Thursday, 20 September 2007

unschooling, part 2

I have often thought about homeschooling. I feel that Chas and Sam, who read way beyond their years, and love to, are really killing off braincells every time they have to write out 15 sentences and underline the abstract nouns or whatever. (of course, I don't tell them that!) And they hate that aspect of school. When Sam learned long division last year, he was SO! EXCITED! Dividing all over the place! But once he had done his 18,374th long division sum, it lost it's thrill. Homeschooling is one way to get out of that, the boredom. If he was ready for calculus, he could do that. Chas could do a project on "medicinal herbs, lost knowledge of the Arawaks and the Caribs." Max could read "little bear" 7 times a day, and play with Lego.

But then again, maybe not. Because I would either strangle them or have a nervous breakdown. Or both. Chas would still have to do enough math to get by, and the last time he had math homework that he didn't want to do, he climbed to the very top of a very tall tree, and refused to come down. He yelled and bawled from the top that he hates school and is going to stay in the tree forever. I yelled that he had better come down now, or ELSE! (effective, no?) Finally his father, a resourceful guy, got a saw and threatened to cut the tree down. Chas came down. He then took 4 hours to do 6 sums, and was a mess the following day. I cannot teach this child school stuff! We clash too often! At the moment, Chas does "homework assistance" at school 2 or 3 days a week, and we hardly clash at all.

The other reason I would not like to homeschool is that I am a selfish woman, and need my child-free time now. I LOVE that I can drop them off at 7.30 in the morning, say "toodle-oo!" and not have to think about them till 1.30 or even 3.30 some days! Gymnastics, homework assistance, watercolour painting, football, they love to do it all at school. And I? I love my work. I love my space. I love having a life that isn't children. Maybe that is because I had them so close together, and I had NO me-time for years? I was mom, and that's all. I am still mom, but I can be other things too now. A friend, a breastfeeding counselor, a SERVOL lecturer, lets-do-lunch, a wife, an artist, a businesswoman, or a today-I-think-I-need-to-have-a-nap.

I realise how fortunate I am. I have a husband who can support me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed, and a God-given artistic talent. I work for myself! This has its downside at times (no sick pay!) but the benefits abound. I do not work holidays, which means that the entire summer holidays is about the boys. Easter and Christmas too! I can keep a boy with me for the day if he needs one-on-one attention, and I think coming to the studio with me is pretty educational. Purchasing supplies, depositing money, dealing with customers, this is all good education.

The boys are lucky. Chas' baby and toddler years were spent living on the beach, and Sam and Max have spent many long weeks there too. Imagine learning to walk on sand! Imagine all of the cool things we found! We spent many hours in the paddling pool, which was really just a really big basin, and I taught them to swim very young because I lived in fear of their drowning! All three of them are addicted to the sea, and surfing, and fishing, and just lying in the shallow being swooshed.

We have wonderful support. We live near my parents, who are helpful without interfering. They teach the boys about gardening. They have chickens, and a pond full of tilapia. The boys have 5 acres of backyard, including a small "forest" full of creepy crawlies and beasties. My parents' house is full of interesting museum-y things, and a ton of books and old national geographic magazines.

We have no television, and we do not miss it. Again, having a huge back yard helps here.

We have interesting friends who enjoy spending time with children. We sometimes teach each other's kids. We tend to make plenty of mess with paint and glue and stuff when we have kids over here, but if my boys go to a certain friend they end up coming home with a rare fish to put in their aquarium and full breeding instructions.

The boys go to a great school. That is good. I can stroll in there any time and stick my head into the classroom to say "hi!". I can take over art classes for weeks, and they don't seem to mind at all. Not a lot of schools will tolerate that!!

We live in a place that is never too cold to go out, and in a village that I still feel is SAFE. We have 2-way radio, and the boys can take the radio, get on their bikes and go for miles up the road and still be in touch. There is a pig farm and a stream within riding distance, and everyone for miles knows where those boys live. I once received a call that said "your son has fallen off his bike!" and I had to 4-wheel-drive to rescue a bruised and bleeding child, but no other disasters so far.

Yes, I worry. I panic. Am I letting them get too far away? What if something HAPPENS?

We have had scorpion stings, spiders the size of plates, no water for months, bush fires which threatened our houses, floods, snakes, mildew (my personal peeve!), and a host of other annoying dramas. But we have also had a pet manicou, and a pet tarantula. How cool is that when you are a boy?

We have swum with porpoises, (they never come too close!) seen leatherback turtles lay and hatch, snorkeled on reefs, fished in the deep sea and hiked in the rainforest. How lucky is that? I can tolerate a little mildew for all that. (okay, remind me that I said that. Next week.)

I can take the time to come up with cool educational ideas for my kids. Not every mother is so lucky, and I try to include other kids in our projects as much as possible. We have quite a gang of boys: cousins, friends. And boys love to be in a gang, so it works just great.

All the cool ideas in the world, coming soon....

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