Grade 4, Week 14 ~ Hits and Misses

Despite my love for Waldorf and Enki education, I still have a strong pull to the philosophy behind unschooling. I have never stopped believing that children learn best when it is their own choice. I believe that children are born with a natural desire to learn; humans wouldn't have gotten where we are now without the desire to learn, and later to mate.

It can be really hard to mesh an unschooling philosophy with any method that stems from a group education model, no matter how holistic the method. So sometimes we have hits and sometimes we have misses. One difference is that I rarely stick with the misses; if the material isn't speaking to my children it really doesn't matter how developmentally appropriate it is.

Last week we made and read maps, and reading maps was actually more interesting to my boys than making their own. I was able to observe that T-Guy has a far better sense of direction and of our neighborhood than J-Baby does, at least so far.

This week I really didn't know where to go with the local geography. If we are talking terrain and native plants, my boys are intimately familiar with our immediate area, so I branched out. We drew pictures of beaches, mountains, and deserts, but the boys weren't really into it. At some point T-Guy told me that he doesn't really like studying maps, local geography, or even social studies (although somehow history is not the same thing as social studies ~ he loves history). He expressed a desire to get back to language arts and math.

I shared an article with Papa entitled Schooling: The Hidden Agenda by Daniel Quinn. Here is a small excerpt (please go read the whole article, which is actually a talk that was given):

But there's another reason why people abhor the idea of children learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it. They won't all learn the same things! Some of them will never learn to analyze a poem! Some of them will never learn to parse a sentence or write a theme! Some of them will never read Julius Caesar! Some will never learn geometry! Some will never dissect a frog! Some will never learn how a bill passes Congress! Well, of course, this is too horrible to imagine. It doesn't matter that 90% of these students will never read another poem or another play by Shakespeare in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% of them will never have occasion to parse another sentence or write another theme in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% retain no functional knowledge of the geometry or algebra they studied. It doesn't matter that 90% never have any use for whatever knowledge they were supposed to gain from dissecting a frog. It doesn't matter that 90% graduate without having the vaguest idea how a bill passes Congress. All that matters is that they've gone through it!

The entire piece is just a Wow! Go read it now.

I have been in this place before, contemplating where to move with our homeschooling. I know that radical unschooling isn't the answer. My children need rhythm (I firmly believe that all human beings need rhythm) and Waldorf is one way to bring that rhythm to a child. Indeed, Waldorf education does bring to children things that they might not learn anyway, as well as a good method of bringing these subjects to the children.

But ...

What is the point of introducing things to my boys that they have no interest in (the misses)? Of requiring skills practice and mastery practice if they view it as torture, as J-Baby does? Is it possible to move to a place of more trust without sacrificing the rhythm J-Baby so desperately needs (children who have difficulty regulating themselves need rhythm more than those who naturally create it for themselves).

Our home learning has been going pretty well. T-Guy likes practice work and journalling. Our measurement main lesson was a solid hit, though not a home run. The boys love hearing A History of US as well as The Story of the World. They are enjoying their assigned reading.

We continue to simplify our home and our time, giving our children a life with less stress. We work with a strong daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal rhythm. In all honestly, we have a lot going for us. We're happy together and we have a strong foundation; it would be hard for a child not the thrive in such a family.

We decided to take our holiday break a week early and thus to extend it for an extra week. The boys were dancing around the house singing "no school until the new year" and it was fun and silly. I didn't have to worry that they won't be learning anything ~ it's simply impossible.

I don't know exactly where we will be going in the new year. We're not embracing radical unschooling and we aren't abandoning Waldorf/Enki education. We're just fine tuning it. I actually think that I'll have a hit with every main lesson block through the end of the year with the exception of state history, and that may only require that I find many good books and approach it as story telling. But I need to figure out the rest of it, the practice and copy work and all the things that tend to fall flat with the boys.

I don't even know if I'll be blogging about it. I blog for myself, mainly (which is a good thing as I don't know that more than 2 people read this blog), and I don't know that I need the record. I'm thinking of focusing more on photographs and then having a photo book published at the end of the year.


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