A Sea Change?

Sometimes I think that the record of our home education journey will show a rather indecisive, fumbling attempt to give our children an education :-S  I started this academic year planning to take a more serious approach to formal academics.  Well, four weeks in and this week, Andrew and I have come to the decision that a sea change may be in order.

Behaviour has been an issue in our home for the past weeks – including mine!  Tempers are frayed, bickering is the order of the day and there is not much in the way of fun and laughter.  This isn’t the home we want for the children.  Of course, as Christians, we believe that there are heart issues at the root of all these things.  However, on a more superficial level, we’ve come to the conclusion that our (well, mostly my) approach to home education is not helping.  My lofty designs for a rigorous academic approach is meaning that we’re spending a lot of time indoors, I’m becoming impatient if we don’t cover the ground I’d planned and as Andrew said, life in our house is beginning to resemble an army camp!

I spent a lot of time pondering these things – and praying – last week and have come to several conclusions.  First, that my penchant for planning is in danger of becoming an end in itself.  My desire when we first started to think about HE was a personalised approach, a fit for each child rather than a ‘one size fits all’ model.  However, I find myself meticulously typing out my plans for Edward so they are there for Isaac (and Lydia and Carys) when his time comes.  In the end, heading towards exactly the kind of model I always wanted to avoid.  Second, that my plans for the children are not only over-optimistic (in terms of what we can fit in) but are too much centred around what I think would be a good thing to do.  I have tried to work around their interests in some ways, particularly Edward’s (remembering our manhole and road sign projects) but as the workload increases, I’ve being more and more led by my own ideas, which needless to say, are strongly influenced by the fact that I, myself, was schooled.  Although we’re not at this point (yet), I can see us heading down the ‘replicating school at home’ model, which is not what we wanted to do.  I can see resistance in the boys particularly and this is far from the love of learning that we want to foster in them.  Thirdly – and most importantly – we believe that relationship is more important than curriculum content but that is not reflected in our home at the moment.  We’re not fostering good relationships in our home.  If the children grow up with good academic qualifications but not following God or with healthy relationships with us and each other, that, to us, will be an epic fail.

So, in true-to-form, fairly extreme style, we’ve decided to abandon most of the plans I made at the beginning of the academic year!  I feel that HE is an art and a craft.  I’ve become pretty good at the craft of it but I think that the art of HE eludes me for now: the art of understanding your child and tailoring how you approach their education accordingly (I think I understand the boys but tend to fight against the parts of them that don’t fit in with the educational model we’re using), the art of creating an atmosphere of learning that is encouraging, exciting and person-building, the art of meshing all this with family life and the myriad other parts of running a household.  So the next few weeks are going to be an experiment in getting back to our original vision.  That vision was formed when we had a 3 year old and a 1 year old.  How we do it with four children of 7, 5, 3 and 1 will look different but the essential vision remains the same.

We’ve both been reading about autonomous education or unschooling.  We’ve known about it as a concept since the beginning of our HE journey, although only as one of those rather nebulous ideas that you can’t quite grasp and aren’t inclined at the time to look into in more detail!  I’d always written it off as an approach for us because of my love of schedules and planning and also because it does seem like an even bigger leap in the dark than HEing in the first place.  We’re not fully convinced that this is the way for us to go forward but I suppose this is what the experiment of the next few weeks will look most like.  This will be a major step out of the comfort zone for me but one thing I’m convinced about is that as their mummy, my job is – with Andrew – find the best way for us to give our four precious charges the childhood and education they deserve.

I hope that we and our children look back on this and interpret it as a healthy willingness to make a change when one was needed, instead of staying with the safe and habitual!  I’ll be keeping a journal of sorts about what we’re doing each day so this may also herald more regular posting on this blog (wonders never cease!).

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