Friday, April 24, 2009

Take the course, or stay the course, or depends?

Many times a week, it seems, I will get the notion that whatever it is that I do or enjoy could be done or enjoyed more---officially? Professionally? Expertly? Like, if I enjoy writing, wouldnt I like to take an online writing course? if I enjoy making little treats for the children, wouldnt I like to buy a magazine with perfectly color coordinated kitty kat face cupcakes on the cover? If I enjoy drawing and doodling, wouldnt I be so much happier if I "really learned how to draw?" If I like to cut and color my and my friends' hair, wouldnt it all be so much better if I went to beauty school? Is this capitalism at its most insidious, or opportunity knocking?

And sometimes i will follow up on these ideas, and thats when it all goes bad for me. The activity I so enjoyed, and so innocently felt great about suddenly gets replaced with doubt, worry, anxiety, stress over costs, and then the entire enjoyed activity can get so lost and trampled in the process that it can be in danger of being lost--either for a while or forever! What is this about? A big part of me LOVES the idea of being a borderline-smug DIY-er who is just happy as a little clam to paint chairs polka dots (with the wrong kind of paint, no doubt!) To make and create beautiful songs on the guitar without knowing a single name of a single chord, to be able to create fruit salads and rainbow soups without a recipe or even an ability to tell anyone else how to make it themselves, to piece together curtains and hairdos and outfits, breaking all the rules, or maybe accidentally stumbling upon some of them---

But heres the thing, and this is where I get a little confused--I am NOT trying to be eclectic for eclectics' sake. I am not trying to be funky coo-coo bird just to do so. I would love to take some of my skills to the next level, but some I dont want to, and even the thought of it makes me weary and annoyed. I am lucky (understatement) to live in the self published world of Blogger and Etsy and all of it, but what do I do about homeschool? Is it okay to really just do what we want?

Heres my example:
We will be cruising along with homeschooling, piecing together our fine and worldly and well rounded "curriculum" of workbooks and real books and trips and tales and tv and games and films and art and nature study and then someone will send out some links to some cutesy teaching website and I get totally freaked out. Should I click on 123Learn or ABCTeach or ElementaryFun or whatever? I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven if this stuff was available back when Greta was about 5 years old but now....I dunno. I dont like to be closed minded or staunch, but in my heart, I dont want to bother with that stuff. I have done it before, gotten all hyped up and printed out a gazillion little things and even paid a little money for subscriptions to little fun-n-games math type things, just feels weird. but I dont want them to miss out on something that might be really cool! the internet is too big, I say.

I wonder what to make of this phenomenon, I am trying to *listen* to what it means; do I step all the way into living by my heart, or do I open my heart to new things? Or is joy's artsy stuff and the kids' education 2 different things altogether?


Kneelingwoman said...

I can't answer the last question but I can give some structure for the other stuff: There is no question that there will always be "more stuff" to buy, online or elsewhere. Everything is for sale, including an attempt to sell us a way bypass a deeper work involving asking ourselves the tough questions. Curriculum sellersWhat does "education" mean to you? How do you define an "educated person? Do you believe that education is about "attitude and environment" and that all children will, if given time, space, privacy and not entertained to the point where a good dose of creativity-stimulating boredom CAN'T set in, seek out "the more"; that they will seek out more knowledge, experience and activity designed to try out the new knowledge and experience? OR do you believe that they are empty vessels that you have an obligation to "fill" with "something" that you've chosen OR that they will not learn "valuable" stuff and who is defining "valuable"? You, or "the culture" or the "inner judge, jury and hangman"?

My oldest two kids are now in College and both are honor-roll students. Neither had any trouble adapting to, or learning in, a "classroom" environment after being home and "on their own" with their learning from birth to age 16 ( both started College early ). The primary advantage that I've seen from our practice of trusting our kids, making sure that they had that simple time, privacy and "creativity-inducing boredom" is that they trust themselves and are willing to accept the consequences and benefits of their choices ie. they choose to go to College which means adapting themselves and their learning styles to the environment their in but they are doing it by choice, not out of coercion. They've never experienced "force" or "outside of self" interference in their learning so, they don't experience it now. The bottom line is, every child will learn all kinds of different things at different times and none of them will learn everything to equal degree. What homeschooling/unschooling does really well is teach the responsibility and accountability of freedom. My children have always had complete ownership of their learning. When they discovered "gaps" in their knowledge/skill base that they recognized as something they needed to deal with; they did. I've never "rescued" them from the consequences of not knowing something. If they have a real need, a need that is theirs, not ours, they'll take care of it. It really is all about maintaining those boundaries of me/not me where our kids are concerned. We have to keep our "stuff" out of their learning/education. Trust of self and our kids is the key.

Kneelingwoman said...

OOPS~ What I started to say about "curriculum sellers" is that they are in the business of making money out of just those moments of doubt, anxiety and fear that "we" aren't "doing" enough to educate our kids. I find it very odd, and irritating, that so many homeschooling families make their money selling "doubt" to other homeschooling families.

Kelley said...

I like what Kneelingwoman has to say here about education. I think the best things come out of taking the time to think through what it is that we really want. What are we REALLY looking for in our education? in our childrens' education? in life? What do we REALLY want to do? How do we want to do it? Do we want structure or for things to be more free-flowing or maybe a nice combination of both? I'm sure I'll be going through this same train of thought soon when I get my head re-wrapped around homeschooling Matt and Ben. The time when I was the happiest doing it, though, was when I had a pre-thought-out plan and was following through with it, instead of getting sidetracked every 30 seconds. (Okay, maybe that timeframe was about a month long, but it was nice while it lasted. ;D )

I may not be the best person to ask about how far to delve into personal things. My family has a saying about this: "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing to death." Now that's a little tongue in cheek, but basically what my mom and sisters and I do when we decide to do something new is we learn everything we can about it, and then jump in with both feet. We tend to stay on "kicks" (for lack of a better word) for a certain amount of time, perfecting our skills in that area and then moving on to something else, while still knowing that we have mastered the previous skill and coming back to it when we feel like it. It's an approach that may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

I hope this made sense. It's getting late and I probably should be in bed. :)

I know you'll find what works for you, Joy. You always do, even if it takes a while.

Andrea said...

Have you read any John Taylor Gatto lately? I find that when I start thinking classes and courses and curricula and professionalizing are the way to go, he talks me down.

Not that there isn't a time and place for more structured education (I'm talking about both your stuff and the homeschooling). But authentic learning and doing are so good for the soul, whenever they are possible.