Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Deschooling - and then...?

I think I have successfully fought the 'should's off - for now, at least.  I still have questions, but just not that horrible feeling of being driven to achieve some invisible and impossible goal - or worse, having to try to make my children achieve an invisible and impossible goal (talk about the blind leading the blind).  I still have questions about how we make Home Ed work - but just want to be careful to allow the deschooling process to run its course.  I think my biggest question right now about deschooling is, "how do you know when you've finished?", or the more hysterical version of, "when is it safe to progress without doing irreparable damage to my children's ability to learn?"  Yep, that's me - still trying not to be impatient!  The main way I keep myself focused is by keeping the real issue in front of me, which I tend to do by reading a lot around the subject.  Today I found this absolutely lovely article on Deschooling Gently, which I really recommend.  Deschooling 'cold-turkey' style really is pretty extreme, albeit mostly for the parent (not many children object to being given months off doing schoolwork) - and for me, I think I have been most helped by my version of nicotine patches - MathsWhizz and Reading Eggs.  The boys think they're playing, I think they're learning.  Win-win.
My other questions are still about how HE will work best for each of us... For me, I have a fond picture in my head of the boys sat happily round a table, working on projects or workbooks, while I calmly move between the three, helping out where needed... hmmmm, guess who still needs to deschool!  I do like structure - that's my personality - but part of it is also the need to be able to track what the boys are learning.  I just don't know if I'll ever be able to put that down enough to 'unschool'.  It's OK though - I'm not feeling driven to decide yet, I'm just intrigued in a fairly objective way about the process going on in my head.
For DS1, I think he would conform to my daydream, but that's because he's still deschooling too, in the sense of getting school-systems out of his thinking!  Actually, he seems to want lots of time to experiment with things, and if he could watch wildlife programmes all day every day, he wouldn't complain at all!  My concern with him is to work on his writing.  He enjoys reading, so I have no worries there, and he seems happy 'playing' on MathsWhizz regularly - the only thing he isn't practicing much is his writing.  I refuse to stress about it, but neat writing is important I think, so I just needs to work out some gentle tactics - he likes writing short stories, poems, and facts that he has found out - so maybe that would work.  If he doesn't go for it now, I'll back off again... after all, deschooling is still at the front of my mind.
DS2 is my little enigma.  He still resents any attempt AT ALL to make him work, so it's hard for me to find his areas of interest... but he is very happy playing on Reading Eggs and/ or MathsWhizz, so I'm OK with that for now.  Deschooling for DS2 is more about regaining his confidence as a learner, and allowing him to rediscover his desire to learn (please tell me he will get it back...).  He definitely has a creative side though, so lots of arty, 'making' projects go down well.  He likes wildlife programmes too, although some of that may be emulating his big brother, but any interest is not to be sniffed at!  I will want to work on his writing too, and sadly you can't really do that on a PC.  He's only six though, so I think I can safely leave it for a while until he reasserts the desire to learn 'cursive' (which was a big deal for him at one point until he went off learning altogether).
Home education is so much easier with DS3, who had very little experience of schooling (just two terms of preschool), so he isn't really a deschooling candidate as far as I can see.  He is helping me to focus on what I would like our version of HE to look like - eg he has discovered some old flash cards, and really enjoys counting the number of items on the 'Maths' cards, which is easy for him.  He is also quite enthusiastic at trying out the beginning sounds of the word cards: it has to be when he wants to do it - there's absolutely no point in me trying to persuade him - but I'm really enjoying watching (and helping) him learn at his own pace!  Lovely :)
Anyway, I've taken the pressure of myself to make any decisions... there are only another six weeks left of 'school term', and DS1 & 2 are still within the suggested period of deschooling (one month for every year that they were at school) - so I figure it's fine for me to still not decide anything until we're getting closer to September.  Of course, I'll be experimenting all the time, we'll be playing those lovely learning games, getting out and exploring, watching educational TV - and anything else that the boys show an interest in... that's my version of gentle deschooling!

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