Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Confessions of an Unschooling Mother; Links on Education, Rethinking Traditional Methods of Learning to Read and Write

**If you read the first linked article you would see this is an example of age 4/5 proprioception...because it is drawn by a 71/2 year old boy who had constant fluid in his ear and infections up until age 5 (and the need to be in the Children's Hospital) as well as extreme visual problems we did not know about until age 3- it makes sense that his brain body awareness (and management for handling instructions ect.) is at a current age 4/5 level.  He also has multiple learning and low processing speed as well as a diagnosis including Dyspraxia, HOWEVER, he has an incredible mind that knows more information on the species and types of animals and inventions than I will ever be able to remember. He is also a little philosopher. That is his natural state and it's beautiful. Because of this, it is important NOT to force reading, writing, phonetics ect. until his brain body awareness have matched each other in complete 3D before moving on to other activities. It is important to strengthen instead with movement, imagination, considered and patient instruction, and meeting him where he is at.**

Sometimes I sit in bed panicking about my child’s preparation for this world. I wonder if I am being “wrong” in teaching methods. Every now and again, I see a child way younger than mine perform at a higher level. I actually celebrate them and their natural progress (or their uncanny ability to memorize and mimic which is also a celebration in it’s own right) but I also wonder, "Am I doing my child a disfavour?"

To be honest, it’s tough to be so against the grain in my schooling methods and beliefs. Many people make the vocal or silent judgement that I am failing my kids when my children do not reach certain milestones at certain ages. When it is found out my children are homeschooled, I have experienced random quizzes of math at grocery stores, strangers asking my kids how to spell basic words or  constant questions from family on what they have worked on (and of course measuring their schooling with traditional schooling mindsets.) 

There is a collective pressure to ACHIEVE, COMPETE and SUCCEED. Sometimes I get panicky before a dose of common sense sets in. One of my children is seven. He still draws stick figures at about an age 4 level, still can not write and does not read much. When he does read he astounds me with his knowledge of some BIG words but often he prefers to hear me read and he certainly does not understand phonetics - no matter how many times I attempted to teach them in my prior ignorance. 

His body awareness is still happening and he is still developing those neural pathways. I made the mistake of doing heavy occupational therapy with him last year only to find out months later that he was secretly bothered by it. He felt like he was dumb and different. I think OT can be good. We were doing a Handwriting with no tears program, and while it was good, it did not match him NOR was he needing to be at that level yet. It was a mistake of mine. Every child is so different, but from what I have read, if kids are left fairly naturally to imaginative play, education WILL happen more naturally and instruction can happen more around ages 7- 12 depending. 

I have realized watching him that he is his own type of brilliant. He has this moral integrity that can not be taught, massive amounts of energy, and a ton of love. He has profound thoughts when he decides to open up about them and his play is creative and sharing and only needs guidance at critical times of boredom or misbehaviour. He takes life and LIVES it and that more than anything, is where I want him to get his value from.

When I think hard upon it, I have no real concern about his future to be honest. I know HIS future will be HIS because that is who he IS. He will do anything he sets his mind to eventually- at his own pace. Of course, I still teach things but sometimes I see his peers mimic back words memorized or things accomplished (i.e. riding a bike which he was JUST ready for last summer even though his older brother was ready for a two wheeler at an early age) I start to doubt. 

Tonight I doubted yet again so I googled it and the first article that popped up to my question was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I honestly think it’s an excellent read for any mother or child because it explains the neural pathways and differences in learning and what our schools need to start changing:

Frankly, I was relieved reading the direct biological evidence to learning...and that the schools have it a bit wrong too. Yay for puppets, knitting, making, drawing, playing outside, sharing, reading TO him, and tons of free time to exercise those muscles that are still in development for him! I knew  from my prior Early Childhood Development studies that his pictures of people are about age 4 level (The article states that this shows he is about at that age for processing still.) One day that won’t be the case but for now he is his own delightful existence. I am savouring who he is NOW. Who knows what the future holds? Most likely he will move on eventually. Right now, this is my son whom I love, and while I will not stunt his growth purposefully, I will also not force it with memorization or continual practice…in time, everything has a time, and his may be longer in this regard, but there are so many beautiful things along the way.

