Sunday, February 21, 2010

Structure, Freedom and Anxiety

Providing our children the freedom to learn and explore at their own pace instead of being bound by curriculum and conformity to a set of group standards is one of the primary reasons that we have chosen to educate the kids at home, yet when I look at how we have been homeschooling in practice, I realize how very far we are from our original intentions and even my current convictions. We've been using a math curriculum, for instance, that explains things in interesting and innovative ways, but at the same time doesn't involve much exploration and does require a great deal of drill and repetition. We have been skipping some of the workbook pages, but I'm now convinced that I've still been requiring far more than my kids need in order to retain the material. The kids have gone from loving math to resisting math, even though they are quite good at it. We are using a highly structured phonics program, which hasn't met the same resistance, yet I wonder about how much it is really required. Pauly made a jump in reading some months ago, and now the phonics material is far below his current reading level, yet we've kept slogging through it because I feel like we need to complete the program before moving on. Why I am doing this? Why aren't I taking advantage of our freedom to move at the kids' pace?

This year we are enrolled with St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, and when I called our advisor to discuss some of these frustrations, her advice could be reduced to "Lighten up, have fun, they're little yet." Even with this blessing, I've found myself unable to truly relax. It finally occurred to me this week that most of what we have been doing in practice has had little to do with my educational convictions or what my children need, but instead is about calming my own anxiety and meeting my own need to do things "right." The irony is that in seeking to do things "right" I'm actually acting against what I am intellectually convinced is right for home school education; my rigidity interferes with utilizing home schooling's freedom and flexibility and instilling a love for learning.

So what do I do now that I realize this?


  1. So you have fallen into the trap most mothers do. I have. When I'm not sure of where I am, I start clenching tighter, demanding more control and holding things closer then is healthy.
    If I were you, thank god for you I'm not, I would explore museums or something OUTSIDE of your house. Ask the kids for input. If you are having a hard time with math, bring them to a classical concert or an art show, explain to them no the way home that classical music and art relies heavily on math...ask them to do the research that either confirms or debunks this claim...that way you are presenting a TOPIC, not the's up to them to sway incorporate reading, phonics, etc ask them to create a poster with construction paper or something...drawing, finding pictures, writing, etc...
    let me know how it goes...hugs :)

  2. Aw. the quintessential dilemma. I think for us non-homeschooled parents, we just don't realize how conformed we are to our own education, even if we can see beyond the box, we ourselves are still very much in the box. While I do think a good foundation in phonics and math is important- everything else is game!! I think its a lifelong struggle, but worth it.

    deborah [from delphi, waving 'hi']


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