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February 09, 2007

Comments

JoVE

Hmmm. You make some good points but I also think there is something in how you ask the question of a kid. The little boy you refer to has asked "when are we going to start homeschooling?" I would suggest that his mother as him what he thinks that would involve. What would he like to be doing for "homeschool". She can start there. If it isn't working, she can try something else.

I think young children can participate in making these decisions but they can't respond to completely open ended questions. So we need to give them concrete options, probably based on what we observe of their strengths, likes, etc. And as they get older, we need to make the process of making decisions clearer to them so they learn how to make these decisions for themselves. My daughter is 9.5 so we are in that sort of mode. She still needs help, but I explain a lot so she can learn to make decisions on her own.

Melanie

Hey, that's me! I mean, my son. I'm so glad I read this entry, because it's making me think about what has happened since that crisis, and to share what I have learned (and am still learning) from it. I don't have much time right now, but really want to answer, so...

Things improved immensely almost immediately in December after I wrote that post, for several reasons:

First, it was clearly healthy for my son to express those feelings--that although he had always preferred not to go to school, there were certain things about that one year that he did enjoy and now misses at times, especially people. Some of that I think he genuinely misses in that he would enjoy participating in again, and others that are probably seen through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

Second, I've made a subtle but very healthy and effective change in the way I relate to my son (and daughter). I already wasn't engaging in total child-led unschooling, in that I frequently suggested activities and we have bedtimes and mealtimes, etc. However, I did realize that I tend to jabber and try to make everything explicit, that is, TALK about everything with my son. In a sense this is healthy. But too much of it can be overwhelming for a young child. When I started, for example, saying, "We're going for a walk in the woods now, doesn't that sound great? Let's go!" it made for a much happier and enthusiastic child than the previous assault of, "What do you think? Should we go for a walk? Are you in the mood for a walk? What else would you like to do instead?..." I went from thinking that in order to be respectful towards my son that I had to get his input on everything to realizing that he felt more comfortable when I simply made some decisions. I think that part of a parent's role is, besides asking things, simply NOTICING things in our children and knowing when to sit down and talk about something (which parents are generally much better at than teachers!). I noticed without a doubt that my son is happier, more relaxed, has a better memory, watches less TV, is never bored, is more confident, respectful, interested in things (I could go on and on) when he's NOT in school, so I told him that I understood his feelings and that we were homeschooling for now. I will continually gauge how much decision-making to leave up to him, and for now I think we've found a good balance.

There are also two things I've realized about school itself through all of this--that it is #1 the compulsory and #2 the all-or-nothing aspects of school that really bother me. At least in Arlington, you have to go, all day, and if you don't, you can't participate in it at all. I would love for my son to be able to go to, say, music class there twice a week (he misses that and really liked the teacher). I think it's strange for him to know that there's a place where he spent many months is now totally off-limits to him while school is in session. We've played on the playground there after school with his friends, and that has also helped normalize things.

Anyway, the kids' fingers and toes have probably turned to raisins by now, so I'll get them out of the tub :) Thank goodness for the community of homeschoolers around here (and for the Internet!)--it has helped so much! Hope others can learn something from our experiences, even if it's just food for thought.

Melanie

Another note: I recently read your "Do Homeschooled Kids "Miss Out"? on the right sidebar, and it put into words the one missing piece that was still nagging at me. I let out a big sigh of recognition and relief at the end. Very well put!

Marjorie

Melanie, I'm so glad you liked the post. Your comments on the yahoo group really made me think because I have experienced both sides as well -- over-asking and over-controlling. It can be hard to find balance and the balance is always changing as JoVE mentions with her older daughter [thanks!].

I must give Stephanie credit for the post "Do Homeschooled Kids Miss Out" -- she's the author of that great post!

Dana

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I'm not an unschooler, so forgive me there...but it seems like some of the basic issues are the same for everyone. I read a lot of comments from parents worrying about whether their children are having "fun" or make occasional comments about wanting to go to school, whether or not they've ever been.

I think we all want to prove to the world, our children and even ourselves that what we are doing is the "right" thing and don't always trust our instincts and our relationship with our child. I think this is an area where it is natural for all of our insecurities to come out. I was getting frustrated because my daughter repeatedly talks about how much she does not like school. One day it dawned on me to talk to her about what exactly she didn't like. It came out that of all the things we did in a day, she didn't like the little bit of copywork she was required to do for handwriting. She didn't even consider the rest of it "school." That was just playing for her because she loves it.

Marjorie

Hi Dana, thanks for your comment! I hope you were kidding with your comment about unschooling. I consider myself an unschooler because its working for us right now. I'm sure many others would not consider me an unschooler because I'm not completely child-directed and we have our share of limits in our household and I definitely steer my kids towards certain activities. To many 'unschooling' means simply not being in school, to others, its a discrete dogma. To me, I guess it just means I'm flying solo at the moment, without any particular structure or curriculum or philosophy or approach at the moment and we're just seeing what happens. I don't expect that things will always be this way.

You made an excellent point about asking questions rather than assuming we know what our child means. Thanks again.

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