Earlier in the year my youngest son started asking me if he could homeschool again next year. I said ‘probably, we’ll see’ and he left it at that, from time to time reminding me what he wanted. But then his more forceful older brother decided that school had lost all it’s appeal and he must start homeschooling again immediately.
There really was no reason to refuse, other than perhaps my sanity. So within a week they were withdrawn from school. Over the next few months we were preoccupied with life. We moved house so time was spent packing, moving and unpacking. Then almost as soon as we had unpacked it was time for Ramadan and our usual schedule was overtaken. I had discovered I am pregnant so much time was spent sleeping and feeling sick. I wasn’t worried about the lack of our ‘doing school’ because after over a year back in an institutional setting I really felt that they needed some time to deschool.
My daughters had started a new school in our new (old) location, we have moved back to a previous house. And whilst my eldest settled in wonderfully my littlest simply did not want to go. And there seemed little point in forcing her especially as her older brothers were at home with me. So now I have three homeschooling children again.
I am still finding my feet and making decisions about how to approach it, juggling different perspectives and ideals and working out what will work best for us. I have some quite conflicting notions about how we should be doing things and it is mainly a contest between Waldorf and Unschooling so at the moment I am taking it day by day.
I love the Waldorf philosophy and I would love to be able to put it into practise but it is increasingly difficult when I already have children who are used to using technology. I think there is probably a lot of value in delaying the use of computers and screens until older stages in child development but our existing reality is that we haven’t done that. I started looking into Waldorf when my oldest child was around four years old (she is now twelve) so I could have taken that route but our family has had so many challenges, those kinds of decisions were just pushed to the wayside.
Our environment also has a significant impact, the children have have grown up with a social norm that is far different from the way I would have liked to see things develop.
When we were homeschooling previously I bought iPads for the children and now we also have laptops. It is difficult for me to envisage heavily restricting their usage and yet I feel very torn about what to do. Realistically I don’t think my oldest son will respond to any kind of heavily structured curriculum. Unschooling works for him but because of my own institutionalised learning experience I have hesitations in surrendering to it completely. If we were on the road I would have far less worries, if I knew there was a constantly evolving landscape of experiences then providing that kind of freedom would not be a concern. When we were travelling in Morocco I realised how wonderfully unschooling would work in that context. But we are living in the suburbs, our life does not vary a lot from day to day. I have enormous reservations about the whole notion of unrestricted technology use as I think these mediums are highly addictive and it can just be like falling down a vortex. At the same time I notice how these technologies can be used productively. So it is all about balance and I guess we are at that point in which we are trying to find the right balance for our family.
It is likely that Zeph will do mostly unschooling and I may work from my Waldorf curriculum with the younger children. Nothing will be ‘pure’ and I imagine it will change from week to week.
I also let my little daughter self-lead in terms of formal language skills despite the Waldorf curriculum being much slower. She has been at school learning letters but even before then she had a natural interest in learning to write and continually practises by herself.
Because we have homeschooled before I am not allowing myself to stress out about approach, I know it will fall together slowly. I have seen and experienced the benefits of homeschooling so I don’t have that fear that often consumes first time homeschoolers. We have the best scenario really, the children have been to school so they know exactly how it is and they know they prefer to be at home. It is a little different for us this time around since we are not doing any tutoring but I actually prefer the freedom this gives us day to day, not being tied to an outside structure.
I could allow myself to feel overloaded, I am still not feeling very well and dealing with almost constant nausea even though I am now in my second trimester of pregnancy. We have a fair amount of stressors beyond our control impacting our family right now so I don’t want homeschooling to add to that. Instead I want it to be an enjoyable experience.
At the moment I feel like going on plenty of excursions and just letting the kids play and explore. We visited an adventure playground in Kinglake last week and then after a picnic and filling up on cakes from the Flying Tarts Cafe we went on a huge drive through Flowerdale and Strath Creek towards Broadford and back to Melbourne.
I love that we are now on the edge of the city again and it’s not far to the country. Yet my fear of windy mountainous roads is a bit of an obstacle. Going over the mountain towards Kinglake is a terrifying drive for me, my hands were sweating so much I felt like they were going to slip off the steering wheel! It is strange since I grew up in the country and spent my life on similar roads but I guess I was never behind the wheel!