Monday, June 13, 2016

Guest Post: The Gift of Time

On this blog's Facebook page, I recently asked interested readers to share their family's personal story toward learning and away from schooling. I have been profiling these wonderful stories over the past few weeks and have more to come! If you would like to add to the conversation and share your family's personal story toward natural, self-directed education, please email me at: kmcdonald@post.harvard.edu. I hope to hear from you! ~Kerry

Now, here is today's natural learning story from Amanda Shaw at A Life Worth Learning.

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When I think back on our homeschooling journey and wonder what got us here, I think it can most easily be summed up like this: we wanted more, and we wanted less.

The baby days were full of park play dates and coffeehouses. There were books and music and friends and laughter. It’s hard to imagine wanting anything more. But those days of nurturing your child in his whole being, of following her rhythm, of rejoicing in milestones all his own—they’re short. New milestones quickly surface and begin piling one on top of another. The purpose of being four years old, apparently, is to prepare for being five years old. And lest you think you can breathe at five, you better start preparing to be six years old. If you don’t, you’ll fall behind—and you’ll feel it.

In all this, we lost the magic of being four years old. And yet, there were long, sunny days to be filled, and so we accepted it for what it was. But along came school: behaviour charts, reward systems whose complexity rivals that of number theory, a sticker for doing it the “right” way, exclusion from the “good” group if you don’t. You were talking while putting your shoes on? You stay in for recess. You held the door open for the kid behind you? Wow, you’re extra nice, you get a Good Citizen Award or points or tickets to trade in for candy or a chance to skip your homework. Because we all know you don’t really need to do that homework. You read for 15 minutes? Great, write it down and have your mom sign that you did it—because we don’t trust you. You can read novels? Well, we’re only interested in how many 15-minute increments you read last night because this is, after all, another competition.

Off the bus, and it’s homework time, then dinner, bath and bed. All to do it over again the next day. And somewhere in that shuffle, my eager learners were getting tired. Somewhere in that shuffle, the time I had to spend with my kids was being directed by someone else. Somewhere in that shuffle, I began to question what exactly it was that we were doing and what was the expected outcome.

I wanted more: more learning and more happiness along the way. I read book after book on educational philosophy. I reflected upon the time we spent together as a family. I took pen to paper and made a list of our family values, of everything I hoped to impart to my children, of what was most important in our lives and what we saw as end goals. And when this was finished, I was really satisfied with all the work I had done. And it hit me. I realized that I was able to come up with my definition of a life of intent because I had had the time. Precious time.

“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”—W. Somerset Maugham

I also wanted less: less time in the car, fewer papers to sign, less busy work, less moodiness, fewer meetings, less stress.

And so for us, the decision to homeschool has been about giving our family, and especially our children, the gift of time. Time to learn at their rhythm, time to absorb information deeply, time to know what their real interests are, time to make discoveries, time for hard work. One day, we stood hunched over an incubator the entire day to watch chicks hatch. It was a painstakingly slow process—that methodical chipping-open of the egg. But we got to watch it unfold in real time, cheering on each chick throughout its exhausting process.

Time to just be. Not only do we weave the learning experiences around our free time, our free time is a learning experience—and arguably, the most important one. I want my children to have time to develop all aspects of their being. I want them to decide how to spend the majority of their day; I want them to take the reins on their educational experience, feeling out for themselves when, where and how they work best. I want them to be self-directed, self-motivated learners. And I want them to just breathe and enjoy life.

We keep our eyes on the prize: maintaining a strong love of learning, wherever that may lead us. As so many others have said before me, children are born with curiosity and a yearning for knowledge. We just have to offer them an environment that feeds that flame, free of the artificial demands that can snuff it out.

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Amanda Shaw homeschools her three spirited children and blogs about their adventures at A Life Worth Learning.

1 comment:

  1. This is so great! I follow your blog so that I can prepare myself for this unschooled life :) I love to hear about everyone's experiences and I am glad you thought about this mini-series of sharing! Looking forward to more stories. Thanks!

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