Wednesday, 19 September 2007

unschooling, part 1

My kids like school. Really! They enjoy their friends, and the HUGE library with books about anything you want to know.

Chas loves the science lab, and keeps the science teacher on the hop! He embellishes and expands on her primary-school lessons with such joy and enthusiasm that she hardly ever complains about his constant interruptions. Chas has been talking non-stop since he was about 9 months old. The first time he asked me a question I could not answer, he was 16 months old. "hey! What do turtles eat? The sea ones?"

Chas forced me into a kind of Waldorf/Steiner education system of homeschooling. If he was into turtles, we told stories about turtles. We talked about reptiles. We drew pictures, and looked stuff up. It was exhausting, especially when I got pregnant with Sam and was still breastfeeding! But Chas kept me in training. His demanding energy set the tone for the next 9 years. A child who does not need much sleep, he directs his own learning and picks information up at a rate.

But NOT if he doesn't want to. Times tables? Pshaw! We spend half our lives going OVER and OVER the damn things! Reading, however, he deems very useful. From the time he was 5, I have been able to say "I dunno. Look it up!" bliss! I am let off the hook!

Sam was such a nice, quiet, sleepy baby that we thought he must be pretty normal. He didn't talk till he was over a year old, and seemed really average. When he turned 3, I sent him to Montessori school. He begged to learn how to read, so I asked the teacher to give him a few little exercises so that he would feel like a big boy. I thought he just wanted to be like his big brother!

When I went to pick him up, the teacher informed me that my son could read. I am a terrible mother, so I said "oh, no, he just has a really good memory. I probably read him that one.". The teacher pulled out a book I have never seen, and Sam read it to me. Okay, the kid could clearly read. And had probably been reading for ages, while I thought he just knew all the books off by heart. The teacher, a wonderful woman, insisted that Sam start primary school the following September. I said "no way!" till the headmistress of the school said the same thing. I agreed, and its a good thing. Sam gets bored in class as it is, and effortlessly brings home 1st or 2nd place in class, whupping kids 2 years older. I have never done any revision, spelling or times tables with him, which is nice. Makes life easy for me, and gives me time to spend with Mr. Timestables-are-useless! But as
one distraught teacher once cried to me, "what do we DO with him?? It is harder to have him in my class than a slow child. At least I know what to do for a slow child!" Sam adores numbers. When he discovered that ten is ten ones, and a hundred is ten tens, he spent days with squared paper colouring stuff in and getting as excited as if a real live dinosaur had just strolled up to say "hello"! He stuck all the squares up on the wall, and it was a real conversation starter. "what the heck is that?" "heck, I dunno!"

Max is completely different again. If I had 10 kids, would they ALL be completely different? He gets excited by space, and spends hours building Lego space ships and jabbering about light speed. He is the coolest, always busting a move and dancing naked all over the house. He befriends everyone, with unquenchable self-confidence, and I have enjoyed him immensely because I have not been pregnant and exhausted and THROWING UP at any point in his childhood. So far!

So life is pretty interesting around here. I will end this for now, as a wrestling match is about to get out of hand and I may have to thwack someone. Tonight I will think about what fun things we have done to make school less boring and learning interesting. Like regular thwacking!

Heh, heh... Not that regular!

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