|Mads almost always packs a notebook and pen or pencil with her to draw and write about things she notices.|
When it comes to our schooling, I tend to go back and forth between two extremes. There's the list-loving part of me that craves order and schedules and rules and such. Then there's the part of me that sees the beauty and benefit of independence, curiosity, exploration, and freedom. Our days tend to fall somewhere in the middle, these days.
With Mademoiselle I noticed a few months ago that the frustration she had left behind when she came home for schooling this year was starting to build back up. She began resisting the structure and methods I had chosen. It makes sense. She's always, and I mean always, been very strong willed. And one of the many reasons we homeschool is because we think that that's a valuable trait to have, foster, and direct appropriately. I realized that what she was resisting was not learning, or creativity, or education, but the fact that she had little control over it. At 9 1/2 she was wanting to take more control over her own learning.
So, I hesitantly let her. It was hard. I was so worried about milestones and accomplishments, and it was hard to give up complete control over what was going to fill her mind and when and how and why and everything else. And for a few weeks, I stayed nervous. I stayed on her about accomplishing things. I tried to continue to driver her forward. And then, somehow, after the freedom of our spring break, we fell into a new way of being. There are times when she needs me to drive her - she is a nine year old, after all. But a whole new level of creativity and curiosity has surfaced in her.
The girl who, just a few months ago, protested at our poetry and writing assignments, spent hours today writing a story. And somewhere in the middle of her time writing she said to me, "I think I can do this. Maybe one of the things I'll be is a book writer." ONE of the things she'll be, because she's truly passionate about so many - art, science, baking, music, dancing, bike riding, being a mom, and now writing. Among so many more. I can't even tell you how many times she told me she hated writing! And really, the only problem was me, and the way I was going about trying to encourage her.
It's not that I was doing anything wrong a few months ago. There was nothing so detrimental about it. She did what I ask. She learned new things. She progressed. But, seriously, what is more valuable to her? The poem I coached her through writing, with prompts and list and assignments, or the four poems she wrote before breakfast last week just because they came to her?
But holy cow, I don't know how to find balance in all of this. She's going in amazing directions. I question if it's really necessary that I "drive" her at all. And then I think of the long list of things she might not know if I don't instruct and schedule and take charge. But, then I think about the parts of school that were meaningful to me as a kid. I can list my favorite school moments - 3rd grade, making Indian drums and dolls while learning about the Iroquois, 4th grade, making a mural about World War 1, 5th grade, making covered wagons while learning about pioneers and the Oregon trail, 10th grade literature discussions, 10th grade building a museum-like exhibit during a special week of school, and 11th grade, political debates in French, no English allowed.
All of those moments were ones in which I had ownership over what I made, did, thought, discovered, created. They resulted in products I felt gratification in producing, and the process required my own mind, thoughts, problem solving, ideas, trials and failures. So, part of me thinks the most important things to learn are not necessarily that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 or the difference between an equilateral and isosceles triangles. Don't get me wrong - they are important. But maybe just maybe what makes a person educated isn't so much what they know, but that they know they have the power and ability to do, try, learn, fail, study, make, discover, and find.
Of course, facts and creativity don't cancel each other out - they are perfectly happy at coexisting. But one, at the expense of the other - that is where I don't want to fail. And over the last 4 years, believe me, I have gone around and around in my head about this, read so much, discussed it with anyone who would give me half a chance, and the truth is, I don't have a clue what the best way to foster my children't education is. I have a sneaking suspicion there is no best way, and that I'll just need to keep doing what I do - ease up on the planning too far ahead, and take each phase as it comes, preparing myself as best as I can to anticipate my children's ever-changing needs and interests.
I'm curious - what is the happy balance in your family? How often do you end up re-evaluating what you are doing to foster your children in developing their talents and interests and strengthening their weaknesses? What do you think is most useful for your children - a strong foundation in factual information, or a variety of experiences in creativity and discovery?