Although I’m the first one to say that I homeschool because I’m lazy, don’t let anyone tell you unschooling is easy. It isn’t. It is bloody difficult, actually. The biggest difficulty is probably dealing with the regularly occurring anxiety that you aren’t doing anything and your kids are learning anything useful. Which is obviously bollocks but you still have to actually deal with it on a regular basis. And then there is the difficulty of working out what you, the adult, is supposed to be doing all day. Very hard. And then there is the issue of how and when to push your kid a little bit so that they actually figure out what they want to achieve and then do something that is going to take them in that direction. Bloody difficult.
We had another round of “what the heck are we doing” this week. Not that I wanted any “school” to be going on but there seemed to be a lot of aimless wandering going on that was leading to requests to shop. Always a bad sign. Particularly with lots of new stuff in the house. Also some of the friends were unavailable, having travelled across the country to visit family and then having to get back when the weather was messing things up (and they fly standby).
But this time I did it differently. I’ve been noticing things. And trying things. And noticing things about what I’ve been trying. So I think this time, the result of this rather frustrating conversation, which really can sound like a broken record, was that Tigger became more aware of the big picture. Hurray. and we have some plans.
Overall, we are becoming more of a specialist arts academy. This is probably not a bad thing. In relation to my periodic anxiety it gives me a better framework for evaluating what is going on around here. And some of the ideas that are percolating thanks to Sarah and Lori are really helping me.
Stuff that’s working:
1. Borrowing something from Theresa, I started putting out pastels, paper, and a picture to copy on a tray. I’m not sure whether it was the activity or the tray but that has led to good things. We have a couple of good pastel reproductions of Monet. And Tigger agrees that this is a great way to develop her artistic talents. Must figure out how to make that more regular.
2. The tray thing has been taken up by Tigger to bring a selection of beading supplies into the living room (which has great light) and work on things while I read to her, or she watches TV (or DVDs) or whatever. In addition to gifts of some useful supplies, some experiments in jewellery making are happening.
3. She started piano lessons at the end of November. She’s been learning on her own since she was very small. Mat and I (and Mat’s mom, on occasion) have helped at various points. And I have purchased books that I thought would be useful. But she was ready for lessons. I found someone who could be flexible about how. He’s a jazz pianist and seems to be a good fit. He’s kind of blown away by how fast she is learning things. Definitely the right time to take that step. (I’m getting a bit bored of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, though.)
4. The few things he’s assigned her are getting boring. And he didn’t give her enough new stuff to get through the 2 weeks between lessons at this time of year. Probably because his other students don’t pick things up so quickly or practice much over Christmas. So I told her to just pick something and learn it. Which she is doing. Also, when bored the other day she started composing something. And writing it down. (What? Doesn’t everyone have manuscript paper lying around?) So although that is a different kind of annoying, I’m treating that as a good thing. I hope her teacher doesn’t have a heart attack when they have their next lesson.
5. We had a conversation about “becoming a better writer”. She’s in a writing group (led by Janet Lunn) which meets bi–weekly and will start up again on January 12th. But she agreed that she just needed to write more. And probably revise more things. Though she finds it boring, she recognizes that it makes her writing better.
6. Related to that we talked about “story” and some of the things Janet had talked about in their group and whether or not there were things we could do with books we were reading that would help. I suggested Deconstructing Penguins as a spine. Or the Boomerang questions. To start with we’ve decided to get the PDF only version of January’s Boomerang, read Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” together, and discuss it based on the Boomerang “think piece” questions. We picked up the novel at the library today. (Of course, this also fits with that 19th Century British history and literature theme that ties in with her drama production of Great Expectations.)
Other stuff that she will be doing includes whichever book in the Key to Geometry series she is now on. She really loves that set of workbooks. Doing a few pages a day doesn’t seem to be a problem at all, though she does sometimes need reminding. Also, the science teacher is doing another 8 week course this term. Starting with food and nutrition and moving into chemistry. This one is partly based on Grade 9 curriculum topics and partly on Grade 10. She learns lots from him and gets very enthusiastic about science so probably worth it.
Space is a real issue. The study seems to be permanently overflowing and unusable no matter what we do. And it doesn’t have great light. I need to think more about the trays and variations on that theme as that really makes it possible to have things accessible yet portable (both for getting out and putting away).
But I think maybe something has shifted, either in my thinking or hers (or maybe both) so that it might be a bit longer until the next anxiety crisis and maybe the discussion will even go differently next time.