I wanted to throw the article out there for support in case you ever lay in bed panicked like I did, or become discouraged at what our world titles “progress.” (Or if you are concerned that I am doing him a disfavour- if that is the case it is even more crucial that you consider the research behind my methods which I have dedicated hours to. There will be mistakes in this and consequences like anything in life but also many benefits and they are what I am willing to live with.) 

My community of friends and family have also helped form some of my conclusions either by agreement or disagreement. I have observed carefully both fully grown adults of the school system and homeschooling system and both types of children currently. The conclusions I have come to suit MY life, and my children...but the biggest factor has been observing the fact that in adulthood, the most content, loving people are the ones who have learned how to BE in the now, regardless of circumstance or knowledge or talent. Yes, those factors play a part in existence, but a balanced life is mainly about attitude and presence.

Sometimes even when you know what you are about, you need to be supported once again, or inspired. Ignore anything that can not enhance your personal story. We each have different stories and traditional schooling also has many benefits and delights! Yet, if your child is in the current system, and seeming to be “behind” consider these articles and remember that brain development has it’s own place. Often the ones who seem ahead in the early years do not necessarily stay ahead in adulthood. Life is about attitude, morals, choices, and mindsets. It’s about feeling worthy and giving worthiness…it’s about love…and if your child is excelling in any of those areas, you really do not have to spend the night fretting over milestones or accomplishments. Even those who accomplish little can still BE…and in BEING we BECOME love and that love can not help but garner love and find ways to LIVE.

For more on this topic a few of my favourite resources are (links in Author's name):
  • Kids: How Biology and Culture shape the way we Raise Young Children- Meredith Small
  • Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World- Ben Hewitt
  • The Magical Child- Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • http://benhewitt.net/2015/03/16/at-its-exit/
  • http://benhewitt.net/2015/03/10/its-not-like-you-were-interested/

    *For more great articles and quotes see this Pin board: https://www.pinterest.com/KAlluraMarie/unschooling-and-articles/

    Disclaimer: There are MANY ways to educate. I understand the innate privilege of being able to CHOOSE how to educate my children and also to have the privilege of staying at home to do so. As I have mentioned in a previous post- we are under the poverty line and while I would not consider us poor- we are definitely privileged and blessed but we are not at a place of FULL stability either. We are careful. My husband works in Construction which enables him to work less hours for more money and we value our family time. We are glad we invested in his Journeyman even though it came at great cost to us. We are honoured that he has the physical capability to work hard at a job that is one of the most dangerous jobs to do everyday. Everything comes with sacrifices, and our ability to live  on less hours of work for him came at a cost- but a cost we are willing to pay. We have had many circumstances work to our advantage (like being able to get a mortgage at age 24 with the company my husband was in construction with at the time) and in that regard, the decisions we have made and the people who have guided us- have mostly been ones that have given us a higher quality of life than what it seems we should be able to afford. We ARE privileged and we have also worked hard to make good decisions and use our gifts and support system. It's a balance. Many people say they cannot afford to home school, but being slightly under the poverty line, WE HAVE and we find it more cost effective then having me work or sending them to school. It depends on the situation and there are ways to work it out. THAT SAID, I live in an amazingly supportive place with a beautiful provincial policy on homeschooling. I love Canada and it enables me to have some privilege of freedom. I am speaking from a place of privilege. I understand MANY do not have this privilege I have. I believe the school systems desperately need to change. Please read the article sourced below and the books and links above to see the steps on how to do this. It starts with our mentalities as a society.

     Quote from article below "So what do my students need, then? Access to the same funding, opportunities, and “exceptions” afforded to privileged, affluent students.
    They need a society and educational system designed to actually meet their needs, instead of a society that passes laws to keep them constantly underfoot and an educational system designed to test them to death and tell them how they are inadequate instead of educating them."

Another post similar to this is:


Anonymous said...

Dear Kmarie,
Thank you for sharing this. I too, have doubts with the choices that I have made in my life. Not only that, I also doubt about the choices that I am going to make in the future. We all doubt and panic. Although we do not show it to the world, but inside, all of us feel vulnerable.

