A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the ebb and flow in life and learning. Today I have a few more thoughts on the matter, having just written the 1st Quarter Reports as required by NYS for both my kids and thus being forced to take a closer look at the path their learning is currently taking.
Ben is in the midst of a definite flow – an upswing, a time when I look at my ‘what he’s done this quarter’ notes and think “Wow, look at all this stuff. And most of it is SCIENCE and MATH related! Who’d have guessed?”.
Maya on the other hand is in an ebb, where what interests her most is hanging out with friends, going to dance classes with friends and watching her favorite shows.
Is that a bad thing? Do I need to get on her and make sure she’s using her time more “productively”?
Most people in our culture would say yes. They would say that she needs to be made to sit down with some math or science or essay writing or classic literature. After all, the argument goes, how else will she “keep up” with her peers? How will she be prepared for college, should she decide to go? (And most people leave off the “should she decide to go” part and simply say”how will she be prepared for college?”)
Even among the homeschooling community there is unspoken pressure to make sure your kid is involved in academic pursuits, or at least being encouraged every day to raise their sights to something “worthwhile”. Museums, academic classes, a love of something science or math related or a burning desire to understand some era of history (oh the stories I could tell of parents waxing rhapsodic at playgrounds about their young child’s love of the Ming Dynasty, or Medieval Art, or Neuroscience); all these things are not only accepted, but to a degree expected among the hyper competitive world that can be NYC homeschooling.
In Maya’s age group this is even more apparent, since many of her peers are jumping into the crazy arena that is the NYC high school admissions process.
Do I worry? Sometimes I do. It is impossible to completely shut out the never-ending dialogue surrounding kids and academics. So when I hear, repeatedly, that in order for my daughter to be able to function in society she needs to be “well-rounded” and have a certain base knowledge that can only be obtained through the academic subjects as outlined in the state regulations? Let’s just say no one is immune.
The antidote to the worry?
Well, as I always encourage others to do with their own kids, I look at her. When I look at my daughter objectively I see someone who is self-aware of both her strengths and weaknesses; I see someone who sets goals for herself and usually meets them; and I see someone who has high social and emotional intelligence for her age. (For any age, really.)
And then I feel better that important dates in history are not drilled into her head and that if the end result isn’t delicious baked goods, fractions and algebra hold little interest.
Facts can be obtained at any point in life. Most of the facts in my head – at least the ones I can recall – took their place there after my schooling was done. But the emotional and social stuff? Yeah, I’m still learning that and my daughter is far, far ahead of where I was in that regard at her age.
The great thing about unschooling is that all those facts that kids are handed in school are out there for the taking, but because the kids are encouraged to flourish in their own way and time, their confidence in navigating the world tends to be ahead of many children whose focus is solely academic in nature. (There are always exceptions, of course.)
So it’s all good. The ebb in academic related learning is good, as is the flow. In the end a happy person adept in navigating the world and dealing with the people in it is going to be able to fill in any gaps in facts and figures they might have.