Monday, August 24, 2009

Learning at home

Ian came to me when he was 3, just before his 4th birthday, and asked me if I would show him how to write his name. Sure! I thought and sat down to go over each letter and write a dotted version for him to copy. He skipped over all of it and just wrote his name. Plain and simple. Since then, he's been a writing maniac. He's taught himself most all the letters just by copying them out of books. Throughout the day he asks me how to spell certain words and then writes them over and over again. Sometimes he writes them backwards, sometimes they are split in half because he runs out of paper, and sometimes he just makes up words like he's writing a whole story.

About 2 months ago he asked me if I would teach him how to read. My sister gave me her old Bob books and we sat down to look at them. He has less patience for reading but he gets it quickly. He can easily read the first couple books in that simple series and has started rhyming words in his spare time. "Hey Mom... COAT GOAT!"

It's amazing to me because I decided long ago, when he was really little, that my goal with them wouldn't be to teach them how to read at a young age, but to focus on manners and attitudes. Because, I always thought, who cares when you begin reading as long as you get it some time. But manners are something that can easily be over looked in the frenzy of early childhood education.

Plus, about a year ago something really began stirring inside me that I couldn't ignore anymore. I had to look at it from every angle, decide what it all meant, how it would look, and ultimately... what would Jeremy think. I really... really... wanted to homeschool.

I prayed about it and we'd have discussions about what that would look like and what it would mean for the boys. Jeremy was unsure and I knew his reasons why. They had been the same reservations I had had before. But slowly, our perspectives started changing and we started seeing how good it could be. We read this book and became even more convinced that we wanted to offer something different to the boys.

Another aspect that appealed to me was unschooling... especially in the early years. I wanted the boys to be children. To not have the stress of homework, to not have to sit in a chair for hours on end but to have the freedom to study or play with what they wanted. The other part of unschooling that attracted me went along with what I mentioned above. That I wasn't going to pressure Ian into learning his letters. I wanted him to show interest whenever that happened to be and I had prepared myself for a long wait and possibly years of hearing parents talk about their 4 year olds reading while my 7 year still didn't. But funny how things happen... when Ian has space to think and be creative, space that's not taken up with the TV or being entertained, he shows interest in learning.

I hadn't planned on starting any type of "school" this year but instead wait until next year when Ian would have started kindergarten. He, however, has different plans and wants to learn now. Which ultimately is part of the unschooling philosphy... that life should be spent learning, not just during school hours, but that we are constantly learning every day of our lives.

"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

-John Holt, How Children Learn

So this is the beginning of our journey into homeschooling. We are really excited about it and where it will take us. We live in a city that is full of life, culture, and experiences. I'm excited for the boys to meet people of all ages and backgrounds while we run errands. To have the freedom to explore and touch and interact with things on their level and on their own time. To learn music and to play sports and not have it crammed in to an already full day of hourly classes in a classroom. To watch them be creative and have space to experiment with it. To have time to be quiet and not fill every hour of their day with busy things. And I'm most excited to be there to watch it all happen.



tonia said...

awesome post.

my didn't-read-till-7 1/2 - and-can't-spell-at-all kid surprised us this weekend while we were playing a crossword game: suddenly, without warning, he can spell! and he has a fabulous vocabulary. we were floored. it works! it works! *grin*

of course, Ian is a genius...but it works for the rest of us too. :)

Idzie said...

Unschooling is truly wonderful! :-)

Bonnie and Fred said...

I love the way Ian makes the letter "R", and I am all for, not that it matters, the home schooling.

Mom Uytioco said...

Home schooling is what I always thought you would do. It seems like the natural progression for your family. You will be a fantastic teacher.

Clarissa said...

Welcome to the journey. I have come to believe that this homeschooling journey is more for me than for my children. God is sanctifying me through it.

We aren't exactly unschoolers at our house. We are eclectic and lean toward the Charlotte Mason method. Learning really is a lifestyle. (And, you have been living and learning together already these past few years!)

Blessings as you travel this wonderful path...