his soccer gotten better, but it's expanded to other areas. He did amazingly in swimming lessons this summer and went from not even putting his face in the water in the first lesson to doing multiple dunks and even swimming underwater. I believe part of his success was due to the confidence he gained in soccer. Also, one day he announced he wanted to try riding the bike without training wheels. He hasn't taken it out since but I was so proud of his trying. (This is a kid who usually plays in the sand with trucks at the playground - he's just very physically cautious.) And the other day he even played around on some monkey bars and wasn't even troubled when he fell.

We tend to run a lot of errands thanks to my and the baby's dietary restrictions (sadly we can't get all the things we need at a single store), but I've noticed he's really creating a mental map of our town. He's always asking what the street signs say and saying things that show how much he's thinking about which streets go where. (Of course, this is the kid who, at 18 months, freaked out when I left a store and instead of going in the direction we came from, I went in the opposite direction to do a loop.) Our errands serve for math lessons too.

The other day we were buying some ham and turkey for sandwiches and he noticed that I asked for $5 worth of turkey but only $2 or $3 worth of ham. "Is ham more expensive than turkey?" I said yes. "Ohhhhhh," he said. "So if we got $5 worth of ham that would be like a POUND of ham." Exactly.

Later on, he mused, "I guess turkey must be more expensive to grow than ham," and started speculating about what that might be. 

We've also been weighing all the food we harvest from our garden plot. The scale has grams, kilographs, ounces and pounds. He thinks about numbers and measuring A LOT and has for a long time. He's been thinking about multiplication for more than a year.

He's not reading independently at all, but he's developing a great enthusiasm for words and signs. He has lots of sight words but for whatever reason he's not comfortable with sounding things out. We've been reading the Little House series and we're up book 6, The Long Winter. He's really developing a sense of history. The Olympics helped with his sense of geography too and seeing all the flags and country names. Although I find it slightly shameful how often we need to remind him that South Africa is a country but Africa is not. He gets the two confused all the time. (And in our house, because my husband is from South Africa and Eldest has been there twice, the topic comes up pretty frequently.)

So I feel like things are going really well in that way. It's exciting to see the connections he makes between something he hears today and something he learned three months ago. But I'm kind of struggling. Ever since Youngest broke the toddler barrier I've really had to shift my attention to constantly spotting him. It does help that our house is a totally open concept bungalow and cluttered and disorderly to boot so finds all kinds of trouble. Or that he is RECKLESS. (Did I tell you about our ambulance ride a few weeks ago?) Anyways, I feel like Eldest needs more engagement than I'm capable of right now. And I'm starting to wonder, can a mildly introverted parent and an extremely extraverted child (and reckless toddler) make unschooling work? I've heard that a good approach to unschooling is to start with the parent's interests and projects, but I want some alone time when I have mental energy. How do I get that?

Philosophically, I think unschooling is great, but I'm not sure I'm really capable. For weeks I had this question rolling around in my mind: What does it mean if I'm totally in support of homeschooling but I just can't do it? One day, an answer came to me: It means you don't have enough support. I believe that's true but community building is so slow, especially when it's a skill you havent really developed very well. (I recently realized that all my friendships have risen from regular contact like school or a job, and mostly disappeared when the convenience ended.)

Every time I ask Eldest if he has a preference, he votes for homeschooling. Until the other day. And I'm not clear why. He keeps throwing answers out but I have the distinct sense that he's saying what he thinks will matter to me and not what matters to him. That said, I feel strongly that I don't want him to make the decision by himself. The fact is my husband and I have more experience with school and its impact. Of course, as Eldest himself pointed out, he has more recent experience with school than we have.

Anyone out there with experience have advice?

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