Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rhythm is a River

We've been away from the water too long. Keeping the banks in sight and following its course from afar, but barely dipping our toes in. Over the past year there have been days, no, weeks and months when the river seemed just over the next hill. We wanted to be there, but obstacles sprung up like ornery badgers on a prairie path. We kept to the parallel path, scanning for dense trees, getting closer.

Monday we jumped in. Movement? Check! Trickster tales? Check! Form drawing and practice time? Check and Check!

I am always slightly amazed at how easy we fall back into rhythm when we finally decide the time is right and make it a priority. Oh, big rhythms are always there; I'm talking about focused learning and the simplicity of family living without the stress of emergencies and aftermath. Proactive living, rather than reactive living. Living through crisis after crisis is exhausting.

We're taking it really easy. A three day "academic" week, at a pretty slow pace, with a day for music experimentation and a day for nature and community exploration. After our spring vacation we'll slip Spanish back in if I can find a good way to do so. If not, I'll keep reviewing mine, knowing that the time will be there at some point, and until then we can keep singing.

In some ways, moving back into our rhythm is having the best of both worlds. Some focused time to work in a philosophy that speaks to me, and to feed the need for doing that my oldest has; some flowing time to be and nourish the parts of ourselves that grow best in the wild.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here, Part 2 . . . or Enki For Unschoolers

Over the years I've read several posts from people who have purchased Enki Education materials although the consider themselves to be "unschoolers at heart". I understand. I knew I was an unschooler at heart when my boys were 1 and 2. Soon though, I found that I was also a holistic education person at heart. You name a holistic education method, and I have probably spent some time working with it (the exception being Live Education).

Some long time readers of the blog may recall that I tossed all of that aside and spent a couple of months as a classical educator.  I've also dabbled in the Charlotte Mason method.

I think I have a pretty good grasp on what I think these days. I'm inspired by Enki Education and I use the Enki philosophy, along with some of the Enki materials and methods. I'm inspired by John Holt and the concept of unschooling. I absolutely believe that my boys will learn what they want and need to learn because learning is the natural human condition. And I pull in classical methods and materials when they make sense for us.

We're not eclectic. The label doesn't work for me. I am always working within the philosophies of holistic education and what John Holt termed unschooling. Addressing the needs of the whole child and the whole family (and indeed, the entire human community, and the earth itself), all the while trusting the child and trusting myself. I'm not mixing Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, and IKEA. The actual definition of eclectic may fit us, but the connotation doesn't.

So, here is my in-a-nutshell take on working with Enki and unschooling.

One, figure out where you are. Do the Family Web exercises outlined in the Enki Homeschool Workbook. Then do the Family Rhythms section of the workbook.

What is important to you as a family? For us, our web has vitality, wisdom, and compassion at its core, with community, family, and nature as our our outer ring. Our family warp threads are music, health, rhythm, environment, travel, lifelong learning, relationships, and simplicity.

What does your day look like? What's working? What isn't? The Enki materials have some sound advice on setting up the rhythm of your day, but it isn't something you can overlay on your family. If one parent works the swing shift, morning may be family time and not a good time for focused lessons.  I myself don't transition easily to the day, nor does J-Baby, and T-Guy likes to get a solid hour of reading in each morning before he does anything else.  We aren't ready to come together in focused learning any earlier than mid-morning.

Is the environment nourishing?  Is there an opportunity for daily time spend outdoors?  Are there quiet places in the home where one can seek solitude?  For me, minimizing clutter is important, but I don't need stark minimalism either.  Does the environment exude a sense of comfort, warmth, and nourishment?  Are there spaces in which to be creative?

It really helps me to get a focus on our rhythms. Not only the daily rhythm but the weekly, monthly, and annual rhythms. For me, rhythm is the human heartbeat. Without the rhythm of the weeks, months, and year my life would have less meaning. Our weekly traditions bring us together as a family and create a sense of unity. Throughout the months there are occasions that we celebrate with friends and extended family. The year turns and we connect to all living things. Rhythm, purposeful rhythm, is part of being human.

Specific to Enki, I find it important to have a sense of where my child is developmentally, and also to know their strengths and opportunities when it comes to learning styles.  I need to know which stories are likely to resonate with them, and which may stretch them beyond comfort or fall flat.

We move in and out of focused learning as the boys seek more and then desire far less structure.  I know they are learning while the concepts sleep, and that the concepts will be reawakened when the time is right for the boys.

Um, So Where Do We Go From Here?

We've thoroughly enjoyed our adventures in near-unschooling, and it has been going really well. We live, we love, and we learn. It's like breathing. But the boys have expressed a desire to have more guidance, more focused learning, and Papa and I have talked about some of the skills we think the boys need and how to approach that.

