Organic, Free-Range Children

So Matilda’s gap year has come to an end. 2014 has been an adventure in homeschooling. I’ve had a teacher’s dream job – a classroom with one gifted student, eager to learn.

This is the year I made new friends, learnt Japanese, went on interesting excursions and got re-acquainted with our local library.  Matilda now plays guitar, tutors one of Christopher’s friends, plays a mean game of netball and can rollerskate with the best of them.  She also walks taller, stands up for herself and chatters warmly and effusively to her new friends.

She’s still a sensitive child – she wouldn’t be Matilda if she wasn’t – but her eyes have lost that hunted, anxious look, she eats her lunch and goes to sleep at night.

Of course, it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s hard work organizing regular social catch-ups for Matilda and regular sanity-breaks for myself, and I often feel I could be doing more with her (her brain is enormous).  It’s no picnic having to explain myself everywhere I go, either (No, she’s not sick, we homeschool.  You want me to explain my reasons for homeschooling in 140 characters or less?  Forget it.  She’s sick.)

But it’s a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

I love the lifestyle.  I love learning about how Matilda learns.  I love the rich curriculum and I love being able to tailor it to Matilda’s needs.  I love the freedom and the simplicity.  I love socializing with other families.  I love the space it creates for extracurricular activities.

I feel like the most stress I’ve dealt with this year has been related to Christopher’s school.  The pick ups and the drop offs.  The tiredness and crankiness.  The readers and the homework books.  The bullying and standard-issue cruelty.  And the endless, endless admin.

Homeschooling is rather strange, I guess.  But sending my children off to a one-size-fits-all institution for an inefficiently mass-produced education is a different sort of strange.  Not that I’m anti-school.  And not that I’m telling you to homeschool or judging you for not homeschooling or waiting for you to list the manifold reasons why you can’t homeschool.  I’m just trying to work out what works for my family.

All through the year, Christopher had begged me to homeschool him too and I’ve struggled to find a reason not to do it.  It was difficult saying goodbye to the school, but in another way, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

So, I’m committing to one more year of homeschool.  After this year, things get a little more complicated.  Harry will be old enough for school and Matilda will be in Grade 6 and might benefit from a year at school before she goes to high school.  But I’m only doing things one year at a time.  I will have a clearer idea of where to go later this year.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Am I a mad person?

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20 thoughts on “Organic, Free-Range Children

  1. nicolaknits

    Sounds like you’re doing the right thing for your children. When people asked me if I was always going to homeschool, I said I was taking one year at a time. And that’s what I am still doing! Though only one son is now of school age.

    Reply
  2. Anna Eastland

    Follow your gut! Momma knows best, and being all together is a lot easier than having one in school and one at home. It’s chaos, but very rewarding chaos, and so good for family unity and flexibility. Plus, being able to foster their individual talents and interests is so great!
    Xoxo
    Anna

    Reply
  3. Amanda Martin (writermummy)

    Brave not crazy. I’ve seen my daughter fade since moving from Reception to Year One. They say she’s happy at school, but she says she doesn’t feel special. The kids that misbehave get more attention, more merits, and that upsets her. She’s often put with the challenging kids because she’s so good. It breaks my heart, but I couldn’t home school her, she wouldn’t let me. She doesn’t even like doing homework with me. It’s a toughie. But following your blog has definitely helped me see there are alternatives.

    Reply
  4. kw06

    Go girl, I think you are wonderful. You are a very wise woman and I am very grateful that I can go to you for advice – advice which I always value.
    Your children are flourishing, socially aware and kind to each other, and a joy to be around.

    Reply
  5. madblog

    Warning: homeschooling can be addictive! When you begin to see the benefits you may never go back. It looks like you have already discovered a lot of them. One more: your family will be closer and more connected than is typical. My kids have developed close, though not always harmonious, relationships.

