Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Leap of Faith

Unschooling may be an intimidating idea to most people. Unlike homeschooling, there are no set tasks. Learning is not controlled, but embraced in it's own time. "Trust them (the kids)," the unschooling guru's say. Some of you might think that this way of living is crazy. How can you let a child control their own education? Adults are responsible for making all of the decisions in a child's life, right? Well, maybe that works for some people. Perhaps there is a gentle balance. But all I know is this..

Three weeks ago, just a month after Christmas break, I pulled my two children out of school (Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten). I was geared up and ready to let them discover their interests, coast to "deschool" for a while, and have some seriously needed fun. The first couple of days all they wanted to do was watch carto...ons on the computer. This was completely fine by me, as I understood that it can take some time and I think we all felt a little bit lost at what we should do next.

Then I started trying to engage them in different activities, but still they sat there staring at the computer monitor. Starting to worry, I bought some new work books and tried to get them excited, found things I could do with them on pinterest, and made suggestions to help move them along in their regular imaginative play. But the imaginative play didn't come. My attempts were ignored, and the books sat on our shelves. No exaggeration, from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed they watched TV shows on that computer.

I began to lose faith in the child-led philosophy, in my own children, and in myself. I seriously questioned wether or not I had chosen the right path to go about their education, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. So we pushed on, and more vegetating took place.

Until yesterday. My four year old daughter woke up and instead of her usual first words of "Please can I have some breakfast?" she says to me "How do you spell 'Happy'?" So I began to tell her the letters, and started to reach for the computer. "What show do you want to watch first?" I asked her. "No shows." I was completely puzzled. She must be tired. But she was certain, she did not want to watch anything today. For the next two hours she wrote little notes and asked me how to spell word after word. Soon her big brother was following suit, and they grabbed some work sheets and buckled down with mazes, spelling, dot to dots and so forth.

I wondered if it was too good to be true, just a fluke. But today has been no different. My daughter has been initiating math problems, writing more notes, and figuring out puzzles. My son asked what a concentration camp is, is helping his sister with her self devised math questions, and doing his own math and reading, spelling and experimenting.

I know it can be challenging, and there are days that you will question the path that you have chosen. Trusting a philosophy that leaves so much room, our days open ended, can be scary. But believe me when I say to just go with it. More than three weeks of non stop cartoons and overstimulation, but finally it ended. There are no more agitated zombies in this house. We are awake, aware and learning.