What can I say but it is all destined to be that way...we are led in a certain direction by fate or by God. We think that we are making choices but we are not. everything is going where it should be going....remember that there is a force greater than us that is driving our choices to a particular destination...
I was a brilliant student. But I left by studies because of continuous poor health and other factors such as dissatisfaction with the mainstream educational system, not being able to fit in, not feeling accepted or understood, etc.etc. I never thought that I would not finish my Ph.D, I never thought that I would leave my job in this competitive job market...but I settled for something else....a life of education and study but not under any formal organization..In that sense, I am also a homeschooling homemaker myself ...instead of studying in a University , I chose to educate myself at home .....maybe , in the future, I will engage myself in a field where money and success does not matter...I want to provide service to the downtrodden and neglected sections of the society...but as of now, I am in a place in my life which I chose for myself although other people may criticize me for my choices.

If we compare ourselves with others, we will feel left out and feel discouraged. But if we compare ourselves with ourselves- what we were in the past and what we are now, we will surely see that we have made substantial progress. Why ? Because we have learned from our past mistakes and experiences and also we have gathered courage to do what other people are afraid of. We are the rule breakers and creators of new path. Our journey has not been easy. Other people cannot understand that.

If you ask me , I will say that we panic and doubt ourselves because we have made choices which nobody has made till date, (or very few of us have made). We need assurance that we are going in the right direction. But those who are not like us, how can they assure us ?
There is no right and wrong decisions. Any decision that we take, represents us, represents our personality.Only we would be able to do justice to the decisions we make.

In the long run, things will be much more clearer as we grow wiser in age. So, we should take our time, wait patiently and then take the next step.

As of now, we should be thankful that we are having a family, fresh air to breathe, nice things to enjoy daily....other things such as critical and crucial life decisions comes much later in life...so, let us breathe and be thankful and grateful to the beautiful moments of life...your child's presence/ company in your life right now is much more important than what he is going to be in the future...
I used to worry so much as a child about a lot of things...but the future shaped up in a different way, much different than what I have perceived....our destinies are so unpredictable....so do not worry much...everything will be fine....

I hope you have understood what I am writing because when I write, I go on and on and forget what I was writing in the first place....

And when I have a child, I will surely ask you for advice because motherhood is a tough role...I am amazed at my own mother and by you...how you are managing and doing your role of bringing up 3 kids!!! I have none, yet , I worry about my future so much!
Have faith, and all the best,
(I will read the links later)
Lots of love,

Kmarie Audrey said...

ea you are very right…
I believe you were a brilliant student too- you are very bright….i love what you chose to do…
You are right that we can not compare ourselves with other and we need to be what we are NOW.

My favourite senescence is “only we would be able to do justice to the decisions we make.”- Beautifully put!!! I love your whole response:)
I also love this part:
As of now, we should be thankful that we are having a family, fresh air to breathe, nice things to enjoy daily....other things such as critical and crucial life decisions comes much later in life...so, let us breathe and be thankful and grateful to the beautiful moments of life...your child's presence/ company in your life right now is much more important than what he is going to be in the future...
I used to worry so much as a child about a lot of things...but the future shaped up in a different way, much different than what I have perceived....our destinies are so unpredictable....so do not worry much...everything will be fine….”

Very true…I love my life and my kids existence. So beautiful!
Do not worry about your future as it is as it should be. regardless you are a beautiful soul for the world and an amazing friend!

Liz P said...

I think home-schooling is a great idea. 'Normal' schools are so focussed on teaching children to pass exams that they forget to teach them how to experience life, how to investigate and learn more, and just learning about the important stuff out there like nature. I look back on my schooling and the things that I remember (apart from how scary it was etc.!) aren't the numerous essay subjects that I was expected to parrot back in exams, but the topics that really interested me - Latin, history (well, the Greeks and the Romans - all that stuff about Laissez Faire and the Industrial Revolution disappeared into my brain never to be seen again), and numbers. And they're what still excite me now. I'm doing a Master's degree (online) in Classical Studies in my spare time for fun! I love reading but hated it at school because we had to read round the class - apart from detesting the reading out loud there was also the slowness of it, and having to analyse it all. I like to lose myself in a book and charge along at my pace, enjoying it for what it is.
With home schooling children can try out so many topics, in a multitude of ways until they find what suits them. Not what suits a teacher to repeat year after year. They can go fast or slow. They can chop and change. Maybe they won't cover simultaneous equations (maybe they will) but who cares. I'm an accountant but I've never needed them in everyday life once! Nor have I needed to know the symbols on an Ordanance Survey map from memory (Geography class aged 12) - strangely enough I think that's why they print them in the corner of the map!
I'm sure schools are great for a lot of kids (in terms of the social aspect anyway?) but they fail some children miserably. If yours do well with home schooling then don't look back. I think you're giving them a great opportunity. They can enjoy learning, and by enjoying it they'll actually be taking something in permanently. That's what it's all about.

