As an unschooler, I learned early on that work and play can be the same thing, on some level. When you love what you do, you work to get better at it, to learn more about it. Work fits naturally into the pursuit of something inspiring. Because learning wasn't separate from living for me, as a kid, it made sense that I'd have jobs and make money as a part of my education and my life. Everything an unschooled kid does is based in the "real world," so to speak. There's no training period, or special area where you wait to be released into the rest of your life. You're already living it. So, as a matter of course, I worked. My first serious job began when I was fifteen. I still have a version of that job, and it is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life. From the time I was pretty young, I loved having real responsibility. It made me feel important. I think kids like to contribute to the world in real, concrete ways. I had that opportunity, and I learned a lot from it. I also saved a lot of money!
We're far less unschooly these days than we used to be, and more and more drawn to Charlotte Mason, whose philosophy has resonated with me from the beginning, though we're not absolute purists in that direction, either. Still, the following certainly underscores my own experience of the power of books themselves as teachers:
But really, don't you think they learn more with projects? No, I really don't. They may remember the projects with great joy, and for that reason, if you like them and the kids like them, and you want to do them, go ahead. But my experience has been that the projects don't really help the children remember (or even make) connections with their learning.So what do we do? Read a section ask for a short narration if your child is old enough. That seems too simple and easy. It's so simple, that I suspect many of us subconsciously feel that we're cheating, but it's really a very meaty, idea-filled study. (read more . . . )
And from Dwija Borobia, whose cool kind of name I wish I had (not that I would have to be named Dwija, necessarily, but do you know how many Sally Thomases there are out there?):
Why is this perception of the weirdo homeschooler so pervasive? Why is it that despite the clear academic achievement of most homeschooled students, the fear of them “acting like that one weirdo guy I knew when I was a kid” is enough to turn otherwise supportive folks against the idea? I’ve thought about it a lot and the best explanation I can come up with is this: ridicule.
See, everyone is born with a certain temperament. Parents of more than one will all attest to this. Same parents, same environment, same rules….completely different reactions from their children. And some kids- well, some kids are annoying. And what do I mean by “annoying”? I mean what people mean when they say that homeschooled kids are annoying. I mean kids who ask too many questions and know too much information and like certain stuff and refuse to like other things and don’t care what other people think about their silly hobbies and their know-it-all-ness.
When “annoying” kids like this go to a traditional school, they’re ridiculed. They have a hard, or even impossible, time finding their niche. They must either hide their true personality and inclinations in order to be accepted or they’re pushed to the fringes and made to feel abnormal. Not good enough. Made to feel less likable than those who keep their ideas and opinions to themselves or fail to form any to begin with. Made to feel that convictions and fascinations are stupid and that pop culture is the only culture. Not because “normal” kids are mean. They mostly don’t even know they’re doing it, I assure you. They just don’t know what to do with someone who’s so, like, weird. Ya know?
I know. I was one of those weird kids. (More!)
So was I, and I'd be lying if I said that had had nothing to do with our now-distantly-past decision to educate our children at home. This decision was not, of course, a decision to pack the kids away in bubble-wrap until time for college; they play -- or, well, interact, since I don't know that you can say that 14-year-olds play, exactly, except maybe by running into each other at full speed with loaded backpacks on, and stuff like that -- with other children almost every day, mostly happily. What I have found is that homeschooling, like anything else short of the Beatific Vision, is not insulation against the occasional comment that you're stupid or weird or a coward -- this last was very upsetting to the person to whom it was said, in the same way that having someone call you the wrong fantasy name on purpose in a made-up game can ruin your whole day. Girls practice their own version of social whatever: you can play at my house if this other girl isn't going to be there, because when she's not there you're my best friend, but if she comes over I'm going to deny that I ever liked you and then pretend that you don't exist for the rest of the day, or until that girl goes home, at which time I will be perfectly happy to pick up with you where we left off.
The difference when you're a homeschooler is that this isn't your entire day. It's an hour or so in the afternoon, between the time the schoolbus coughs up the rest of the neighborhood kids and dinnertime, and if it gets bad, you can just go home. You're a free agent, not an inmate.
Just yesterday we were over at the church -- my description of pretty much any day of the week could begin with that clause -- and Father, passing Crispina on his way to the office, asked her whether she was looking forward to her First Holy Communion next week.
"Yep," said Crispina, rewarding him with some kind of goofy smile which caused him to remark to me later that in case I hadn't noticed, all my children are really eccentric. "In their own way," he added hastily, in concern for my maternal feelings. "I mean, they're all . . . distinct."
Yep, I might have said, with probably the same goofy smile. They are that. Eccentric and distinct. God made 'em, counter, original, spare, strange, and we like 'em that way.