Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To School or to Unschool

"I am the genius of myself" - James P. Carse

Everyone keeps asking me if Satch has started preschool. We have decided not to enroll Satch in preschool this year because at the time of enrollment (last year) it seemed...well, too soon. I'm so torn on this whole issue because on the one hand I don't want him to miss out on an experience that he may enjoy, but on the other three year old children REALLY need to be in school? Have we forgotten the value of play and experiencing the world? We decided that we would rather wait until he until he has some more communications skills under his wee belt so that if something or someone upset him in any way, he can tell us about. We also want him to have the confidence to voice his opinion and stand up for himself, if needed.

In the meantime, we've signed Satch up for some Mommy & Me classes that we are certain will nurture his current interests - Music, Creative Dance, and Creative Explorer which engages children to explore, science art, and photography. These activities are offered through our local community center for a nominal fee.

I've read some books that have completely changed my concept of education and have moved me into a place of self-reflection and asking lots of questions...

John Holt's Classic, "Teach Your Own" was the first on my list to read and what I can't get out my mind is this quote: "What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where WE think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out."

What really drove that statement home was when getting ready for bed one night, Satch decided to remove all the pillowcases. I asked him to leave the pillowcases on the pillows and he replied, "Mama, I need to do's my job to experiment". This completely blew my mind!

I was then lead to the book, Guerilla Learning: How to give your kids a real education with or without school", by Grace Llewellyn. I could NOT put this book down and kept reading passages over dinner, while my husband (a former history teacher) nodded in agreement.

I found this book very compelling and I know that I'll be referring to it over and over again.

And when I heard that Jan Hunt was writing a new book entitled "The Unschooling Unmanual", I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. It's a collection of essays on the subject of natural learning written by 11 noted thinkers such as Daniel Quinn, John Holt and the author herself. It is concise, easy to read and thoroughly inspiring. You will be hearing from Jan in October's Mom to Mom interview.

These books gave me more insight into the history of our educational system and provided me with resources and options. They also enabled me to self-reflect upon my own experiences with schooling and I've gained some understanding as to why I did not enjoy it. My parents didn't know there were other options that would be more suited to my personality, interests and needs. I think the key is to know your children and find the method that truly suits them.

We are still uncertain about how we will approach our son's future education. There are just so many things to consider. I like a lot of the Waldorf concepts and how in the early years they focus on play/fantasy. I also like the Montessori method which emphasizes self-directed learning. And then there is the Emila Reggio approach which sounds to me like the best of both worlds. That said, we have a lot of thinking to do.

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posted by Wendy at 5:32 AM


Anonymous melissa said...

my son is starting his second year at a reggio focused preschool. we just love it. he goes two days a week--enough to let him have his own big boy thing. it is unlike any preschool i have come across. teachers are loving and let the children set the lessons. the children express an interest in something and the teachers will help build a lesson around it. they also do a wonderful job of documenting his days with photos and journal entries.

we are still debating what we will do after preschool--homeschool or find a private school that will be a good fit for him.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

sounds wonderful, m. i found one within a reasonable driving distance and will be looking into it for the future. xo

9:08 AM  
Anonymous vickie said...

oh thank you for these book recommendations! though we have ours in school (has to be that way for now) just reading about a home school approach helps us to be better parents when they are home with us!

you are lucky to have the option to keep him with you. i know i would not even think about keeping both of them home with me if i had any other choice. and i guess there always IS a choice to change our current situation, but this mama has to take it one step at a time.

1:15 PM  
Blogger denise said...

"I think the key is to know your children and find the method that truly suits them."


We choose to home/unschool the boys because they are amazing spirits. We want them to be free thinking, spirited, creative, dynamic, and learn they way they each learn best. :) I know some children are great in the system, and some are not. For us, having boys, we want to honor and value their male energies and not feel that we must inhibit them just so they conform themselves to that environment. And that is working for us so far!

It may change. We'll see as they grow - as you say, we all do what works for our families and what we feel is best for our kids!

Having time with Satch now, though, is wonderful. Letting him develop himself more fully before entering the group peer environment. Awesome! :)

You found yourself some great books - those changed how I thought about things too...

2:56 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

My older daughter went to preschool--which she loved, and which gave me a much-needed break--and I never had the least intention of homeschooling. I was sure that I didn't have the temperment more than anything else. But I did start doing some reading...John Holt and John Taylor Gotto, and The Unschooling Handbook...and when it came down to kindergarten enrollment time, we just couldn't do it. In my heart and gut, I knew it wasn't for us.

That was about 2-1/2 years ago, and I've turned from a reluctant homeschooler to being unable to imagine anything else. My kids and I have these rich lives that we're leading together. There are so many positive consequences that I just couldn't have forseen. It isn't always easy, but truly I wouldn't have it any other way.

Best wishes on this journey!

10:34 PM  
Blogger E and T said...

Hi Wendy

Welcome back my friend. I must confess that I have not caught up on all of your recent posts as yet, but in time I certainly will.

When I spotted this post on education I had to comment.

Having taught for ten years in secondary schools and the last four in a school that was considered an alternative type of school, I support a system where the student directs the curriculum. Choices and flexibility (with presentation of content and assessment) need to be paramount and the teaching of thinking skills essential.

During my last four years of teaching I was fortunate enough to teach in a school where the students did set the curriculum. I taught multi-age classes and we did not teach according to age, rather to ability. Themes were selected for the term and as teachers, our role was to provide options to students as to how they could demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. We did not have text books and students were never all working on the same thing at the same time. Therefore, a great deal of conferencing took place between students and teachers.

In any given class there are a range of ability levels and interests, therefore, it is ludicrous to expect all students to be working from the same page of a text book.

I think I have rambled enough. I could go on and on.

I am really looking forward to your interview with Jan Hunt.


7:23 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Great post! Thank you for this one. I'm glad you're home!

8:03 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I was contemplating the same exact thing this summer.

The main reason I decided to become a SAHM was for the sole purpose of being able to enjoy and teach my children.

I had gotten caught up with what everyone thought I should be doing and completely ignored my gut feelings. I quickly signed my daughter up for preschool that was to start in Sept.

In August we got a call that a family member committed suicide.

He was 13 yrs old.

He was to start band camp and didn't memorize his piece.
He was a perfectionist and instead of risking embarrassment or any type of failure he choose death.

Heart-wrenching. When we got home from the funeral, I pulled my daughter pulled my daughter out of preschool. I just want her to be three and enjoy just being.

sorry this post is so long but I just wanted to let you know that you were not alone in this matter.

Thanks for the book ideas! lisa

11:38 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

oh lisa, what horribly tragic news! i'm so very sorry for your loss - it's unthinkable. i would email you directly, but i was unable to find contact info on your blog.

5:08 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

thanks wendy.

Making the long car ride from Minneapolis to Reston gave me the time to sit and think. Despite the nature of the trip, it gave me the pull to shift my life back into perspective and to trust my instincts.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Stacy (mama-om) said...

Hello again... I haven't read those last two books but have them requested at the library now! Thanks!

I loved Jan Hunt's The Natural Child Project. It was actually my first introduction to the concept of homeschool/unschooling. I read it when my oldest was around one-year-old.

He is now five and we are unschooling. :) We are lucky to have a large supportive community in our city (Seattle), and we continue finding our way -- as it sounds like you will, too.

Best wishes--

5:51 PM  

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