Friday, October 31, 2008

Tipping the balance to unschool

It happened yesterday. The balance in our homeschool finally tipped from "eclectic schooling" to "unschooling." And, man, did it feel good.

After two days of trying to force the workbooks -- math, writing and Draw Write Now being the last vestiges of the crop from early September -- I finally gave in, gave up, gave over. At least for the moment, we are unschooling. Though I tend to shy away from labels, this on does seem to fit.

I think the addition of a 2-year-old dog to the mix is what finally did it. Between walking the dog, letting him in and out, keeping him away from the boys (who love him, but get him riled up), and stopping him from chewing every hat, mitten and sock in the house, all semblance of structure eroded.

When Brian came home from work Tuesday afternoon, I was fit to be tied. "This dog needs to be contained!" I yelled. (Actually, that's not what I yelled at all. It was more like, "We need to keep this fucking dog out of the playroom and living room or he's going back to the pound, so help me!").

Whatever it was I said - I only remember a day full of yelling -- it worked. I don't get easily worked up. Brian saw I was a mess. He said he could splice into the electric fence outside and run a wire through the middle of the house. But it would take a few days to figure out the path the wire would need to take underneath the floorboards and through the joists. (Brian has a lively working knowledge of the innards of the house, which I lack entirely.)

"Oh, no, no, NO!" I said. "You run the wire through the window and tape it to the freaking floor!"

Bless him, he did it. He brought the wire in through some duct work in the basement and taped it across the playroom and living room floors. It almost killed him aesthetically, but he did it.

So yesterday we had a dog-free day in half of the house, which made all the difference. We love the dog, lovely Eddie, but he simply cannot have run of the house.

The kids were so thrilled to be able to play with their toys in the living room and play room without fear of Eddie stealing them and chewing them that they more or less played all day. All three together. Not wanting to disturb that magic, I let them.

They built a city for the guinea pigs while I made whole wheat anadama bread. We all played a fractions game from Family Math (best book I've bought this year, which is really saying something). They created a town for their stuffed animals in the living room complete with houses, stores and a library. I went online to research unschooling on Sandra Dodd's wonderful site. I read to them from American Tall Tales while they painted and drew. We went apple picking in the afternoon (last time this season) and carved pumpkins when we got home. And Brian and Nell took Eddie to obedience school.

It was a great day. I did not feel like my head was going into orbit at sundown.

It seems to be a question of control and trust. Do I trust the kids have some (or all) control of their learning, or do I not. I am slowly giving over. I can plainly see that their instinct is to learn. Left to their own devices, they learn beautifully. And get along beautifully. Which is itself perhaps the best lesson of all.

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