    Reply
      1. madblog

        I have six children, have homeschooled 5 of them through graduation (one’s still in school)…they are all 5 adults now. They have much closer relationships than do their schooled peers. We all developed a common culture and connections which would have been AVOIDED if they went their separate ways every day all those years. They all still have healthy relationships with lots of friends as well; family wasn’t a substitute for other relationships.
        When we are thrown together a lot with our family members, we find it necessary to build the relationships, work out differences. We sometimes clash, but we have to resolve the problems. You end up with better relationships! This is the beauty of family life when its members aren’t pulled apart constantly to go out on their own. God meant for us to learn our social, cultural, relational ways in the structure of family.

        Reply
  6. bradams75

    “…sending my children off to a one-size-fits-all institution for an inefficiently mass-produced education is a different sort of strange. Not that I’m anti-school.”
    After reading the first sentence here, I find it hard to believe the second one. It reads like you’re just putting it there to avoid conflict. Will there be any explanation about this apparent contrariness forthcoming?

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      Hmm…not like me to avoid conflict…
      But I really do mean it. Perhaps my wording is a little harsh. I think that mainstream school has its limitations, but I don’t think that means it should be rejected across the board. Homeschool also has its limitations. Because homeschooling is far from the accepted norm, I feel that more emphasis is given to the limitations of this approach, whilst the limitations of normal schooling have become like wallpaper or background noise – we are too used to them to really take notice.
      My point was not to say that mainstream schooling should be scrapped and that everybody should homeschool. Rather, my response to those many people I encounter who suggest that homeschooling is a flawed approach to education is that mainstream schooling is also flawed – we just don’t tend to notice it as much.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
        1. katelikestocreate Post author

          Hmmm. Not for me, I’m afraid, but I’m sure there are others who can make it work. My scattered brain craves structure and routine. I like to know that I’ve properly covered the curriculum bases. But I can also see that their learning is perhaps richer once we’ve finished the formal part of the day and they cook their lunch or work in the garden or research something that really interests them, just to satisfy their curiosity. I do see the value in child-led learning, and I will sometimes try to incorporate it into my planning, but for the most part, I’m happy for them to do it in their unstructured time in the afternoon. I also believe that unschooling can only really work full time in a carefully controlled environment that has strictly limited screen time. Yes, children will naturally be attracted to learning opportunities that fulfil their current developmental needs, but screens can have an addictive quality that may override this desire.

          My husband and the kids are back from Aldi! Thus ends my musings (for now)
          Thanks for commenting!

          Reply
  7. Kim domingue

    I live in the States. I seriously considered home schooling for my second child when I realized that, while his IQ was way above average, his emotional and social development was behind that of his age mates. Home schooling was considered really radical 25 years ago and I was forcefully dissuaded from pursuing it as an alternative to traditional schooling. One of the leading dissenters was my own father, a Dr. of Education at a leading University. It was a miserable 13 years until he graduated from high school. He was so unhappy at times and I was unhappy right along with him. I truly felt his pain as my own school experiences closely mirrored his. Can you believe that he actually had a couple of teachers who gave him grief BECAUSE he was smart and eager to learn? I kid you not! I was constantly back and forth at school, explaining him, defending him, begging for further and more in-depth learning opportunities for him. And he was not a “problem child”. He was , and still is, a sweet, gentle, funny, kind, generous, friendly, gregarious, well-mannered, helpful person. He finally found his ” tribe ” his second year in college as well as teachers who were thrilled to have a student who was excited to learn! But, oh how I wish I had followed my mother’s intuition and schooled him at home. The heartaches it would have saved us both are too many to enumerate. Traditional schools are not a “one size fits all”. There are many children for whom traditional schools are more of a ” don’t fit at all”. I’m glad you are doing what your children need you to do for them to allow them to thrive in, and not just survive, their educational experience. You get a bazillion good mommy points added to your already impressive score! You know your children better than anyone else. Don’t let other people’s opinions EVER sway you from doing what you know is best for them. Have a fantabulous week! Loads of good wishes from the Deep South!

    Reply
  8. katelikestocreate Post author

    It can be such a relief for gifted students when they make it to university and no longer have to stand out or else hide their brains! And it can be so hard for parents of gifted students who are made to feel like troublemakers just for advocating for their child’s needs! Thank you so much for your comment. It’s nice to know I have a reader from the Deep South. What state are you from?

    Reply

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