It’s been just under three weeks since we began our home-education journey, and it’s been highly unpredictable, unnerving, and liberating, all at the same time. Many of the plans I initially had have gone out of the window: I have bought notepads, art materials (used these at least), Kumon books; printed off addition sheets and nearly went as far as planning a timetable. But the more I research and talk to people I’m discovering my true beliefs with regard to education: children, as spiritual beings, have their own unique destiny, and therefore, an autonomous education seems to give them the best chance of fulfilling their potential. However, the parent needs to be aware of their child’s interests and talents as they surface and seek out opportunities to nurture them. When the parent is acting in this vein they can say hand on heart that they were acting purely in the child’s best interest and not attempting to push the child into an activity for their own purposes. If the child refuses to participate in an activity, they should not be forced . And likewise, if a child does an activity and no longer wishes to attend they should not be coerced into continuing.
Going against the grain
In my experience, going against the grain reaps its own rewards later on. When Kai was in year 2 his teacher stated point blank ( with Kai right behind her) that his reading level was one of the lowest in the class and that I needed to read with him every day if I wanted things to improve. I was heartbroken, as any parent would be to hear that their child is struggling, but more so that he had to hear this damning indictment from someone he liked and respected. At home I went into a total panic: I searched for books for Kai to read and got him to choose one to read at bedtime. He simply looked at me with the expression, “hell no!” I realised at that point how ridiculous I was being and quickly scraped the idea. Instead, I decided to read to him every evening (more consistently than previously). We read many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Wind in the Willows, Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop’s Fables, and many more. While I was reading one of the Tin Tin books, Kai asked if he could read one of the captions; this was his first small step at reading, and from here he began to read a little bit more each day. Until eventually he was reading by himself, with absolutely no coercion. Before Kai left school his teacher said that he was on the best readers in his class. While it was nice for his teacher to recognise his passion for reading, this did not mean much to us as we know things can quite easily go the other way. What is of great significance here is that my son, who is now a prolific reader, has found the joy of reading for the love it, rather than for any external reward.
Trust the process
In spite of this, I am I still find myself asking him, “What have you done today that’s educational?” “Ok, you played with your lego for 2 hours and did some reading.” But we don’t have anything to show for it. At this point, I come back to myself and realise the complete folly of my thought processes. It’s my conditioned self, rearing its ugly head again. Ok, so we don’t have pages of maths or any written work for that matter. But he is getting to experience the world first-hand and asking lots of questions. And because he no longer has to compete with 29 other children for attention he gets instant feedback. For example, on our way to mile end skatepark (on a Monday) he asked me if the moon was waxing or waning (?!?), and then said, it’s really just spinning and we simply can’t see bits of it because of it’s position as it spins. Later, still intrigued by the moon, he wanted to understand how the moon seemed to constantly shift, relative to our position. When we got home we did some research on the moon’s phases and learnt all about waxing and waning, which I found quite interesting, too. We then had a discussion about how long it would take to go from a new moon to a full moon (14 days or so) and from there we worked out that each phase of the moon lasts about 3 to 3.5 days. Following on from this we have created a moon calendar to record the moon phase on each day for a month.
This is a completely different approach to education than many of us are used to, and I have found at times that there is much inner resistance. But slowly I’m coming to trust that the process works, as long as I don’t interfere. It’s far better to just to go with the flow and be alert to opportunities to help.