Thursday, September 3, 2009



I always knew home was better than school. It's just logical that a child will fare better in a family than in a room of 30 kids the same age. I remember when we first looked in to homeschooling for J-Man (he was 4.5 yrs at the time). I was told that if oen wanted to follow the NZ curriculum (which from all I had heard, I certainly did not), it woudl take a homeschooling family 2 hours a week.

I was sure they must mean 2 hours a day, which was still astonishing given tghat chidlren are at school for 6 horus a day. But no, it was actually 2 hours a week (instead of 30) that was required to get through the curriculum.

Ayyway, so I have always known my children were learning stuff. Recently I had someone suggest to me that J-Man is opposed to learning, that he doesn't like to learn, and somehow you would need to trick him or cajole him in to it. I didn't know what to say at the time, ebcause it did look just at that moment like it might be the case.

But upon reflection, I realised that J-Man loves to learn (as do all humans), he simply doesn't like to be taught, and he doesn't like learning to be boring...who does? He has always been like that, and here's the thing...learning is NOT boring when you are learning what interests you. It's fascinating. If you are used to a life of natural learning, learning what is important to you- of course you would find staged learning inferior. You may even come across as someone who despises learning.

When J-Man was 4, and nearly a fluent reader, I asked him one day, "How would you spell 'computer'?" He roleld his eyes at me, and said, "Mum! You're trying to teach me again and you know it doesn't work!" Yes, 4 years old...I have always known that he prefers to learn in his own way and without interference, but I must have forgotten briefly.

Anywya, so through the years, I didn't doubt that my chidlren were learning. I wodnered if they were learning what they would in school- but not in a worryign sort of a way, just curious. Actually, I suspected their learning was far broader. There's a quote I read once, which I won't be able to find now we're on dial-up...but it was fro ma Summerhill Graduate, and it was saying somethign like, "We did a bit of everything, and collected puzzle pieces over the years, and then suddenly it all came together, all the pieeces fit". It was as if to say, that while the learning wasn't metered out in even doses, adn they didn't know *what* they were learning or how it related to the whole, or even if it was going to add up...somehow it did.

I think my children's learning looks like a muddle probably from the outside. It is a little bit here and there, adn then nothing for a long time, and then a big lot of something seemingly unimportant (or certainly not from the curricum)...but it is making connections all over the place.

J-Man drew a picture yesterday of The Unschooler's Brain...this is my son who has drawn only a handful of times since he was 6. Suddenly he likes to draw, and he is quite good at it actually.

But to look at this picture, it really was a brain shaped scribble. But when you looked closer, you saw that it was firign all over the place. It wasn't ordered, it was a scramble. If you looked closely you coudl see puzzle pieces. He explained the drawing at length, and I thought, "Here is a boy who really understands how his mind works."

OK, so I'm an unschooling convert, lol, nothing new about that...but here's the thing. I sometimes doubted, well I doubted a lot every so often, but I tried not to project that on to my children. I doubted that they were learning as much as they could be. I doubted that school kids were learning little to nothign in 6 hours a day 5 days a week. It didn't bother me, or wish a different childhood for my babies...after all, even if they don't learn as much or as well as a child in shcool- I still think unschooling is superior. There is more to life than letters and numbers. Do I wish for them to be surrounded by clever peopel, or by kind? I want them to grow up free, to grow up doign the thigns they love, and no, I am not concerned that the ywon;t be abel to handle "the real world", where there are jobs and people you don't like.

I'm, they went to school. And, well, I have to admit I was astonished by how little they did! I was. I thoguth they woudl do sooo much, and certainly so much more than at home. But it was not the case. OK, so J-Man only went for 3 days, and yes- it wa a fairly low-standard school...but still, I knwo now that our "doing nothing" days, still involve more learning than a day in school.

As far as written work goes, in a full day of school...J-Man brought hom a maths book with the following written.

2+2+2+2=2x4 and so on up to 12x2

The next day he did 3x, adn the last day 4x.

I felt certain they woudl just give him busy work, since they would have no idea of what level he was functioning at. But no, he assured me this was what the whole class was doing.

He typed a story on the computer, actually more of a short account of his weekend.

He wrote a line of e's, and a few Maori words. He probably wrote less than the other children, because his writing is laborious.

They sang songs (all in Maori), and they listened to children giving mini-speeches in Maori. They walked to the library (which apprently took a very long time, by the time everyoen was ready, and in a straight line). They chose books there, though J-Man already had his own book.

Then, they went back to class for "SSR", Sustained Silent Reading. He found that terribly frustrating, because he was excited about the possibility of reading a little more of his book, but unable to because of the constant interruptions. The other children apaprently wanted to know if he could *actually* read the book (he was incredulous at this point, because he was already up to pg 200), and they also asked him to spell daft little words.

They sang more songs, in conjunction with the junior class. A girl told on a boy (of 10 or 12) who was playing with a matchbox car when he was supposed to be listening. The teacher snatched it off him, and he had a tantrum "like a two year old". This morphed in to a gigantic fuss, whereupon the boy picked up chairs and threw them.

That was about it. Every day was much the same (minus the theatrics of the first, but with a few scrimmages thrown in).

I asked what else they had done, and ther ewas nothing. I can't see how 6 hours can be filled up with this little...and this is a class of 9 chidlren. How much less would eb done in a class of 30 (or 36, as was the case in some schools in Auckland)?

So, Kiwi_Mama and others who are wondering...whatever you do at home, be it big or small, it is most likely more than your child would be doing at school. It makes me feel sorry for school children in general, and the child I was as well. What might I have accomplished had I not been in school for 30 horus a week, 40 or so weeks in a year, 11 loooong years?


Kiwi_Mama said...

Wow, that is pretty amazing isn't it. We have been considering sending S12 for a trial as we wondered there wasn't enough challenge and variety to his days here. I had him write an essay last week to see how he went with 'real school work' then I emailed it to a teacher in the US who graded it for me. Apparently he is a talented writer and received 80% for his first ever essay and was on par with what an average to above average 8th grader would be doing. So I guess he isn't doing too too bad with homeschooling.

Ruth said...

Lishelle - thank you for sharing this frivolous account of school! I mean, it just sounds sooo bizarre doesn't it! And all that time wasted just to get a class 'in line' to go to the library - how lame is that!! What does crowd control have to do with anything meaningful and real in life! xr

Kiwi_Mama said...

Just as a follow up. One of the boys on ds10 rugby team presented a story he had written for his coaches at the end of year party. He read it aloud and I have to say.... At 11.5 and having Had to write every day for most of his entire school life... His language and the quality of his writing style were on par with my 12 year old who would be in the same year at school as this boy and has only written a handful of stories in his life. The only thing different was the content of the story which was way tooooo worldly and adult for a child this age and if I was his mother I would be very worried about what my son is writing about. EG: men taking woman back to their rooms for the night after meeting them in a pub!

So 'No thanks' to school here!