There's a verse in the Bible that says "As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." I have felt like that lately regarding the so-called autonomy v structure debate. I say so-called because as said often before, I do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive - but anyhow... Despite my conviction of the best approach for us, I have still been periodically vacillating, pondering, dithering and just plain running round in circles on the subject in my head, which is totally foolish because deep down I know what works for us and there is no need to go wobbling off on tangents, wondering if it would be better to do it another way. The debate in my head is as messy and does me as much benefit as a dog returning to its vomit. As I said in The good, the bad and the funny, it is one of the few drawbacks of being part of an active online community. I love that Home Ed'ors are an opinionated lot: we need to be, to go against the flow of mainstream education. But sometimes the opinions are expressed with as much subtlety as a steam-roller, and that is not good when despite being opinionated, we can also feel vulnerable, stuck out there on a pioneering limb (sorry for the shocking mixing of metaphors there - just shows how messy my head gets over this issue).
A good friend has told me that she has felt real pressure from the 'structured' branch of HE - that she with her autonomous style feels judged for being lazy and not taking her children's education seriously. I was amazed by this revelation. I have only ever felt pressure from the 'Autonomous' branch that if you have any structure at all, you risk ruining your child's freedom and love of learning and are effectively little better than a dictator/ imprisoner. Of course, both perceived judgements are probably much more to do with our own insecurities than any actual person's opinion - otherwise an opinion wouldn't bother either of us.
Anyway, you get the picture: me on the one hand confident that I know what is best for me and mine, but on the other hand trying to swat away irritating and persistent niggles of "but what if you should be more ....., or less ....." (those dratted 'shoulds' again!). This could be one reason why I have been struggling to blog regularly lately... I've been pestered by 'shoulds'. They may be tiny, but in enough volume the buzz they create in your head can make it very difficult to think lucidly.
So when I came across a couple of blog posts recently, it was like a deep breath of fresh air - or to continue the theme, like a giant pair of pink fluffy earmuffs, blocking out the buzzing.
First was a post from a blog that I read often - it's one of my favourites that I relate well to and am always inspired by: An Ordinary Life. One bit in particular resonated with me, when one of the girls concerned made some new friends and was telling them about her home education, saying,
"I told them how I do an hour or two learning at the table and then spend the rest of the day playing, either outside, watching the telly or whatever I want (which includes arts, crafts and so many other things). I told them that science is mostly experiments."I LOVED that summary - it sounded just like HE used to look here when everything was flowing nicely. (This year has had a few interruptions and we haven't fully got back into the flow since)
The second blog post was from The Organized Unschooler - oh, how I love this lady already. She - like me - is drawn to the ideals of unschooling. BUT she - like me - has a pathological need to organise. AND - oh joy - she has married them both when it comes to Home Education. I love it. It is OK for me to be making plans, drawing up curricula, having ideas and suggestions and dreams when it comes to what my boys learn. And it is OK for them to not necessarily be interested, and have ideas of their own. I probably require a little more of the children than this lovely blogger, but that's OK - I'm not trying to copy the Organized Unschooler, just be inspired by her!
Both of those blog posts combined to reboost my confidence. As said in my previous post, I do not have to align with any one style of Home Ed (apart from maybe the 'making it up as I go along' one). So if you out there are in the middle, needing a confidence boost - or just interested in how one family does it, this is our style (which we have resumed this week, bolstered by the encouragement of some very fabulous home educating bloggers out there):
We have some parent-led aspects: I do ask the boys to do about 30 minutes (less for Youngest) of Maths Whizz or Reading Eggs every morning Monday - Thursday (though this morning they asked to do workbooks instead... fine by me!). Fridays we play a board game in place of the online curricula. Most mornings we have a Bible story and chat - I forgot this morning, but they soon reminded me! And then the rest of the mornings are a mixture of Mummy's ideas and their own - but all depending on their level of interest. If they have a lapbook (topic work) on the go I like them to do some work on it a couple of times a week - but some weeks they do none, some weeks they complete an entire book, depending on their enthusiasm. I like to get an art project, some baking, science experiment etc in at least once a week (note: I like to - it's not written in stone. It depends on their interest and whatever else is going on that week). If they want to watch TV in the mornings, we try to make it learning programmes - likewise computer games. My aim is always to leave the afternoons free for plenty of exploration, playing, visiting friends etc.
So there it is! I don't think you can put a label on that, but that's us: that's how we do it - for now at least. I daresay I will revisit the old chestnuts of structure, autonomy, confusion, shoulds etc more often than is helpful - but I guess that comes with the territory of being a parent trying to make sure they're doing the best for their children. For now I feel like I just needed to get it down on "paper". I hope it helps you to read it - it certainly helped me to write it!