Monday, June 3, 2013

unschooling: the bottom line

The month came to an end and I feel a need to draw some conclusions from this experiment. Mostly, I need to decide whether to continue with unschooling for the upcoming year, or to bring in more structure.

3 yo has always been unschooled, in the sense that I never imposed any educational activity on her against her wishes. I always joked that she is a perfect example of how unschooling works; she is naturally curious, hangs around other interesting people ( us, her family!), makes friends on her own terms, and pursues whatever interests her. I have no peers to compare her to, but I am pretty sure that she is not behind. And how can one be behind when she's all of 3 years old? Doesn't she have the rest of her life to catch up?

7 yo went from tantruming all the time to basically enjoying his life. He still has to deal with limits and things not going his way, and he still has to confront quite a few things not to his liking, but the sadness and frustration are now on his terms. He has been reading a lot, playing wit his siblings, helping out in the house. Overall, he is much more likely to listen to me. He did some spontaneous art, worked on some projects which he abandoned a long time ago, got his next belt in taekwondo. On Friday night, he wanted to know his purpose in life. Today he asked whether instead of doing schoolwork we can buy outdoor equipment and spend some time with nature. I asked whether he wants to learn Torah, and he said, no, there is Hebrew which he does not understand. I asked whether I should teach him some Hebrew and he did not want it. Overall, I went from having lots of bad days with him and thinking about finding a diagnosis and looking into therapies and medication to viewing him as a normal boy.

9 yo had it the hardest. I did chumash with him, sometimes against his wishes. We finished Todlot, then he asked to do Kedoshim, then he discovered that the vocabulary is very different and I pressed with lots of Rashi. It is hard to skip good explanatory Rashi on a parsha chock-ful of mitzvot. He asked to go to Breishit, which he did in 1st grade in school. I told him that the only did 1st perek and the rest will be new, will he stick with it? He said, yes. So far we did the first 6 days of creation. I found the most interesting Rashis. Some days he is more willing to do them than others.

9 yo also asked to have unlimited TV, basically to watch Pokemon, as he is not interested in anything else. I agreed to do it for a week. We stipulated that he still has to get dressed, eat breakfast, daven and do chumash, and any outstanding chores before he can watch. Yesterday he watched a lot, today we ran around a lot, so he did not get to watch. I also said no TV after 7 pm, as that has been keeping kids up with bad thoughts, and all agreed.

Back to unschooling: the main issue I have is the issue of fairness. 9 yo needs some structure and direction, and I am planning on doing Chumash with him daily. He also asked to do Mishnayot, so we are working on getting him a tutor. 7 yo and 3 yo thrive on unschooling and doing their own thing. 9 yo thinks it's unfair that he has to do schoolwork while the others don't. I am not planning to pushing 7 yo to make 9 yo feel better.

One little dirty secret about homeschooling: when you have only one kid at home, there is nobody to compare to, so it is easier to do whatever works for that kid. When you have a few, and you are trying to balance out everyone's needs, someone is bound to be unhappy. The trick is not to make everyone unhappy.

So how will I manage the need for structure for 9 yo with the need of laid-back education for 7 yo and 3 yo? Stay tuned...

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