Monday, January 4, 2010

Liberated Education

"I hate schoooooolll."

It's ironic but the kid emitting this bag load of woes and injustice is homeschooled. Over the weekend, I witnessed his distress on Facebook, heard him whine to relatives, and caught sound-effects from his phone conversations. Any truancy officer who might have come within ten feet of my homeschooled child surely knows that we do do school because of my son's overtures.

I won't try to pamper over this and insinuate that my boy-child really loves his schoolwork because, maybe, let's say, I am such a fun teacher who designs such wonderful curricula. Not!

I know enough homeschooled teenagers to know that is the exception to the rule, not the norm. Love of learning comes, primarily, with age and wisdom. Youth has neither. As the literature teacher reminded the class today, youth and folly go together. Most children, public schooled or not, resist the task of learning because it is a task. It is basically their job in life during this moment and time and don't we all try to escape work at some point?  We are victims of our own inertia. That's why we have parents and bosses and guide us, direct us, teach us, and mentor us.

So, considering his youth and his folly, I let my son whine because I wanted to whine too and I figured he was doing enough for the two of us. This morning the whining stopped. There was work to be done and there no room for any voice except that of authority and wisdom. Daddy had spoken.

I still had to face my own weak spirit and inertia. I dreaded going to sleep last night. Really dreaded it. These last two weeks, despite having a sick child, were gloriously peaceful and uneventful and, really, as one friend said today, mothers need a vacation from the vacation. Know what I mean? I'm sure you do.

I knew when I opened my eyes this morning it would be time to diligently crawl struggle from beneath my nice warm blankets, put my feet on the cold floor, proceed to pull lifeless limbs and bodies out of the other three toasty beds, and make everyone GET MOVING!!! And out of the house! Ugh!

So much for *home*schooling. Once upon a time I thought we were liberated. Now, once a week we go through the early-bird routine of getting out of our pajamas before noon, packing book bags, scarfing out breakfast, and driving through half-lifted, foggy eyelids to *school.* I only thought we were homeschoolers. As my daughter is fondly proud of saying, my children, in fact, attend "private, private school."

So this morning we got to *private, private school* co-op and so many were sick and so many moms had to get back home to care for sick children that we all voted to close school early. Yes! There's the difference. We are homeschoolers! We're liberated afterall.

My older two had taken their first two classes each: Literature II, Biology, Latin and Art. During their class time my youngest had gotten all her school work done except for History and Science which she needed to do with me. A couple of her little friends were there and they were all ready to play. Go home! They were aghast. It wasn't about *school* at all. It was all about *friends*...myself included. My older two weren't ready to leave their comrades either. But everyone was packing up to leave. Socialization prevailed. The older two went off with friends for the afternoon and two little friends came home with Annie.

And what happened? You would never believe it but if you're a homeschooler you will see it clearer than any health care proposal that is voted upon.

School happened...though homeschooling parents are very careful not to call it that or draw their children's attention to it.

At first the girls flitted around: running bravely in the cold weather outside, playing with the dogs, watching Tom and Jerry while eating a lunch of leftover spaghetti, playing dress-up, and making up a game with the stuffed animals. But then their own little *schoolhouse* developed.

I love these little schoolhouses. They take no effort from the teacher-mother and the children seem to learn so much more from them because they are self-motivated, self-propelled, self-employed, and self-enjoyed. This is UNschooling in its purest form. Here is our liberation. We do have the best of both worlds.

The girls went to the bedroom to play with the dollhouse and returned with minature dollhouse books. Teeny-tiny little books the size of a quarter with real pages in it for you to write in. They were enthralled with these little books and began writing and giggling and drawing and sharing.

Our little friend Hope's story was so funny that I found myself laughing as she chronically repeated aloud, having to go over and over it in her head, as the story played out in her mind and she reworked it, added and deleted.

The girls took turns reading their stories to me while I video-taped each one in order to share with their mother and older sister.

This was writing in the best of all forms. Learning to write for the fun of it. Learning to listen for detail and clarification when needed. Learning to enhance and develop a story for their audience. And, most of all, learning to appreciate the joy of storytelling which...whether it's a novel, short story, television program, movie, cartoon, or of utmost importance.

It's a beginning; a beginning that makes great memories. And great entertainment.

Hope's Story

Once upon a time there was a little boy named John. And he was swinging on a swing set one day and his mom comed out and said, "Hey, John, do you want to help me water the plants?"

And he said, "No" and the mom was really surprised.

Then the mom said, "Well, if you're not going to do them then go inside."

So he went inside and he sawed his cat eating leftovers from O'Charley's.

So the cat went into John's room with a piece of pie and John went in his room. The cat was on his bed eating pie. So the mom walked in and said, "What happened here?" and John said, "It was the cat. I didn't do it."

The mom said, "What are you doing? Don't just stand there. Pick it up!"

So John said, "Get out, Cat!" So John cleaned up his bedroom while the dog was drinking the toilet water.

Then the dad came home and the dog wiped up his mouth and went outside and hide then the dad said, "JOHN!" he yelled to John.

Then the dog comed and he went back inside and he ate the dad's shoe. Then dad walked in and said, "What's going on here?" And John walked in and said, "It's a long story."


These teeny-tiny books, which entertained the girls for most of the afternoon, were set aside only for a good old-fashion game of Monopoly. Can we say Math?

The girls are now creating, from what I can hear, a play...complete with two hillbilly women and one princess. Seems that when the hillbillies greet the princess they may spit in their hands before shaking hands. The princess, on the other-hand, is supposed to act truly civilized and refined. Only...she keeps forgetting.

All I have to do is sit back and be entertained by these delightful little students...and feed them occasionally. ;-) School is never completely over until a hearty glass of milk and plate of cookies has been served or, as the weather might dictate, a bag of buttered popcorn and a cup of hot chocolate (loaded with whipped cream)!

The first day back to the p's and q's, hand sanitizer and lunch boxes turned out much better than any of us could have planned or predicted...myself included.


  1. Lots of fun at your house! Something about those D. girls and boys...they are all about the fun!

    Don't you love watching the creative play that our children can come up with on their own?

    Sounds like you are off and running in 2010.

  2. Thank you so much for reminding me of this: " Most children, public schooled or not, resist the task of learning because it is a task. It is basically their job in life during this moment and time and don't we all try to escape work at some point? "

    So often, I beat myself up, telling myself that I'm doing school all wrong, because my children aren't bounding out of bed at 6am each morning, skipping happily into my room asking, "can we start schoolwork, Mother? I can't wait to learn more about mathematics. Are there more grammer rules I can master so as to become a better reader and get more out the tomes that await me?" No, its more like rolling out of bed sometime after 7 when I'm still buried under the coveres with, "Can we watch a movie?" or "Can I play on the computer?" and when I respond with, "No, we have schoolwork we need to take care of first, you'd think I just proposed to take out their appendixes with emery board from my nightstand.

  3. Beautiful, Cay!!


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