It's funny. I can share an embarrassing moment, my own shortcomings and other seemingly personal tidbits here on this space. But the school thing? The homeschool thing. It's a tricky thing to portray in a virtual setting. And though I am finally at a point where I am happy with what we're doing….. I sort of keep it to myself.
I guess it's partially because we have this eclectic-Waldorf-unschooling-smorgasbord learning going on. Yes we do math workbooks and (loosely) keep main lesson books, but we play with plastic legos while we wait for the whole wheat bread to rise and everyone uses computers. Phonics? Spelling? Well, uhm. So how's the weather in your neck of the woods?
When my oldest girl was in public kindergarten, she was learning to read. She didn't want to. But we pushed her. Her teacher pushed her, and we had this "reading at grade level" kid. Good right? She comprehended well. Did her schoolwork well. But here's the sad part. Reading was work. It wasn't fun. She didn't read for fun. Ever. A million caldecott paperbacks wouldn't budge her. It seriously broke my bookworm heart. In fact she didn't begin reading for fun until last year.
When we began homeschooling, I vowed to not push my younger girl. I taught her letters in the Waldorf style. Answered her questions about letters, words, pronunciation, rules to be followed and when to break them. Our language isn't completely phonetic, the rules are broken often and eventually we all get to point that we mostly sight read. So I mostly skipped phonics, held onto a whole lot of John Holt reading and waited, read tons of books to her, and waited.
Kindergarten passed, first grade passed, we got a little nervous, second grade started and our nearly 8 year old girl began reading Dr. Suess, on her own. She painstakingly sounded things out, asked for help when she got stuck. We neither ignored nor celebrated the fact that she was beginning to read on her own……
And then it just took off. Frog & Toad, Little Bear, Magic Treehouse and now Guardian's of Ga'hoole. From October to February we went from a beginning reader to a voracious chapter book reader. We've eaten dinner with a few books that were just too good to put down. I'm still sort of standing here with my mouth hanging wide open.
I'm not saying this is the way to do it. Nor am I taking credit for anything, she gets every bit of that. But something just clicked for her. Reading became extraordinarily important to her life at this moment…. and somehow along with that the basic grammar began to make sense too. Punctuation and spelling and all of that. There it was. Her handwriting got better, she started writing tons of letters to everyone she knows and even helps with pantry organization. Yes, I do think all those count as writing lessons. Again, I'm just sort of in awe.
And while I think there is a lot of good in every type of learning, be it homeschool or public style, I feel strongly that each child has their own path. We know that average is a mathematical term, not an actual child. A whole lot of real children on different levels make up this average. And non of them is better or worse with where they're at. As the Buddha would say "they just are".
I once read somewhere "teaching to the middle, is like teaching to no one." A good teacher may plant their feet in the middle but they've got a fishing net and a watchful eye to catch anyone that might, that will slip away. I know this, I've met these teachers. And by teachers I mean all of us, every one of us that has children in our lives. Embracing children for who they are and having the patience to let them bloom just when they need to, when they're ready. Even if we silently hold our breath out of worry for them. It's a beautiful thing to watch them evolve and grow and I'm feeling awfully grateful, and even more humbled, to do so.