Interesting conversations!

Steph over at A Room of My Own has added her thoughts to the conversation I raised in On Being Ready. I started to respond over there, but my reply got a bit long, so I figured that I would move it over here. Isn't blogging fun? I love these kind of conversations that make you think and see different angles on the same thought.

I think that what Steph talks about is trying to find the balance in being child-led and letting kids develop on their own timetables (I love her examples of teachers and people using what we know about child development to try to "speed up" kids development or get all kids "where they should be" at the same time). She says:

It is a natural process. In my opinion, it is the handiwork of God, much like a baby's development in the womb or the growth of a blossoming flower. We can create conditions that help a child develop, unhindered by stress or lack of enriching experiences, but we can not speed it up.

I think that this hits the nail on the head and is the point that I was trying to make in my earlier post. The hard part comes from the not knowing exactly when a child is ready and worrying about if we are "doing enough". Questioning if we are providing enough of those "enriching experiences". Worrying that by not finding the "right program" we are actually hindering this development…not just not helping it, but actually hindering it. Is the reason that they are not learning something because they are not ready or because I am not doing enough? And that is where the fear comes in, I mean how scary is that? I have heard it called "unschooling panic" and have yet to meet a homeschooling mom (no matter what approach she is taking) who does not have moments of questioning what she is doing. It is this fear (of actually hindering our kids learning in someway) that causes the main struggle of the homeschooling parent…can I really trust my kids to learn everything that they need to learn.

The problem is that there is no guide book that gives us the answers. Because there is no "one right answer" for all kids! "Enough" for one kid might be too much for another or not enough for a third. All we can do is look to our kids. And that too is a hard thing to explain …it is not that you sit back and do nothing until they tell you they are ready…it is finding that balance and reading their signals…if they absolutely hate something and you can tell that it is not working, then you back off and either wait or look for a different approach. But even that can be tricky!

I have told this story before about when Jason learned to read. I had realized that he had all the pieces but was struggling to put it all together (mainly because of his perfectionism). I thought maybe a more structured approach might help and checked Phonics Pathways out of the library. It was awful for him. He hated it and I did not push him on it. I then tried 100 EZ Lessons and there was a big difference. He still did not really want to do the lessons (thus causing me lots of unschooling angst!) but during the lessons I could see the pieces fitting together for him (something that I never saw while trying Phonics Pathways). It was obvious that this was making sense for him. He never asked to do a lesson, but he did show interest while we were doing it. I also at one point told him that he did not have to do all 100 lessons, but he said that he wanted to and he did.

What I am slowly coming to realize (and am still in no way perfect about this) is that you need to look at the "why" behind what you are doing rather then just looking at the "what". With Jason, I started looking into a more structured approach to reading because I could see that he was ready but was just not putting the pieces together. So I was looking for something that would help him put the pieces together. Not something that would get him to read because a kid his age should be reading. It was no different then when I introduced him to the world of video game cheats…I saw something that I thought would help him acheive a goal and I showed it to him. But because it involved something "schooly", I questioned whether I should.

Now I also had a friend of mine, who, after I told her this story, commented that maybe if I had tried 100 EZ Lessons when he was younger, he might not have taken so long to learn how to read. Which totally missed the point of my story! The point was not that 100 EZ Lessons is a great curriculum and got Jason reading. The point was that a kid needs to be ready and needs to get the information in a way that makes sense to him. If you do not have that combination, you will just be hitting your head (and his!) against a wall. If I had tried to use 100 EZ Lessons with Jason when he was 5, I am convinced that it would not have worked at all because I strongly believe that was not ready then. And when he was ready at 8, Phonics Pathways did not work because it was totally the wrong approach. And by wrong approach I don't just mean the wrong curriculum. For some kids, any curriculum is the wrong approach. They need something hands on or need to experiment or just read or whatever works for them. No kid is one-size-fits-all.

Steph makes many more really good points in her post. Her best being that she believes that there is "no one 'right' way to school, or unschool, or a combination of both. Each family finds its own path, based on the unique and ever changing needs of the child".

Definitely! The key is being open to realizing when something is not working. And being willing to change and look for something that does work. To be able to realize that if something is not working, the problem is not with the child. The problem is with the approach or that the child just is not ready yet. And that is ok.

I hope that I don't sound like I have all the answers or never question if we are doing "enough". Because I definitely do. All the time. It comes with the territory because, I, like all other homeschooling parents, want the best for my children and want to do right by them. After all that is why I made the decision to homeschool in the first place.


P.S. We made it to the beach this afternoon and met up with our friends. The water is still cold, but the boys did not let that stop them! I really love it down here…