Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tidal Homeschooling

I spent the summer trying to define our learning style, as there just didn't seem to be a nice, tidy term that described what we do. I interviewed several seasoned homeschooling moms, read a variety of books, and observed every homeschooled child I could find. I was determined to enter the fall season with a title.

We started this venture into home learning with the philosophy of radical unschooling in the back of our minds. That was long ago, when the children played all day long, when their ages and developmental needs demanded as much. As time traveled by and my kids progressed, radical unschooling, by its definition, didn't seem to fit in a variety of situations.

My eldest LOVES worksheets. She does them to relax. She started asking for assignments around 6 years old. She thrives on instruction and is excellent at mimicking. For this reason, she is a fantastic musician and picks up things like handiwork just by watching. She has no desire to invent, compose, or draw original pictures. But, she loves to read other people's stories and she does so voraciously.  Structure, schedules, and assignments are desirable for her. She thrives on me suggesting a book, requesting her to write something, scheduling specific learning times, taking an outside class.

At the same time, she requires loads of physical exertion, lots of time to read at leisure, and ample fantasy play. So, a structured curriculum wold not suit her any better than radical unschooling.

My son is the exact opposite. He's my Thomas Edison. He sees no reason to do a math problem, for example, that someone else has written, but is constantly finding his own math challenges in life. Sometimes, when his sister sits down to do a worksheet, he sits beside her and creates his own math worksheet -- all answers correct, and, at least for a while, all numbers written backwards. He is learning to read by visualizing the whole word, and therefore reads words like "mysterious" and "contradictory" with ease, but still has to sound out visually uninteresting words like "he" and "and". He is a right-brained learner for sure. Last year, for his birthday, we turned his bedroom into a workshop for building. Building is what he does all day -- all day creating: stories, math problems, wooden creations, mechanical creations, Legos, multi-media etc. My influence on him is largely based on "strewing".

At the same time, he is easily frustrated when he needs to know something for a project that he has not yet learned. A good example would be measuring. I have had to teach him measuring in very hands-on ways over a few lessons. He needed my instruction. I often find myself creating "lessons" for him so that he can go about his creative learning process as needed. Without those lessons, he would be greatly frustrated by all the things he is trying to teach himself. Luckily, Eggplant's wheels are always spinning and he loves to learn new things. He is usually more than happy to sit while I read to him about Thomas Edison or Eli Whitney or dinosaurs and such, knowing that the history he is learning will fuel some sort of creative tsunami in him.

My youngest is the biggest nerd I have ever met (besides her father). I say that affectionately, as I love nerds -- particularly this one. At 2, she announced she would grow up to be a doctor and has never wavered from that, except to add in part-time jobs -- like ballet dancer on Monday, horse-back-rider on Tuesday, and doctor the rest of the week. She prefers non-fiction, adult books to any other -- she particularly enjoys anatomy books and sleeps with one that someone recently gave her. That is not a joke. Now, she wakes up daily, asking to do a science experiment, usually a chemistry one. However, she is also painfully shy. PAINFULLY shy. She will not go to a class unless I can join her. She recently requested a science class at a local museum. When she found out it was a drop-off class, she begged her brother to take it with her so she would have a body-guard. The fact that she is taking a class without me is a testament only to the subject matter. She thrives on learning science with me by her side, both as mentor and sounding board.

While she loves to do her experiments, she also likes to then go off and try her own things with the ingredients. So, she often starts with some sort of instruction and then goes off on her own. She HATES praise and attention. As I have written before, we think she can read, but she won't tell us for sure for fear that we might praise her (she screamed once: "I don't want to talk about reading because you will start to tell me that I am doing a good job and I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!" ).

When I think about my kids, I cannot imagine how a poor teacher could possibly figure out 20 kids and their learning needs. I have 3 and it has taken me years.

And yet, even in our small family with just three kids, based upon their wildly different learning styles, no one style works for all three. And, frequently, no one style works for any given one.

So where then do I hang my homeschooling hat?

Da da duuummmmm...

We are "tidal". Tidal homeschoolers. Thank you Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen. May a thousand sparkly stars shower your glen with twinkling goodness.

My children change with the seasons of their brains and I have to change with them.

I am so glad to have found this definition! So glad that we are not alone!

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