Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The School Experiment

"Get up, Babygirl. You have to get up. You have school today. What do you want to wear?"

I never thought I would hear myself say those words! But that is okay because she wasn't really being enrolled in school. We were trying The School Experiment. I have a brother who is in school whose teacher wanted my help with a party they were having that day. (I tend to be on the school property more than any of the other children's parents, so naturally she nabbed me when she could.)

"Why don't we come for the whole day?" I recommended. "It couldn't hurt. I am sure you need some extra hands. I will help out and Samantha can see what Brennon does all day." "Would you? That would be great!"

I wanted S to see what school was like. I know, based on the way we live, and how much she enjoys her freedom, she wouldn't like it. But I wanted to satisfy any curiosities she had just in case so that she didn't have "that wonder" of what school is like.

The night before I packed our lunches and made sure we knew where her shoes were. (My little free spirit hardly ever knows where her shoes are.) We had her go to bed early that night. Then, in the morning I got her and Jessie ready in the same fashion I would were she in school. I prepared for a full day at the school myself, just as I would again, if she went to school. (I had planned before deciding to homeschool that I would volunteer several times a week wherever they needed me just to stay involved in her education.)

I must admit, it was nowhere near as torturous as I thought it would be. Getting up a little early was pretty easy. Samantha woke up smoothly too. Jessie was another story, so I ended up cooking him breakfast and making the bed last minute. I didn't get the chance to sweep before we went out the door. (That bugged me a little.) The traffic wasn't terrible, but we were 2 minutes late, because well, I can be late to anything even if I think I am going to be early. Obviously, we are not made for that schedule, but I don't think we did too shabby.

The teacher introduced us and told the students I would be helping out today. My brother has several children in his class this year that were in his class last year and even the year before. I have grown to really love some of these children and adore how different each one of them is. I was very excited to get started.

She had be begin by reading the kids a book about opposites and helping them with a color, cut, and paste  worksheet. (Samantha also participated.) Side Note: One thing I did NOT like: An hour later most of the class was finished with their worksheet. There were still a few working that had to put it in a "Catch Up" folder. At that point, S had already finished with the entire day's work and the teacher appointed her as class helper and commented that she must be so fast because she was in 2nd grade and did this work last year. To which S replied, "No Ma'am. I am unschooled. I don't do woeksheets. And my Mom never taught me opposites because I never asked smd she trusts I will learn them naturally. I just know them. And I know my numbers." (She had finished their math work also which went over the number 10...) (Somebody listens to their Mom talk too much because she knows all aboyt unschoolung and the hows and whys that we do it.) I looked at Samantha in one of the back desks. She looked upset, so I asked her what was going on. "I'm BOOOOOOOORED!" So The teacher offered to let her look through a basket called Early Finishers Work which was a collection of voluntary worksheets and some coloring pages. Samantha thanked her and pulled me aside to ask for a pen and paper instead. I gave her one. Later on I lead a craft activity, pulling children back to the table while the teacher worked on numbers some more. Side Note: Another thing I do not like about this common core is that teachers are required to tell children what standards they are covering and what they must know in order to pass. She said, "At the end of the semester, you must know the numbers 1-30. And at the end of the year, you must be able to count to 120 or you will fail." I am all about telling a child what to expect and even WHY you are covering certain content, but to put that stress on a child? Off my soapbox, anyway...S and I then worked with some students who had an IEP and some who had special needs, one little boy who I highly adore. Even though he wasn't what people would consider a "well behaved" child and he did have a few episodes, there was something about this boy I loved. I met a little girl who reminds me of S. She is extremely creative and she loves learning about space. I asked her about the things she knows and why she loves space so much. We discussed that for awhile. And then she told me about her family and the things she has been through. It was a good feeling, working with children, and learning about them. What they enjoy and what they don't. What they have been through and who they want to be when they get older. I thought it was such as shame, as I watched the teacher scurrying around the room here and there, trying to get Little Johnny to sit down and Little Cindy to stop wiggling her hands, that she was so busy doing all the things that teachers are required to do, that these children will pass through her class and she may never know who they are. It isn't her fault. She is a great teacher. One of the best I have ever met, but she has to do what she has to do. And that doesn't always make allowance for time to sit down with each child and become emotionally or physically involved in their life.

They had a small celrbration for Eroc Carle. Thry watched The Hingry Caterpillar and ate popscicles. The end of the day came and a few of the children were sad I was leaving and not coming back for a few weeks. But I was happy because I got to bring one student home-My Favorite....My brother. ;)

Out of the Mouth of Babes: Samantha's words in school (now that she has experienced it.)