So, I guess we are . . . ? I hate labels. Are we Enki-inspired unschoolers? Holistic-minded tidal schoolers? Holistic eclectic learners? Do we boldly call ourselves Enki Homeschoolers and simply refuse to flinch when others point out that we don't do A, B, and C?

Maybe it helps to start with what we don't do. We aren't radical unschoolers. We acknowledge that all parents make decisions for their children, even if that decision is to keep them out of government and private schools. We believe that children need guidance; no one goes from newborn to adult without having learned a lot of skills from their human community.

We don't do school-at-home. Never in a million years. We don't replicate public school in our home, nor do we attempt to recreate the Enki private school experience in our home. In our experience, whenever we attempt to add too much structure and the day feels too much like school, we all lose interest.

We want as much freedom as we can possibly have. This means not joining public or private independent study programs, even if they will keep records for us or give us money. TANSTAAFL, and all that. We want the freedom to study what we want, when we want to. We want to visit friends when we want to, and to go places, and to never feel limited by externally-imposed structure.

To be completely honest, Papa asked why we hadn't completely jettisoned Enki. After all, we seem to be unschoolers. We strew the path. We listen to what the boys are interested in, and fly with it. When he asks about handwriting, I tell him that the boys as of yet don't seem to feel the need to write that often. I never interrupt Lego building for math practice.

How many pieces can you currently be ignoring and still stay within the blueprint? What is the Enki blueprint? Is there room for unschooling? Are we really unschoolers? Maybe we're tidal learners.

I've had my own doubts. What right have I to claim to be Enki-inspired? Then again, what right does anyone else have to take that away from me.

We are Enki-inspired learners because we are inspired by the philosophy and methods of Enki Education. Short of persons who have actually completed the Enki Teacher training, all of us who use the Enki Education materials are Enki-inspired. We love the inclusiveness of Enki, the beautiful materials, and the fact that the Enki Homeschool program is family-centered. We love the wholeness of it. We are not merely unschoolers; we have inspiration, guidance, and support. Perhaps, after all, we are Enki-inspired holistic learners (that sounds so familiar, have I written it before?).

So, in this rambling post (I won't be winning any blogging awards, I'm certain), I was trying to figure out what our next move it. I could sit down and plan out a nice Enki school year, print it out and put it in my binder, and be pretty certain that we wouldn't stick to it at all.

You know, this post is so long that I'm going to stop now, and start part two. Otherwise the most important revelation of the day may get lost down here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I've Been Busy

So busy, in fact, that I don't actually have time to be writing this post. I should be folding laundry or cleaning the house, or maybe I should be packing lunch for today's park day support group. I should wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on real clothes and not just the clothes that I threw on early this morning to run out the door to meet the co-op truck. I should put away the extra pancakes from this morning's Pancake Day feast.

But I'm also excited. I have been working for a couple of weeks on a new Enki project, one that brings small group grade specific discussion to our online Enki community. It's an idea that I was initially against last summer, but as the main community has grown I have seen the need for the smaller groups. I am working as part of a team that has brought all of the pieces together to form a unified whole that will nourish the entire online community, rather than fracture it, as I first feared.

I've been writing and editing tirelessly, and coordinating with other volunteers to get the grade groups up and running. We've put the word out, and will be sending invitations soon.

Smaller groups means that people will have a chance to really get into the materials and to figure out how Enki works for them. Enki started as a small private school movement, and it still works well in that environment, but in the hands of homeschoolers it is brilliant. Enki is a new educational model, being birthed right now; an educational model that stands on its own. It isn't Waldorf-lite or even a Waldorf derivative, any more than it is a Montessori derivative.

Enki Education is the most community-minded, environmentally aware, family-centered educational model I have ever encountered. It addresses the whole child in a way that I haven't seen before. Most importantly, Enki is about families.

Because of this, Enki fits all styles of home learning. Those who want to do school-at-home can put together that type of schedule. Those who prefer unschooling can read the Foundation Guides, get the underpinnings of the philosophy and child development, and go from there, strewing the path with the Enki philosophy guiding them. Tidal schoolers can go in and out, keeping an overall rhythm and moving back and forth between relaxed exploration and more focused academics. Eclectic learners can bring in pieces from other curricula and still make it all work within the Enki blueprint.

Some may a have noticed that all of my blogs were down for a few weeks. I needed time to work on the project, and to decide where I want to focus my blog writings. Look for many updates on Holistic Learning, as I write about what we do day-to-day. Also keep an eye out for posts on my newest blog, Local Learning. Local learning is an idea I've been kicking around since last June; I want to explore and write about people learning where they live.

Time's up; I can only ignore everything else that needs to be done for so long.