Friday, October 9, 2009

A Huge Epiphany. Breakthrough!

So as RJ races towards the age of two I've been realizing that I'll have a school age baby before I can blink. I've been starting to do some research and formulate MY thoughts on education. I've always figured that I'd homeschool. But I realized this week that I not only want to homeschool, I am absolutely positive it is the best educational option for my family, and maybe the best out there ever.

I'm still formulating my thoughts here but a few things stand out.

I've been thinking over my high school "career" ...I've always felt very frustrated with that whole time in my life...Personally a ton of crazy stuff was going on at home. And in school I was feeling defeated, no matter how hard I studied I never got a grade better than a B maybe 3 A's a year and many many many C's and D's. I always saw this as a weakness, all my good friends were straight A students they'd tuck their 100% into their folders knowing the satisfaction of those 3 numbers all in a row. While I quietly slipped my folded 64% History test into the back of the book.

I was homeschooled in elementary school. Mom had school from 8am-12 or 1pm- we were expected to work on the work outlined in the syllabus (a section of the math book, a unit in spelling, a page of dictation, a section of grammar). We didn't have to be at the kitchen table we could sprawl out anywhere in the house but the work HAD to be done. If the work was failing to be completed we were required to be back at the table once again until we could prove we could stay on track.

In the afternoons we were free to do whatever we wanted- but no computer or TV (the years we had a TV) until after 4. We were expected to play outside or inside with hands on toys (my fave was my American Girl doll or my wooden doll house the boys played with k'nechts and Lego's). A few days a week my Mom would take us to the park and read out loud while we climbed in the trees above her head or the lower trees nearby. We were encouraged to study whatever interested us and we made weekly trips to the library to get books on whatever interested us.

I mean there were definitely things I would have done differently in my homeschool education, but all in all it was a huge gift. I learned how to teach myself, how to LEARN about things- and retain the knowledge.
And then 8th grade came and I was thrown into this cookie cutter environment, the teacher talked, you took the notes, you studied and memorized the information, you took a test, you passed the test, you forgot 90% of every thing you just learned. I mean there were definitely things like that in my homeschool education, and like I said there are a few subjects I would have taught *me* differently if I were my Mom...But then again I wasn't an only child and my Mom had 4 other students to invest in and help and she did the best with what she had to teach. But I went into school feeling reasonably smart, I had always struggled in math, and mathematical concepts but in homeschooling I eventually got it- kinda.

I got to school and I repeated Algebra 1 three times- yes three years of Algebra (8th,9th and 10th)...That HAS to say some thing about the way schools teach- the cookie cutter doesn't fit every one- and when a student is failing it's shouldn't be blamed on the kid (especially in my case where effort was in play). I FINALLY got it when a kind teacher (in my 3rd year and my favorite teacher ever) started showing me how it could be helpful in every day thinking skills- it clicked, or at least I got to where I could finally PASS the class (with C's and B-'s I understood the concepts it didn't change the fact that I don't test well/ get very very anxious and also have slight dyslexic issues)

Today I had an epiphany. My early education had "ruined" me. I had learned what learning was, what having knowledge was and I wasn't getting that opportunity in school. My slight learning challenges were impeding me from passing tests. Test which tell you that you're smart, that make the teachers feel good about a job well done. Tests that make the students feel smug that they are smart, that they have learned some thing...Have they???
I wasn't LEARNING, I was trying to cram to pass a test so I could feel good about myself...I spent my years in high school feeling very anxious about tests, and depressed/apathetic about how awful I was doing. The learning cycle study+pass= forget was leaving me feeling of very low intelligence. I graduated high school wondering how much had gotten in there and how the heck it would help me in real life. And I've felt that way ever since.

But this week I started studying and asking questions about education. I've been looking into unschooling and asking unschooling Mom's to share their experiences. I am no where near to a definite conclusive thought on all of it. But I realized some thing extremely important. I am NOT stupid- I know that sounds really pathetic and awful. But I can't tell you how much I've felt that way since all that failure in school. I realize today that I have been unschooling myself ever since, I love to learn and research. It's not ever going to help me pass a test but I know more about childbirth, statistics, VBAC, csections, breastfeeding (a favorite subject of mine), attachment, early childhood development than most people I know in real life do. I've found things I'm passionate about and I've studied the life out of them...And I still have so much to learn!

It's also helped me see my husband with new eyes. He desperately wanted to head back to college a couple years ago. There was no way we could afford it and so instead he started educating himself..He started reading and reading and listening to lectures online, studying politics, history, the constitution and economics and talking my ear off about all the things he was learning (to process).

I'm still researching and learning about education and I have a few years, but I've decided I want to head in the unschool direction- We'll have structure to our day but I want our kids to study what they want to study...I may try to encourage some learning in all subjects but only as they apply to real life! If all Riley wants to study for a few months is math than that's what we'll let our little engineer do. We'll look at it in all aspects of life. If all Amity wants to learn about for a while is reading we'll get her as many books as she can stand. We'll work on writing and spelling and grammar as it apply's to the things they are interested in. We'll use the curriculum that has been given to us (sunlight) and fit it in with their interests.

I think the thing that has really stuck out to me about unschooling is that we are all born with the ability and drive to learn. Amity is learning to roll over right now, she is obsessed! I can't teach her, but she is driven to learn. Riley is learning to talk- she realizes talking gets her things she wants and needs so she practices and tries new words constantly. When its' time to learn to read she'll learn because she wants to know what books say with out being read to...And I'll help her understand but I think it will happen much like talking has- slowly and gradually...Not with any certain curiculum, but just by teaching her the sounds letters make and allowing her to take over our reading times little by little.

Everyone learns (that means retain) the things we need for life. We learn best by studying things we are interested in. If they need it they'll learn it in life! Why are we forcing them to learn arbitrary subjects if they aren't going to use it in real life? So we as parents/teachers/schools/governments can feel good about how smart they are and how much we can measure what they know? The government has their fingers in it: "Oh look the schools are doing well- look at these kids grades- one smart nation we're building." The The schools say: "Wow, all our students passed the state test- we did a really good job." The parents say: "Wow, my kids got all A's we've done a good job raising them. Look what great parents we are!"

Does that REALLY mean the kids learned any thing?? Or could explain it and teach it to a peer? In some kids maybe, but I would bet the majority not so much.

So that was my epiphany and it's a big one! I gotta run, RJ's feeling a bit neglected.

wanted a link with a lot of answers to unschooling questions.

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