"I thought school was okay. I don't want to go. It seems kind of boring. I already knew what she was teaching and they did too. And it was boring stuff. I do not like worksheets. I really enjoyed recess. I got to play with Ava and be free like I love to be! The party was good. I liked watching the Hungry Caterpillar and eating popsicles. I didn't like the way the teachers talked to students. How come they get yelled at for moving in the line or for asking a question about the book she is reading?" (She was referring to a little boy who asked how old Eric Carle was when he published his first book. The teacher cut him off for talking while she was talking-because she monopolized the conversation and didn't ask for questions. I thought that it was a great question. And it would have been glossed over had I not looked it up on my phone and answered it at the end of Rug Time. I can see how questions are easily forgot though, and have to keep reminding myself that I have little idea how it is to be a main teacher in a class setting for a long period of time. So I explained to S that a classroom is big and that is how they manage it. You can't allow everybody to talk at once or the story will never be finished. It is just something they cannot help, unfortunately, and one of the reasons I prefer homeschool.) She made a few other comments last night. Can't remember the exact wording. (I typed the former comment as she spoke.) But she basically thanked me for homeschooling her. Said unsvhooling made her feel free to do her arty or go outside whenever she wanted. She asked what our next unit activity was. ;) She told me that she enjoyed helping to work with the IEP students and wants to do it again, but not for the entire day. I think that it would be a great experience for her. How many children at age 5 can say that they volunteer at a school a few times a month helping to teach other children? And lastly, she told me that we would have to make sure to come before lunch at recess time and play with the other kids-if they didn't lose recess that day. (Which is apparently very common and something I do not like. A FB friend commented on this yesterday and said my exact thoughts. Why are the schools punishing children for "misbehaving" by taking away their ability to play when that is what they NEED to fix the problem. Yes, prepare for a rant here! Because I am about to go on one.)

When I say "misbehaving" I mean that children are wiggling. They are clapping their hands. They are talking. They are looking up at the ceiling. They. Are. Bored. They. Need. Play. They don't need to sit so long all day at such a young age and be taught to be robots. Children need play. And I keep hearing from people that, "Oh yes. I agree. Children learn best through play!" But then these people want to take their idea of play, which is adult-directed activities which have an educational purpose to them and force children to participate in the activity, weather they want to or not. Play, first of all, is a voluntary thing, not something children are forced to do. PLAY, is one of the only things children have control over these days, and adults are trying to take over that too! PLAY, is where children learn to make their own rules, not be told the rules. It is where they learn to cooperate with each other, not be told by an adult how to resolve an issue, "Matthew. Say you are sorry and go move your clip down." "Sorry!" "Okay. That is better." What if he doesn't mean he is sorry? Huh? As adults, we do things wrong and we don't say sorry unless we want to. Apparently being forced to apologize and moving our clip down didn't teach us our lesson 20 years later. PLAY, is where children learn by soaking it up, not because there is an ulterior motive. Play is the one thing children do JUST BECAUSE. And I will be the first to admit I have had this obsession with "Is she learning?" So when my child plays I have been known to list things in my head that I think she is learning. But I still step back, and I allow it to happen, because children have been learning through play for years, even before school was invented. Children may not have been able to diagram a sentence or list their prepositions, but they knew how to live off the land. They knew how to heal themselves when they were sick-without having to run to CVS for some poison medication. They were close to their families. And by God they didn't need their parents to tell them how to do everything. Which is more important? Functioning on your own in life or being able to diagram a sentence but needing somebody else to tell you what to do every step of the way? I don't want a school or anywhere else for that matter micromanaging my child's life-and when you take away the one thing they have left-play-you are taking away their ONLY pure freedom. So then how do they learn all the importsnt life skills they need? That is why I give my child choices, lots of choices! She needs to learn how to make choices. She needs to know how to make small ones. ..What will I wear today? And she needs to learn to make big ones, "What should I do with my life?" These choices allow children control over their own lives which translates into less need for rebellion. It doesn't mean S trumps me. It means she has choices over most of HER life. There are certain things she can't do like stay home alone or play in the road-although she has always been smart enough not to. These things are illegal and dangerous. So within the limits of the law she has most freedoms, just like me. We have discussed some other things together and comes to a good compromise. TV. I oppose television. I loathe it. She wants to watch 30 minutes a day. Okay. Fine. 30 minutes. BUT Please do it after dark. That way the day is winding down anyway. Deal? It's a deal. S never argues about it. Although she occasionally asks for a movie and does not argue my answer. (Usually no on weekdays. Yes on weekends.). Children need play. Children need choices. Period. No excuses. Without play our future generations will lack the skills they need. That is not making up excuses or giving children a reason to be below average. That's the truth. Play+Chioces=Happy Successful Lives (And by successful I don't mean they have to go to college and work in an office. Only if they want to. But that rant is for another day. Perhaps soon.),

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