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Monday, September 5, 2016

Learning to Learn- The Homeschool Balance

As a homeschooling mom, September brings something out in me. Each August I go to the school supply aisles with wonder and excitement. Each Labour day I contemplate the school year ahead and ask myself, how will it go this year?
The thing is, there’s been good years and not so good of years on our homeschooling journey. There’s been years when my daughters have felt they didn’t quite grasp what they wanted to... there’s been times I’ve felt I didn’t set them up as best as I could. Don’t get me wrong, they always learn but  it’s our own sense of satisfaction I’ve been looking for.
I’m always asked about homeschooling, especially since I work from home as well. Early on in the adventure I stressed and tormented myself... and our girls. I had the chalkboard, I had the schedule I had the workbooks. It was school... at home.
But after our son came earthside, it didn’t work as well. Oh let’s face it. Our younger daughter lived with her head in her hands. She’d hated the school regime. So we did some unschooling, we did workbooks, we had lots of experiences... and they read A LOT!
Fast forward 8 years. Each daughter has developed different curriculum suited to their learning styles. Our eldest likes to push ahead, while our younger girl was using an alternative program for math, and we compile a whole other group of resources for the other topics. This year, we’re switching it up a bit, with both girls on a guided curriculum with a daily schedule online. We’ll supplement and sometimes replace, but still, we’re going for more focused. It just feels like the right time.
And then there’s our boy-o.
For all of last year and the year before it was unschooling for him. He didn’t want to learn, he wanted to play and that was encouraged. But this year something happened: He got bored.
Now, I’m the first one to set the dial for play based learning and exploration. It’s my preferred method for myself. But there comes a time when the imagination can’t fathom where we want to go.
Sometimes as a parent we have to help the stretch by other putting out other options or resetting patterns and habits.
Following the Waldolf approach of delayed reading until 7, my son was told enough... he’s now 7.
He’s enrolled in a reading program online, and he’s starting the routine that his sisters are doing as of tomorrow.
At first, last week when we started molding our days to a school routine he fought me on it. After breakfast we all meet for yoga, and I thought our boy would pull a ligament with his lack of focus and flip-floppiness. He resisted reading practice and used every excuse in the book. It was so hard to stop myself from just saying “play. Go for it.” But we made a few deals and eased it in slowly. I wasn’t going it make it a miserable experience, but an self awareness building one. He knew he felt better with focus, but reading practice counted for a certain amount of play etc.
By the end of the day our son had a light in his eye and a skip in his step. He felt more focused and satisfied with himself. He felt taken care of and that he’d grown up a little bit more. He felt confident and ready to tackle the next day.
Which, by the way, went much better. He did yoga with intention and did the meditation exercise at the end. He asked for his reading program and complied to the practice with me. He was conscious of his own development and how much happier he felt when he had things he was working on.
He’s starting to learn how to learn and learn that learning can feel good.
So, although throughout this blog and my work I talk about feeling good and striving to help our children find the joyous connection that they naturally have, I really want to stress that sometimes we, as parents, get an off feeling and feel we have to act on something. We feel we have to take over and insist on something to expand and move forward. And, as long as it comes from a connected, happy place, spiritually, this is what our children want. But, that ol’ homeostasis works for them too, you know. 80% of themselves, will resist to any change, even if they are spiritually bored.
So if there’s one thing homeschooling has taught me it’s to stay in the moment, stay aware and listen to how things feel. If your child playing with mudpies all day feels fantastic and you get joy of watching them: it’s exactly right. If they’re still doing it 3 years later, they are feeling restless but don’t know what else to do and something feels off to you, then explore setting up something else. Help your children break their own negative habits and help them notice the process for their own awareness.

The same went for our daughter who loves to play her way through learning. This year I realized she wasn’t feeling very confident in her own knowledge and progress; out comes the new system and a bit more work. Through learning she is developing an awareness of herself, and appreciates the after effects, where she can play without that nagging feeling that she should be doing something for expansion. 

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