A while ago Sarah talked about the “are they actually learning anything” question; my brain had been meandering along this path for a while and in a “getting to the end of the school year” type fashion, i’ve got report card writing on the brain! Lol – which actually makes me wonder, did report cards come about because people had this feeling, or am i conditioned into report card psych?
So… when we decided to HE it was as a reaction to a problem, a fairly major one really in terms of the speech she had with one year to go till “S-day” and it gradually turned into something else as the benefits and success stories and the happy children we met started to paint a bigger picture. I didn’t start out with any belief in “letting it happen” but the very first influences i came under were very much autonomy based. I started off thinking i would need to do workbooks and timetables and checking and testing, then i found Montessori type materials and then i rediscovered Charlotte Mason. And then i discovered that a remarkable amount of learning went on whatever i did and so i think we gradually found ourselves with this “child led” “label” which i like and which suits us, because whatever autonomy means, it probably doesn’t really mean us! But neither does structured! And of course, the first child i had profoundly failed to approve of what i might have started out “doing to her” and so even though Moo might have got on with that better, she didn’t really get it because it had all fallen by the wayside.
One thing that is important is that Max and i both felt from early on that 4 was just too young to start school. Fran is one of those children who get to be very “young for their year” and the idea of sending her into school, barely able to speak at just gone 4 was pretty awful. She had a lot of maturing to do, even in terms of baby years, by 4 and even now i think she naturally falls into the more “naive” end of her age range. it would have been very hard.
Which leads me to now and exactly where i am, where we are, what we are at and why i think we are. I’ve got used to the feeling among the HE community that autonomy is best and everything else is a slight folly that people will grow out of – i sort of agree and its easy to go along with, partly because its probably largely true! Its just that i have never figured out what exactly constitutes it – i quite like “benign neglect” though!!!! But i do know now that my eldest at least can do more and has greater abilities than what she believes she has and i think over the last few weeks, both of us have started to feel a little frustrated by that. And maybe i could just leave her to eventually find herself but on the other hand, she does like to be led along a path at times and i get the feeling from her that if she gets the right encouragement she is finally at a point where she will try more than once at something thats a little harder. That has been a long time coming.
What i have attempted over the last week has been a pretty radical change of tempo for us but its been for a reason – and part of that is that what worked for a year or two, mammoth projects that we do completely and without apparent end, has stopped working a bit. I don’t quite have the energy and nothing has grabbed her quite like Henry or Killer Whales did and so both of us have felt slightly deflated. And perhaps partly thats because i am tired of feeding it all in, and know that i now have to prepare to have more time for Moo and Ammi (never mind the baby!) and partly because she senses that she might get more value out of something she could do herself. I’m really ready to have a child who can entertain herself for a bit more of the time and i know that won’t happen unless i put some effort to showing her she can. If i trusted myself that it would miraculously occur in the next few months then it would be fine but i resent the idea that it might not and the end of this year, early next year might be very, very hard and demotivating. Right now i feel i need to work on a particular skill for them all and that is the “here is a book of interesting things, sit there and make it happen for a while!!!” for those breastfeeding, up all night moments!
That said, i’m feeling a bit of a funny mixture because sometimes i am as proud of what hasn’t happened yet as i am of what has happened. Like i said in the comments, Fran has achieved masively in terms of overcoming a physical speech problem this year, and if thats been at the expense of reading ,well fine. I’m proud that lots of basic maths skills have almost “appeared” but i am also proud that she wasn’t ready for reading and we have given her the chance to not be stressed out by that. When i do things like comparing with NC curriculum skills, its mainly a curiosity because i know very well that i set out with the intention of giving my children a prolonged “childhood” but i also find “education” and “educational progression” for want of better expressions, endlessly fascinating. To discover that Fran has essentially acquired the maths skills that it takes schools a year of numeracy hours to achieve but without any formal effort at all, is immensely intriguing. Its interesting too to see her sit down at her first ever page of sums in a conventional fashion and just do them without so much as a flicker! (Hmmm….. am i turning into Gaffer and just experimenting on them!?!?) I like to look at things like SATS guides and NC stuff for interest and i enjoy turning dry “stuff to be learned” into games or chats or whatever else suits us. They are like ideas books to me. Its useful to have those things about but it doesn’t worry me if they haven’t happened – i can think “hmmm… not sure if she knows number bonds, lets try it out” and when it did, it was great – if it hadn’t been there, i wouldn’t have stressed because i do know that i have a smart girl, who loves knowledge but who just wasn’t ready for that bit yet. And i have the even greater chill out factor of knowing that the NC is remarkably narrow in what it asks for (and we do far more) but also that if something is aimed at 6-7 year olds, then those classes would have some kids in them who were 7 at the very begining of the year, effectively making them 10 months older than Fran – so as long as Fran is broadly playing in those parks the day she turns 8, we are doing okay!!!!! After all, its not like all schools are doing a fab job and turning out numerate,literate kids is it!!!!!!!
Musings part 2… will have to wait – i am off to watch POTC!!!!