Thursday, October 13, 2011
Learning around here...
The truth is, we have a beautiful melding between everyday learning and everyday living, and the rickety rackety pinball feeling I had the first two years is not as pronounced. There is flow and rhythm to our days, but not like the predictable beating of a heart. Our days flow more like the music of jazz --harmonic, versatile, free flowing, and improvisational. Not always easy, especially for a structured mama like me. I still have tendencies to want to sit and do book work for 3 hours. For me, it's easier that way. But, that is me, and it's fitting that my children are completely opposite, and far better teachers than the ones I have ever had. It could be that they are getting older and taking greater responsibilities, and it could be that I've relaxed on worrying if they are learning or not. I know they are, and so am I :).
While in Seattle, I was tagged by lovely Suzy of Scraps of Starlight for a homeschool meme. (Sorry I haven't posted it yet Suzy!) This meme asks us 8 questions related to our homeschooling life, which started my wheels turning again about defining what we do. We've evolved quite a bit since leaving the public and private school system in 2009. Unschooling was the turning point for me for understanding the possibilities for how learning could happen. But here's a shocker, I have grown to not like the word "unschooling" at all. I think the term "unschooling" shuts out the notion that kids can still learn from structured learning, and even in brick and mortar settings. The truth is, kids will learn no matter what setting they are in. They are amongst the most adaptable creatures on this planet. Sure, they will learn better given particular circumstances, and as homeschooling parents we set out to provide these particular circumstances based on our beliefs and our abilities. Yet there is still so much complexity and variability to how each of us learn, that to suggest that there is one best way is unfair, from all sides.
One: My children learn better when there is interest, and even better when there is passion.
Two: My children learn better in smaller groups settings and certainly with one on one attention.
Three: My children learn better when they have autonomy over following their interests, whims, and passions, rather than strictly within a structured framework.
Four: Sometimes, my children do better with structure than without.
If there is a brick and mortar setting that could tailor to my children's specific ways of learning, then that would be perfect wouldn't it? But we know that is not realistic. We know that a brick and mortar setting has the responsibility of teaching hundreds, even thousands of children, and cannot do this. I have met too many passionate teachers to know it is not their fault and that if they could change the system, they would. And this is why I don't like the word unschooling. I think it undermines what so many talented and hard working educators are trying to do for our children. Bringing my children home to learn, has given me an enormous amount of respect for our educators, as well as a little sadness for the lack of support they receive to make education better.
And what does this say about my belief in freedom in learning. I do believe in freedom, but we live in a society built on structure and rules. One day my children will be a part of this structure regardless of how they were brought up and how they learned. As much as I love the idea of free-spiritedness, it does not negate the fact that this society is getting more competitive by the minute. As much as I would love to say college doesn't matter as long as my children follow their passions, I also know that without a college degree sometimes people drown in their passions. I do not want to mislead my children. I do not want to say that as long as they do what they love that all will be well. Nor do I want to say that as long as they have a good college degree that all will be well either. There is a risk in every choice we make, with no guarantees either way.
So where does this leave me, and my uber long post. It all comes down to the rhythm of jazz again I think. I equate the rhythm of jazz with the rhythm of life and learning. We flow, then improvise, then change the beat again in search of soul and harmony. Sometimes I lead, sometimes they lead then we adapt and evolve together. I have learned that I cannot depend on any one method of learning to answer all my questions, and that experience, trying, failing, and trying again is the best teacher of all. Work hard, and do what is necessary to find the sparks that lead your way. That to me encompasses what learning is all about. It's life and learning all rolled into one. Yeah, I like that...we are life learners :).
p.s. next week I'll post the answers to the meme :)