Kmarie Audrey said...

You made such a good point about nature! And I also look back with a lot of apprehension. Most of the stuff I remember does not apply to my life and I had to relearn what I needed in adulthood. I also found pacing in reading frustrating and wanted to enjoy it at my own pace.
You also made a good point of what is learned is often what is not needed- and they will learn what i needed:)

I believe schools are especially important for children who have no safe places to go- for children whose parents can not give them time and the school becomes that place, or for children who thrive on that type of instruction (which is a small minority) As for socialization, that point has actually been disproven in many studies by people who are not being paid by institutions to do the research. The reason why socialization is often cited is because homeschooling kids can come across as counter cultural...they do not necessarily get conformity at any cost, relating to peer age only, or working 9-5 THUS it seems like they are behind because they can not sit still or allow another human to be in complete charge of them. In actuality, most homeschoolers I know have 3 good friends (which is enough) of a variety of ages, relate well to adults or kids who share their interests, and do not base their social groups off of age...I think that is a great way to socialize! And most of all - they often get their value from themselves first and THEN the world...so i get how it is perceived as less social, but in reality- they usually have strong family ties, healthy outlooks of who they are and are not afraid to be awkward. I love that:) The socialization factor is a myth...unless of course the child is completely isolated from anyone during homeschooling...which typically isn't the case. It's just that they Are often a little odd compared to the lines of kids coming through the cookie cutter press ( sorry- hot topic for me because so many people have given me that reason for their biases against differences in schooling methods- so it is not directed at you but at anyone who may think inside the box of conformity:)
You made a great point- schools fail some and help others- depending on personality and circumstance and learning style...the same could be said of homeschooling:)
Thank you so much for your encouragement! I try often to not look back but sometimes I doubt when everyone else seems to be so different and so assured that I am wrong...I appreciate the words of wisdom..." if they can enjoy learning they'll actually be taking something in permanently and thats what it is all about."- what a beautiful sentiment! We need more people like you in the world!:)

Anonymous said...

it all happens in its own time.
you're doing great.
your kids are and will continue to be great.
schooled, homeschooled or unschooled, it doesn't seem to matter much at the end of it all.
it's who people "are" that matter. their loves, passions, interests, callings, character strengths, caring hearts, personal moral codes.

I think you're doing great and I can tell because you care so much about these things.- Nyssa

we all will struggle with something but eventually we find ourselves and our strengths.

Kmarie Audrey said...

Thanks Nyssa: You are always such an encouragement! You are right- at the end of it all what does matter is love, passion, interest, character, caring hearts and moral codes...anything else can be learned even at a older age if it is missed- whether from the school system, unschooling or schooling...and as parents we also have to choose one of those preferences based on what WE can give our kids of those qualities too...if we are more loving and can provide more while they are at school - then that is how it should be...if we can give more by them being home and be more loving and stable- then those sacrifices and benefits should be too...
Thank you... and you are right we all do struggle with something but eventually find ourself and strengths...such a lovely point. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

FlutistPride said...

"School Never Taught Me" (An Original Poem)
School never taught me how to make my own path.
Instead, I sit at a desk and do math.
I was never taught the different facets to success,
But I sit here and wonder why I am in this mess.

School never taught me how to listen to my body.
It builds on a foundation of tests which is shoddy.
They say they do this that I might acquire wealth,
But what good is wealth that's detrimental to my health?

School never taught me how to move at my own pace.
Instead, I work frenziedly while staying in the race.
I'd rather know the world by my schedule, by my time
Than being moved by the all-too-well-known school bell droning chime.

That's not to say that I hate learning
When I enjoy it so,
But what good is providing a pot
That offers little room to grow?

Kmarie Audrey said...

Brilliant!!! I LOVE this. So great!