Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Please Don't Tell Everyone We're On Break!

Inevitably it happens: we're out somewhere, and someone will ask the boys where they go to school. Three's no denying that they are of school-age, and it is a common question an adult will use to make conversation with a child.

Because we are such relaxed learners my boys don't see our organic, non-focused learning times as being "school." It is a word I have fought, and yet the word that most everyone they know uses to describe how children "learn". So they tend to tell people that we are taking a break if we haven't actually sat down for a focused lesson in a week or two.

It's my fault, really. When I thought that we should be doing lessons I would say we were on break when we didn't do them. I did this when the boys were younger and needed a lot of rhythm, and I didn't want them to feel anxious when lessons dropped off the calendar for a few weeks (or months). I was sick, and telling them that we were taking a break was my way of letting them know that things would get back to "normal".

Except normal never came. We learned more with this newer, integrated method of living. I would read to them, and hear them working the stories in their play. We would sing in the car. I started really bringing them into my work of homekeeping, instead of making half-hearted attempts and then shooing them out the door so I could do it "right". I invited them to explore the handwork I was doing and to participate when they were able, instead of fretting about not painting once a week.

We nearly branched into unschooling, not the radical kind, but definitely child-led learning. However, I had learned so much from Waldorf and Enki that I knew that there were things I wanted to bring to my children. I knew there would be times when a lesson made absolute sense. I knew that the stories should be heard, even if they were worked playing in the mud instead of by putting crayon to paper.

The changes are so small that from the outside we probably look like unschoolers most of the time (but not the play-video-games-all-day-eat-candy-watch-TV-no-bedtime kind of radical unschoolers). What I want to bring to the boys is usually woven in, blending with our lives. We always bake: making Scottish shortbread while we read about John Muir may be deliberate in my mind, but really my children just know that we read and we bake and we sing and we craft. We live. They're at an age where they know they live differently than many children, yet so far they still think they live better.

Still, they get asked the dreaded question, and they tend to answer that we are taking a break. Even if we drew a picture the day before, or went on a field trip, or practiced reading. As I work to break down the walls between living and learning they only see the living.

Why do I care how they answer? I guess it is because we are certainly not taking a break. We are learning all the time. At that very moment, yesterday in the thrift store, we were learning that great deals can be found (a brand new $55 nightgown for my mother, only $3!), and also that used things can have a second (or third or fourth) life. The boys were socializing in an excellent manner, talking to the older women who volunteer to run the thrift store.

You can't take a break from life, no matter if it is wonderful or hard. We live, we learn.

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