I’m back after almost a year of hiatus. Long story that I won’t go into here.
But anyway, Caleb just had his sixth birthday. In Australia, that’s mandatory school age. Even though he could have been going to reception/prep (equivalent of American Kindergarten) for the last year anyway. So now we have to officially make a decision regarding how he’s going to be formally educated.
Let’s go back in time a bit. I have, shall we say, Issues. I won’t go into it here, but if you’ve met me, you know what I’m talking about. These issues made me a prime target for bullying when I was in school. So when I first heard about home schooling, when some of the other kids from church were home schooled, the idea really appealed to me. And still does.
On the other side of the world, Darrin was top of his class, but doing so much work ahead of time in math that by the end of the week, he didn’t have anything to do but go play on his school’s one computer. Time well spent, as it turned out (given where we met). He showed he was fully capable of learning on his own when it was something that interested him.
One day when we lived back at Glynde, I found some information online about unschooling. I really liked the philosophy behind it – that if you give your kids the resources and opportunities to follow their interests, learning will naturally come from that. And it does. What have we been doing for the first six years of Caleb’s life, anyway? He learned to roll over, crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, all from his own motivation. Because HE wanted to. We noticed he likes trains, so we bought him books about trains, wooden train tracks, found Thomas episodes for him to watch, and Darrin used to walk down to the train line with him at rush hour so they could watch all the trains going past.
And then suddenly, when a kid turns 5 or 6, they stop being able to learn on their own and have to be taught how? I don’t think so.
I know that for me, personally, the things that I wanted to learn, and learned through my own efforts, are the things that have stuck with me the most. Sewing, knitting, and crocheting are just a few things that I mostly taught myself. (Okay, so I learned a bit of sewing when I was a kid that my mom taught me, and in home ec, but I wasn’t really that interested till I was an adult – and then I learned by doing it, watching YouTube videos, asking for advice, and reading tutorials online.) And reading! I was reading before I set foot in a school building.
So now we have Caleb at six years old, and I’ve been doing paperwork this week to formalise our homeschooling intentions. In South Australia, kids first have to be enrolled in a school, THEN you have to do paperwork to get an exemption for the purpose of home education. And they’re legally required to be in school past the age of six, as in attending school. It’s all a bit backwards if you ask me. Apparently SA is one of the strictest states regarding homeschooling. Parents in most other states just have to fill out a form and send it in, and that’s it. SA? Nope. They make it all complicated. Six pages of forms. Six. Questions about your entire curriculum plan. Eight key learning areas to account for. And they ask you to ‘describe the learning area.’ I know one friend was tempted to write ‘four walls, roof, cold AND hot running water’ as her description because it seemed so silly.
It all seems a bit much – especially since something like cooking can fall under ALL EIGHT depending on what type of cooking it is! English (reading recipes), mathematics (addition/subtraction/fractions), science (seriously, cooking is one huge chemistry experiment), society & environment/SOSE (growing your own food), health & physical education (healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods and what they do in our bodies), design & technology (the official category home ec falls under in a school setting), the arts (cake decorating), languages other than English/LOTE (a unit study on another country). Phew!
Now about Caleb. If you know anything about Myers Briggs personality profiles, he’s an ENTJ. He likes to be around people. Darrin & I are introverts (INTP & ISTJ respectively). We don’t cope so well with Caleb’s extroversion. He’ll talk to anyone. Anyone. He walks up to complete strangers, just because they’re in the same shop (or train or bus or whatever) and tells them his whole life story. ‘My name is Caleb and this is my brother, his actual name is Ethan but we call him Chuckie.’ For two introverts, who answer only when spoken to, or when we have a good reason, this is WAY out of our comfort zone.
What else does a little ENTJ like to do? They like to tell people How It Is. And that’s that. And once something has happened one way, they expect it to happen that way for the rest of eternity. So because one time we made popcorn and watched Chicken Run, now every time we make popcorn, Caleb wants to watch Chicken Run. He also went through a stage at around age 2-3 of telling us that we were going the wrong way when we drove a different route home than we did going TO the place we were at. Because to him, it had to be That Way and only That Way.
And the NT likes technology, math, science, and is fiercely independent. Autonomous. Flatly refuses to do something till he thinks he’s competent enough, then blitzes it in a weekend. Or less.
As a baby, he was pretty predictable. He always had his nap at the same time each day, and to bed at the same time each night (after the newborn stage wore off anyway). Apparently he’s one of those kids who likes routine. So while unschooling is still a great philosophy in my opinion, I think a little bit of structure wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing in his case. And so we’ve made the decision to get some actual school books and sit down with him for about an hour a day to do school work. We can be flexible about the time if we have other stuff going on, but for the most part, I think we’ll try to stick to a certain time each day.
And the great thing is, if what we do doesn’t work, we can change it. We don’t have to wait till the end of the year and hope he gets a better teacher next year. If it’s too much structure, or not enough, we can adjust as we need to. We can send him to school later if we want to, or he wants to. It’s not a tattoo.
And he’s excited about the idea of doing work in school books, so yay! Now we just have to keep at it.