Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A Little Wobble

I don't ever seem to get major wobbles - you know, the sort that make you seriously consider if your child(ren) would be better off in school.  Because mine have already done the school thing I am completely confident that they are better off with me (for reasons that regular blog-readers will be familiar with, so I won't take up space by repeating it all here).  However, the little sneaky wobbles where you just catch yourself wondering "am I doing this right?"; "is my child ever going to get interested in anything other than Minecraft?"; "should we be doing X Y or Z?" (argh, "should"... *smacks head*  shoulds are never far from the wobbles!)... yes, I get those! 

So I've been thinking about this again, and I've concluded that I'm feeling a bit directionless.  One thing I liked about teaching was having it all laid out before you - the national curriculum clearly showing the way; a nice broad path, clearly marked out, heading ultimately to one goal: GCSEs (or equivalent).  Subjects, Topics, Workbooks, Attainment Targets, Lesson Plans, Assessment Forms - easy peasy (apart from the phenomenal amount of work involved in creating and maintaining all of the above!!).  Of course, the main problem was guiding groups of different children with different abilities and different passions along the same path.  It wasn't in fact a production line where you could put each child through the same process and get the same results at the end.  Some children flourished, some struggled, some were ruined.  Hence the perceived need for Home Education: the chance for us to walk a different path; one of our own making... a little adventure.  No nice straight path here - more of a meander through the woods, exploring whichever openings take our fancy, with some openings leading to dead-ends, some possibly getting a bit boggy, and some leading to absolutely glorious, soul-flooding places of wonder where you just want to set up camp.  Best of all, getting to share that path with the people I love most in the world.

But... do you see the problem?  Wandering in the woods is lovely - truly; it's one of my favourite things to do.  It's just that sometimes you can get a bit lost.  And at times like this you can find yourself longing to be back on the straight open road with signposts everywhere, and the reassurance of millions of other people all doing the same thing...  No?  Well OK, maybe not - but at least a map would be nice!

So that's where I am: a little bit lost.  Yes, we're dong the English & Maths curriculum.  My twin safety blankets of Reading Eggs and MathsWhizz - the equivalent of those little yellow arrows you get in the woods, giving a vague sense of direction (and a little sigh of relief: "oh good, a yellow arrow: at least I'm on a recognised route; even if it's not the one I started on, it'll take me somewhere civilised!").  If sometimes I get a little concerned that the online 'work' is getting too boring for the boys, or it's going against my desire to have them following only their passions, I give them a few days off (like we have this week), and reaasure myself that half an hour a day is hardly going to stop their brains working for themselves.  And yes, I have given myself permission to make suggestions, to invite them into the things that I think would be interesting.  They make suggestions too.  It's nice; we have fun; we learn... I'm just feeling a bit 'where-next'-ish.

OK then, so when I'm lost what do I do?  Well first I try to work out where I am. In HE terms, this is like taking stock of where we are.  Take Eldest this morning.  I didn't think he'd done anything much except mooch, but after a lovely little chat (I wasn't interrogating him honest, just taking an interest!) it turns out he had...
1/ written a poem for Mummy about Mummy
2/ learned about the Tudors and pirates on 'Horrible Histories Gory Games' (TV)
3/ drawn Spongebob cartoons for Middle
4/ built lego constructions
5/ experimented with building a tornado machine using plastic bottles
6/ learned more about wildlife on 'Barney's Barrier Reef' and 'Natural Born Hunters'
7/ read a few books:  the Ultimate Official Guide to Club PenguinWaddle On Joke BookProfessor Bumblebrains Bonkers Book of God
For a mooch, I'd say he's been quite productive!  What a little star!
And as for Middle and Youngest?  They played together really nicely all morning!  Marble runs, Kid K'nex constructions, imaginative role play... and more.  They were playing so nicely I didn't want to interrupt.  Yes I would have liked them doing things I could more easily tick off as 'subjects', but I know better than to try to make them confirm to my wobbly insecurities.  Personally, yes, I would like a bit more structure (not least because a few of my friends are having very successful structured times of it at the moment, which always brings it to my attention again) - but I'm fairly sure that Middle at least would balk at the idea. Eldest might go for it for a while, but he's doing OK without anyway. Youngest has lost any interest in workbooks etc - but he's easy in the sense that he's very definite about his likes and interests. If he wants to learn something you won't stop him, and if he doesn't want to, there's no point trying to persuade him.  Generally, it's quite clear to me that there is still some deschooling in process.

If I know where we are (we're doing OK, learning, and to a degree still deschooling), we can't be totally lost!  The next question then is: do I know where we're going?  Not in terms of having signposts and maps, or tickboxes no - but generally?  I need to remind myself of why I'm doing this - what's the goal?  Basically, we're aiming at producing happy, well-adjusted individuals, capable of discovering and pursuing their own interests.  Exams are not our goal.  When you've been in educational surroundings for as long as I have, it can seem that exam results are the be-all and end-all of education - so forgive me if I'm stating the obvious... I just need to remind myself so I don't go into autopilot.  You know that feeling when you're an experienced driver - you're driving along and realise that you weren't paying full attention, you're just on auto-pilot, following the familar roads that you're used to, to get home or another well-travelled-to destination?  Well in educational terms, exams are my auto-pilot. I need to periodically remind myself that that is NOT our destination any more.  True, they may well be a valuable stop off along the way, to help any of our boys get to where they want to go, but my focus is on producing enthusiastic and capable learners, and eventually adults who are fulfilled in their lives.  The boys don't yet know what they want from lives occupation-wise, so there's no point looking for a map to follow.  We're back to meandering, exploring & looking for the next inspiration to strike.

To go back to where I started I still feeling lost?  Um... well, still a bit directionless, but given that none of the boys have expressed any desire to learn/ achieve any one thing at the moment, that's understandable.  We are heading in the right direction - and I'm pretty sure at least some of us are still deschooling (I certainly am).  Whatever we do, while writing this post I have come to realise again that the hardest thing about HE for me is that I can't use any one method with all three boys.  I think I need to focus again on the best way to help Eldest, the best way to help Middle, and the best way to help Youngest - and see where that leads us.  Following three individual paths at once? Now there's a challenge!  And a whole other blog post!  Excuse me while I go & let my brain whirr...


  1. Such a valuable post - valuable for its honesty! At the risk of being too philosophical I would say that you cannot be lost without actually having a direction in the first place! But our destination is sometimes is not near to - like which maths works best - but a further one that we can lose sight of sometimes when we're struggling round the woods, but one I suspect you'll be heading towards having read many of your ideas here. And that direction is to move towards happy, fulfilled and confident children, an aim that I would say reflects in the lovely caring and considered way you are educating your children Rachel! Not lost really - just wondering about the small things! :)

    1. oh thanks Ross... you are always so generous with your encouragement - you can philosophise here any time! xx

  2. I totally know where you're coming from! As an Aspie, J is supposed to crave structure and routine but in reality he doesn't want to do anything remotely "school-like" and just wants to play! I'm continuing to plod on with the little bits of structured activities we do (Studyladder at the moment) and then seem to spend a lot of time hunting down other things that I think he will enjoy. I just keep reminding myself that he is only 10 (and quite an immature one at that) and there will be plenty of time to "get serious" in the future. At the moment our main goals are to give him life skills and a good, all round general knowledge. And to be happy!
    R x

    1. Exactly! those really are the most important things,aren't they? Something a friend said the other day made me realise that deschooling can take a lot longer that the estimated 'one month for every year at school'. They will get there - and with us doing our best to help them relax about learning, they will ultimately get there sooner than if we pushed work on them! Happy playing & life skill learning xxx