Great Expectations – Who are we trying to impress?

When I first seriously began to consider homeschooling as an option, my research showed that children need a period of “deschooling”. I chose to disregard this advice. After all, the recommendation is a month of deschooling for every year your child has been in school!!! Now, I know most of my readers, and I can picture you sitting there reacting to that similarly to how I reacted. What?! Seriously? You’re kidding, right? So, say we only count kindergarten as a year (let’s pretend preschool never happened, even though we loved preschool), that means my 5th grader would have to take 5 months off from formal learning?! So she wouldn’t start “school” until January?

So like I said, I chose to ignore that advice, and we jumped straight into a relatively structured learning model. As I mentioned in last week’s post, we are using an online curriculum for secular studies for the older kids. We put together schedules for everyone, including me, so that each of the kids got to benefit equally from one on one time with mommy during lesson time. This worked very nicely for the first week. In fact, everything went very well the first week, as I mentioned in the blog. I was pleasantly surprised, and felt justified in jumping into school.

Then Tropical Storm Isaac bore down on Florida. I ran to the library and checked out books about weather systems, storms & hurricanes so we could learn about these natural phenomena. Oh, and school was closed Monday for all their friends. So we took a day off and they got to hang out with their buddies. And then the next day, when public schools were still closed, but their friends at HDS went back, we sat back down to work. And it didn’t go so smoothly. They were antsy. They were getting frustrated too easily. They didn’t want to stick to the lesson plans they had made for themselves. They didn’t want to do much of anything. And I felt pressure. And stress. After all, if I am to prove to doubtful family members that homeschooling can be successful, my kids MUST keep up. They absolutely have to learn daily in a somewhat formal manner. So I pushed them to stick to their schedules. By Wednesday I think our house may have started to crumble, but thankfully, I learned about karate classes for homeschooled kids on Wednesday mornings, and told the kids we were going. I’m sure it was the saving grace of the week. The older two got a great workout, met some new friends and are excited to go back. Even the little one wants to try next week.

Back home we sat down again to study after lunch. And the lack of concentration was apparent. Emotions were running high. They hated Mommy, they hated Daddy. They hated homeschooling, but they didn’t want to go back to school. They don’t want to learn anything at all. Learning is boring. Stupid. Annoying. A waste of time. Something had to change.

I began to reexamine the deschooling notion. Maybe there’s something to it. Perhaps we all have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of each other. So Thursday morning when we got up, I told the kids to get dressed, daven (pray) and eat breakfast, and then I told them we’re not going to have formal classes today. We’re going to have fun. What would you like to do?

Oddly enough, they all said they’d like to do a couple of their online lessons before having fun. The youngest said she wanted to do more Hebrew reading. So we all sat down at around 9am for an hour or so and then we took a break. We put on the Wii, put in “Just Dance ABBA” and had a blast (and a great PE session). Everyone was laughing. Everyone was happy. The kids were all getting along. They were joking with Mommy instead of yelling at me. In fact, they were having so much fun that I got to sit down and write this, when earlier in the week I wondered if I would get to blog this week.

Once they’d had enough dancing we went to Target to take advantage of clearance on back to school supplies. We had a picnic lunch with the dog in the yard. We spent the afternoon doing art projects for Rosh Hashana (and learning laws of the holiday at the same time – ha! I did sneak some learning in there!).

I’m not sure I can bring myself to allow complete deschooling for a long period of time, but I humbly admit that I was wrong when I thought it was unnecessary.

We really don’t need to prove anything to anyone. We know that our kids are learning. We know that if we choose to go back into a school system at the end of this year, the kids will be up to where they need to be. This doesn’t worry us. So why should we worry at all about what others expect from us and our kids? As far as I’m concerned, as long as they are happy, healthy and mostly well behaved (in a child-like way), my expectations have been met.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rebekah Israel
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 10:29:49

    Vanessa, I am so proud of you and so excited to follow your blog. Reading it reminds me of those days when I voraciously read through John Holt’s Growing without Schooling newsletters – the back issues and current ones. It sounds like your whole family is succeeding. Your post “made my day” (now that reminds me of Clint Eastwood at the RNC last night, but that takes me to TODAY and my PhD research…another story. Shabbat Shalom. X0.


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