Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.
Public school started here this week. Traffic has gotten horrendous, once again, and I'm starting to get "the stares" when I take the kids to the store during the day. I'm usually very confident about our decision to homeschool and our method of homeschooling called unschooling (or interest-driven learning or eclectic learning or relaxed homeschooling or whatever you'd like to call it). But for the first few weeks of public school in the fall, I do wonder. I see the young elementary kids happily standing at the bus stops, shiny new backpacks in hand and expectation on their faces and I get a twinge of...doubt.
Are my kids missing out? Would they like school? Most of my questions are social in nature...questions about making new friends and listening to another adult, following directions, etc. Then I realize that those thoughts are from the public schooled kid inside me.
When my big picture comes back in focus, the reality is that I don't really think those things are important. Would they like school? They might...for a week...or maybe even a year. But most kids that I see, somewhere around 3rd - 4th grade, lose that excitement and happiness about going to school that you see on the 1st graders. I'm not sure exactly why or how it happens but it does wane around that age.
Do they need to listen to another adult? I know people think that's important but really, why? I teach my kids to submit to authority. Why is it important that they practice it with someone else? And if is indeed important, they have Sunday School teachers and extra-curricular teachers and babysitters and grandparents where they can get their practice in.
Following directions occurs naturally in life, non-stop, and that's a very silly reason to send someone off to school. Where do these thoughts come from? Just yesterday I was showing Matthew how to load the dishwasher. Directions. I've been teaching Rose how to clean the bathroom and Jade how to help with laundry. Directions. When Matthew gets a new box of Legos or Bionicles, they include directions that he must follow or it won't look like the creation on the box. Their computer games have directions. Everywhere you go in life, there are directions. Park here. Stand in line here. Use this bathroom. Swipe your card here. Stop at this red light. Drive from here to there.
As for friends, we have homeschooled friends. We also have MOPS friends and church friends and neighbors...and they have their other siblings as well. Probably the very best friends they'll ever have are their siblings and they are all truly the best of friends. They have their moments, obviously, but they get along a million times better than my brothers and I did. It warms my heart to see how much fun they have together.
Then again, I've always had the impression that doubts were bad. But somewhere along the line, I've changed my stance and now believe that doubts are quite healthy. Doubts stretch us and make us re-evaluate our beliefs/thoughts/feelings. If we didn't have doubts, we might never discover anything in life. Doubts also teach us about ourselves. This process I seem to go through each fall only helps, in the end, to strengthen my resolve to continue on this path.
I think about what we've been learning lately. Rose is writing stories (which I must post for you) and Matthew is studying the presidents and learning to type (and working on spelling at the same time). We're all learning about being in a large family and helping out with chores. Jade is asking many questions about reading lately. "How do you read that?" "What sound does that make?" She's well on her way to being an early reader like her siblings. I've always felt inadequate in geography and recently found a great tool to improve my skills on it via a friend's blog. Last night, I memorized the European countries. Perhaps my interest will stir something in them as well.
So I might just give in to the urge to buy a bouquet of sharpened pencils for my table centerpiece. It might be a good reminder of this time of growth in my homeschooling experience.