The Uncertain Homeschooler – Playing Things by Ear

worksheetsI want to homeschool; that’s something I’m absolutely sure about. That has always been my conviction, even before I got married. For the most part, I’m happy with this decision. Unfortunately, there are times when I question whether I’m really up to the challenge. The doubts creep in when I start measuring myself and the kids against the standards set about by regular schools. In any case, I’m interested in a wide variety of homeschooling approaches, so suffice it to say that our style is eclectic. The concept of unschooling has always intrigued me while Waldorf holds a strong appeal for me. So do Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick, Delight Directed, Lapbooking, Unit Studies… I think the only one I’m not interested in is Traditional or School-at-home, and yet I find myself striving to do this many times – like I said, when I’m suddenly seized by a panic attack borne out of a compulsion for comparison. If you must know, I was the kind of student who had to have the highest test scores. In retrospect, I was probably pretty insufferable. The tendency followed me to adulthood, and it takes conscious effort to combat it.

There are so many unschooling philosophies I subscribe to, but my personality is so much that of the traditional scholar who thrives on structure that what I want theoretically is hard to reconcile with how I function. My ideas about learning and life were so set that I had let many opportunities slip me by. The summer before my senior year in college I was offered a chance to work in Portugal for a year, which I thought was completely out of the question since I was still in school. I had a deathly fear of not graduating from college, as though without that diploma, I was doomed to a life of poverty and hardship. Prior to earning that diploma, life was completely centered on the effort to get it – with honors and accolades to go along with it preferably. My entire person was consumed with the portrayal of just one role: being a good student. It took precedence over being a good daughter, a good sister, a good Christian, etc.

It was really all so bourgeois, now that I think about it. I couldn’t understand how certain classmates of mine back in high school toyed with their studies. One particular girl would disappear a week or two at a time and then come back with a certificate from a doctor saying she had bronchitis, chicken pox, etc. That girl’s sister was a friend of my younger sister, Chipi, and when I remarked one time to Chipi how sickly my classmate was, she snorted and said, “She wasn’t really sick. Their family just travel abroad a lot.” I was outraged at the idea. Didn’t the parents worry about how their kids did in school?  Incidentally, that classmate was already a very accomplished dancer even in high school, and I’m not sure if she ended up going to college, but she was already earning money breeding and raising show dogs while I was still receiving an allowance from my parents. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. I might not approve of the deception, but I can now understand and even admire their family’s priorities.

I’m afraid I somewhat digressed. The point is that as much as I love the idea of freedom in learning and having confidence  in children’s individual learning schedule, my conditioning provides the most contrary impulses, which is probably why de-schooling is highly recommended for parents of unschoolers. The thing is, we haven’t officially chosen to unschool, And, whether it stems from conditioning or an inherent quality I have, I find comfort in structure. I just haven’t zeroed in  on the form this structure will take. I’m not closing my doors on ready-made curricula because that could possibly turn out to be the arrangement that will make our family flourish. In the interim, we play things by ear.

We’ve definitely adopted a rhythm, and we put great emphasis in art and nature studies. As for goals and lesson plans, for a time I tried to teach Marguerite loosely following an age-based list of things to learn (this involved a lot of worksheets), but now we’re mostly doing unit studies/lapbooking/notebooking. I’ve also, since the beginning of the year, tried following 3 homeschool planners (free, of course, as I’m an incorrigible penny-pincher), but ended up just making my own (I’ll try to make a prettier version and then share it here).

Meanwhile, I continue to find informative and inspiring reads about homeschooling, so our setup is definitely open to modification. I enjoy educating myself in the process and brainstorming on how to incorporate things that interest me, frequently surprising myself in the process. It’s really quite amazing how parents find so many ways to be creative with the purpose of enriching their children’s lives. I think most of us are gobsmacked at the discoveries we make of ourselves concerning talents, skills, traits, etc.

Of course, doubts about homeschooling still surface every now and then, but, for the most part, I’m convinced that it is the best option for our family as it is right now.

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