I haven’t posted about our homeschooling life in forever!
Short version: He’s learning, and stuff. And happy. And curious as all get-out.
After our ‘summer vacation’ of pure unadulterated unschooling* (meaning, he puttered around and read and made stuff and had a lot of childcare hours while I worked more than full time and had debilitating anxiety attacks during the fall semester), we regrouped and adjusted to new realities. Simon had gotten much more mobile and suddenly seemed able to reach anything, which made hands-on learning harder than it had been just four months earlier. Noah had continued to learn at a rapid clip, relying on his own curiosity, constant question-asking, and basically adult-level reading skills.
Although I dislike labels, the success of the hands-off semester nudged us all the way into unschooling (we were arguably already there anyway). Meanwhile, Noah’s ever-increasing ability to learn about a subject in depth and detail means we’re learning more about less these days. No more parent-planned topics that change every week or two; instead, larger areas that he chooses and explores with parental support and engagement over longer periods of time. We’ve mostly been exploring:
- the human body
- then music
- then birds (wow, there are a lot of cool books, videos, and websites about ornithology and the like! who knew?)
- urban gardening, as he prepares to design and work in our new yard
- multiplication, fractions, and other math concepts
- French, via weekly lessons and homework for that class (meanwhile, Eric and I are learning the basics through an app; our hope is that we’ll eventually be able to arrange for family lessons one evening every other week or something like that, maybe with a grad student)
He’s also gone through phases of doing lots of pen-and-ink drawings, weaving on his loom, and so forth. And the novel-reading! Oh, the enthusiasm for fiction, largely of the fantasy variety. He also wrote a really fun fairy tale after we read about how fairy tales work, since so many of the novels he’s reading draw on those conventions and those old narratives. This is all immensely fun for me.
A few weeks ago, I felt suddenly overwhelmed at Noah’s desire to do so much school with me, to have me do so much reading-aloud and to be in the same room as me when did virtually anything (a problem because his younger sibling wants to rip up and/or color on whatever book Noah has, slam the laptop shut, grab the embroidery thread and tug, etc.). I had a big blow-up about the fact that I A) work from home, B) help him with learning, C) take care of a very challenging (though drop-dead adorable and sweet) not-yet-two-year-old, and D) cook meals and do general home maintenance, and that I need him to step up. He’s understandably restless and discontented when he ends up spending long periods of the day messing with Legos or whatever in his room while sort of just waiting to learn interesting information and skills–like he’s killing time–and yet he was oddly resistant to actually doing ‘school’ stuff in there on his own (away from Scary Attack Baby). In the end, we made a long list of things he could, in fact, do by himself. Once he tried a few, he discovered that he actually loves being able to go learn about stuff and then reporting back to me with the highlights. Problem solved. Wish I hadn’t had to flip out about it, though. Eric and I hadn’t realized that he just didn’t know what more independent learning might look like, or that it wouldn’t be a big change from what he was already doing.
* In case this is an unfamiliar term: Unschooling refers to a version of home education that isn’t at all like ‘school at home’ and doesn’t use a set curriculum; instead, it’s self-directed, child-led, often experiential or in-the-world learning. Obviously this looks different for children of different ages: Noah is able to learn far more independently now than he was a year or two ago, for instance, but he also can’t drive up to the library to get books for himself. Unschooling families typically believe that human beings are curious and driven to learn, and that children will thrive intellectually as long as they have the resources and support they need.