Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking in from Outside

This week, our friend has been doing some work in the basement for DH during the day. As he goes about sawing and dry-walling, mudding and taping, he is up and down, in and out, stepping over and around us, as we hang out in the family room, books, crayons and legs sprawled in all directions.

I've been wondering what he makes of all this... our very laid-back, stretched-out brand of homeschooling. His son is the same age as BigBro. They are in scouts and sports together, and they're buddies. Does he look at our life and think, "What on earth are they doing? Do they actually call this 'school'?"

I'm not worried so much about what he thinks as I am interested, amused even. I've learned a lot during the past two years homeschooling BigBro, enough so that I am comfortable and confident that our style works for us. But it's been a very long time since I've considered what it would look like to someone else.

We usually get started around 9am, but this week, I've been sleeping in (while DH is out of town), then getting on the treadmill, so we aren't getting started until closer to 10am. We like to work stretched out on the floor in the family room. By noon, we are a mess of books, papers, crayons, scissors, and toys scattered about on the floor. The kids are getting cranky, so we break for lunch. LilBro's playdoh starts to harden on the table in the other room. After lunch, we try to finish up whatever was left behind. Lots of imaginative play happens between BigBro and Princess. Sometimes, I set the books aside and let the imaginations go wild. There is as much learning in play as in books.

Early afternoons, I make an attempt at domestication. I fold laundry, sweep floors, straighten countertops. It's futile. By dinner time, the place is a mess again. But at least I've made an attempt.

Some days, we get back to the books and finish anything left over from morning. Some days, I simply erase the un-done from today's plan and put it in tomorrow's. Some days, I ignore it altogether. If the children are all playing cooperatively, if they are helping each other and helping me (put away laundry, sweep the floors, start cooking dinner), that is enough. There is learning in the helping.

By late afternoon, we all end up on the couch with books, or some PBS shows (current favorites: "Word Girl" and "Sid the Science Kid"). There is learning, here, too.

When I sit down in the late afternoon to record all that we've done, learned, explored, and tried that day, I am always surprised to see how much there is. Some days it feels like we got nothing accomplished. And yet, when I stop and look at it from a longer view, I see that learning is happening all the same.

Even if it doesn't quite look like, from the outside.

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