Today for homeschooling, after playing wii and watching Family Matters, I took my kids to a toy store.
That's how we roll here at Alatorre Academy.
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An explanation. We've had some brilliant moments of homeschooling, many of them in fact. I have been encouraged and heartened by unexpected sparks and the space to see them grow. But it has not been easy. Some of my kids are exhibiting high levels of resistance, which has made things extremely difficult. I've been trying to take to heart advice I've received from veteran homeschoolers and from various articles on the internet. All of them talk about how important it is to "de-school," which I have decided basically means giving kids and parents time and space to learn how to think differently about school and learning, to break free of our notions of what school looks like. I have been trying to mimic many aspects of the school setting. Not surprisingly, some of my kids -- my younger ones -- enjoy this; the older ones most decidedly do not.
So after a few frustrating days in a row of me feeling like I was asking them to do very, very little in the way of "school" and them putting up a front that would impress Che Guevara, I decided it was time to give this deschooling thing a try. One central tenet of deschooling: spend time with your kids, doing things they enjoy, without betraying whatever scorn or disgust you might feel for the things they enjoy. Insert Family Matters here. My kids keep resetting our cable box to record Family Matters; Rick keeps deleting the saved episodes. It's kind of fun to sit back and watch the Erkel pendulum swing back and forth.
Anyway, I let them pretty much do whatever they wanted this morning. This was not easy. It's not easy to know that they are surrounded books and games and puzzles and tools and music and each other, and still they chose inane television. It's not easy to hide my disappointment in how they chose to spend the morning. But I took a deep breath and sat down for a little of the program.
It wasn't awful. Not my brand of entertainment by a long shot, but not too painful, and I can understand the appeal for the kids. But the payoff was definitely in the time I spent with them. They were delighted that I was watching with them, instead of using their screen time to clean something. Later, I played Wii Sport Resort, much to their amusement, and kicked some ass on the bowling game. Again, the payoff was in the time spent together, although the bowling was fun for me too.
And after watching an hour of
stupid TV I wouldn't pick for myself, I took them to the toy store. The boys are experiencing a Match Box Car Renaissance, and the local previously owned toy shop sells them for .75. Following deschooling advice, I nurtured the impulse with a $4.50 investment. We came home with a variety of items: match box cars, a Zorro, two knights, a large dragon, three books, a bag of cool marbles, a small paint palate, a deck of cards, and a Magic Garden crystal growing set. All used, so not too expensive.
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The afternoon was magic. My 5 year old, who selected the bag of marbles, told me she wanted to write. She disappeared for awhile, and when she returned shared the following:
Sum Day I want to go arond the world. Sum day I hope Im going to lrin aubot morbols. If my dad disze bea for my mom dos Im going to be sad but I hope wee get a cat.
Some day, I want to go around the world. Some day, I hope I'm going to learn about marbles. If my dad dies before my mom does, I'm going to be sad, but I hope we get a cat [after my dad dies].
(Lest you feel wistful over Lady E's concern for her daddy, just know that she really wants a cat and daddy is allergic.) A few minutes later, I walked by her bedroom and saw her reading a book to her little sister. A few minutes later, she asked me to look up what's in a marble on the internet, so we did that for a while.
My 8 year old, who had selected the Magic Garden, put her new kit together. A few hours later, we had a lovely model of Mount Fuji, complete with Cherry Blossom trees. We learned about sodium chloride, and how it can be in liquid form until it's poured over cardboard, at which point, the cardboard soaks up the water and the sodium chloride forms big puffy crystals. One of the coolest science projects ever and again, I had no idea it would be part of our day. Afterwards, she skittered off to her Theatre Workshop.
My 10 year old has spent most of the afternoon sawing and sanding a sword out of a plank of wood, and then painting the tip red. And playing with Zorro, the knights and the dragon. And playing soccer. And experimenting with salt. And sanding more stuff. He just came inside at 9:30pm from his latest sanding session.
My 12 year old...spent the day with a fever of 103. So he's a tad exempt. He watched The Blind Side again. And we had a conversation about a minor character in the movie, a neighborhood friend of Michael's, who had tried to get out of the projects but was unable to stay with his community college courses. He ended up back in the projects, working for the local dealer, and ultimately died of gunshot wounds on his 21st birthday. We talked about what that kid must have thought and felt when Michael came back looking for his mom, and we talked about the tragedy of dying young and in poverty.
I'm exhausted. But hey, this deschooling thing just might be the best thing that ever happened to me. Who knew letting them do what they want could lead to such wonderfulness?
My kids are amazing.
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