Last year at this time, I was working two days a week teaching piano in Saint John. I loved it, but despite the relatively small commitment, Horus, Treva, and I (and Lee) really felt my absence rather painfully.
It is good to be home. And now that the school year is back in full force…it is good to be home.
Slowly, ever so slowly, even our crazy house is coming together, and I am so pleased that as planned, our third tiny bedroom upstairs is now our “school room”, which the kids find very exciting. We have a little work table in the centre, a cozy sofa in the corner for reading and snuggling, ample bookshelves, and my own desk and workspace is in the far corner.
Now that Treva is 2, and now that Felix is here, our “homeschooling” routine is highly improvisational within the following basic structure: We wake up, we do our morning chores (brush teeth, make beds, fold pjs, spray sink and toilet –Horus’ favourite!). Then breakfast, and our nature walk. Then we come home and head upstairs. First of all, we read. Books, and reading, our manna. Both Horus and Treva will sit for hours and read book after book. Television isn’t an issue, because we don’t have one. Movies aren’t an issue, because that isn’t part of our existence with the kids (Lee and I will watch a show occasionally once everyone has gone to bed). Exception: Lee and Horus are planning on going to see The Hobbit when it comes to the theatres in December. I have acquiesced reluctantly. I feel like this might be a slippery slope, but Lee has promised a movie at the theatre once a year. My concern is mostly that Horus’ imagination will be corrupted. (I know, I know, I know. Relax). Lee just finished reading The Hobbit out loud to both Horus and Treva. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not. I’m getting over it.
Anyway. After reading several books, we do our artwork. Both Horus and Treva have their own big sketchbooks, and they’ll fill a couple of pages a day. Then we write a letter to someone, which covers the spelling, writing, composition etc. A simple-yet-fun introduction to the basics. We usually listen to some classical music during our writing time. The kids love Glenn Gould.
And then we go play music. Drums! Piano! Ukelele! The Clark Family Band! And that’s essentially the structured part of our day.
We tend to focus on certain themes every week, which evolve simply as the kids become interested in this or that. Bats were big this past week–we talked about them, read about them and drew them. Did you know that bat mothers give birth hanging from their front claws, and that the baby falls into the flap of skin hung like a hammock between the mother’s legs? I didn’t! I On our weekly library trek, l look for books on the subjects the kids seem particularly keen on, in a relaxed sort of way.
We also do plenty of “real” stuff every day, which I suppose would fall under that rather goofy term, “unschooling”. Pottery, gardening, washing up, etc. Well, it’s just life, isn’t it?
I think there tends to be a false dichotomy between consciously guiding children towards an intellectual approach to learning, and allowing children to be free to explore the world and their interests. I’m pretty happy with the fact that both Horus and Treva *love* their school routine, and that they will remind me that they have “school” in the morning. And while I absolutely want to allow my kids to grow out into the world in whatever way they feel comfortable, I also want them to experience, in a positive way, how order and, yes, discipline (self-discipline) can be joyful and fruitful.
Some days are more organized than others, to be sure. When we are knee-deep in a woodfiring, as we will be at the end of October, everything is a bit gonzo, but this too, I suppose, is educational, isn’t it?