A Time for Everything Under the Sun

DSC_0117unschooling

Over these Easter holidays I have been reflecting on the past twelve weeks or so of us doing a week of schooling alongside a week of unschooling.  It is clear it wasn’t a good fit for us, in the same way it is clear it was something we really did need to try out in order to find out just how bad a fit it was.

On the one hand I am glad we tried it.  We scratched the unschooling itch and found it to be a dissatisfactory learning experience.  It is out of all of our systems and that is a good thing.  In the process we learnt much about ourselves.  I have learnt that I value certain activities higher than alternatives.  And this is a good thing to know about myself.  I have one very quirky, funny, individual twin daughter.  And I have seen her in a different light over the past term.  The things she enjoys are an enigma to me.  Seeing her seek out, for example, musical pursuits (I am very unmusical.  Really VERY), and the pleasure when she aced her exam; the joy on her face when she sings; the excitement she has towards the day when she can finally stand up with her father and lead worship in our church – this is a priceless part of her that I now understand.  I don’t always get her need to print copious number of modern lyrics, her passion to defend One Direction, Olly Murs, as well as Rend Collective, Enya and various Christian rappers against anyone (this includes impassioned speeches in the car aimed at the radio broadcasters.  I mean, I’m certain she understands they can’t actually hear her….), and her need to cut out pictures of her favourite musicians to keep in a file.  But I understand passion.  I don’t need to ‘get’ what floats her boat, I just need to allow her the space to explore it, feel it and express it.  It has been a privilege to see into her heart.

On the other hand I lament the weeks we wasted whilst trying it out.  This term feels like the least productive term ever.  

One of the biggest lessons I learnt during this experiment was that during the unschooling weeks the children followed their passions and in addition had lots of screen time.  Interestingly, during the schooling weeks they enjoyed the learning we all did in school and in addition followed their passions during any extra time they had.  Can you see?  In both the schooling and the unschooling weeks the children followed their passions regardless, it is just that during the unschool week it happened when they weren’t on their screen and during the schooling weeks it happened when they weren’t studying.  Their passions remained their passions regardless of the arbitrary titles of schooling or unschooling.  The difference was the screen time.  And if I had the choice between the children studying or screen time I will choose studying every. single. time.  Unashamedly.  Plus the fact they sleep better when worked hard 😉

I believe my children will always find time for their interests because they are passionate people.  When they are required to do normal school they simply make time for their interests once formal school is over.  There truly is time for everything under the sun.

So what next for our little homeschool?  Things still feel not quite right, if I’m honest.  The last year or so has brought such a huge change in my older children.  The biggest change ever, I think.  They are growing up and as such their needs are different now than they were.  Next year I will have three teens on my hands and I think over the next few weeks we will be reassessing what their needs are for this next season in their life.  It may be more project based work, or a transition to specific IGCSE study materials, or we may plod on in much the same way as before or it may even be a mix of all three.  We will be discussing, praying, thinking and praying some more as a family as we try to work out what is important and what needs to be let go of.

I may not know where we are heading but I know one thing for sure:  There is a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3)  and this is a very peaceful thought.

19 comments

  1. I’m not sure you should say these weeks have been wasted or the least productive. Sounds to me like you gained tremendous insights into your beautiful crew (and you have such beautiful children!) I think heart knowledge is a more pure knowledge…wisdom. There is nothing to lament here.

    I understand being lost with a musical child. Just today Middle Boy woke me early (4 in the morning early!) this morning to inform me that he had uncovered the “mystery of the Star Wars Theme” in his dreams and then practiced it for just over three hours on the piano this morning! I’m completely lost with this boy…I told him I was more than willing to purchase sheet music for him and mot make him wait for inspirational dreams. How does one dream about music? He also yells at the radio station and tells it to play real music from Bach or Beethoven.

    Umm…could you explain to me what is IGCSE? I’m guessing some sort of exams?

    I really appreciate these sort of posts from you about what does or does not work in your home. I feel less alone.

    1. Just to jump in and answer your question, IGCSEs are indeed exams. GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education and it’s the standard exam that children take in the UK when they’re 16 (which used to be the final year of compulsory education – you now have to be in education or training til you’re 18 but that can be work-based). IGCSEs are, I believe, International GCSEs and are entirely exam-based rather than including coursework (assignments completed at home to a specification and marked by teachers – hard to do when you homeschool!) which I think is intended for non-standard education formats. Hope that makes sense 🙂

      1. Audria – Thanks for your vote of confidence!
        May – Thanks for taking the time to answer Audria’s question so thoroughly.

  2. My kids are much younger, but I’ve noticed the same thing: the passions, the exciting things, whatever they currently are, shine through, whether there’s a lot of structured school or not. But in our unstructured moments, it’s the more ordinary things, like grammar and writing, that suffer. Those are necessary skills in this world, and I’m not willing to let them alone. I see the screens thing, too. Good luck making your transition. It’s tough trying to figure things out! Prayer is a fantastic way to go about it, though. I’m confident that you’ll get there, with His help.

    1. Thank you. I struggled to express what it was I wanted to say and thought maybe it had come out clumsily so I am pleased to see someone understood 🙂

  3. I’m actually working out some dissonance in our schedule because in some ways we’ve gotten too structured and less fun that I meant for us to get. Also, combining the littles into the schooling part of our day has taken me for a loop. I’m still working that one out!! I think it’s important to realize the things that are important to us, and count the costs before we set out to structure one way or another.

    1. Absolutely. We are all different and even the same family differs wildly depending on the season. We are entering a new season and I have not found what works really well yet.

    1. I often wonder what they will all end up doing when they grow up. T has just rekindled his love of gardening which I am not unhappy about. I always think working outside is so healthy!

  4. To poorly paraphrase Thomas Edison, you haven’t failed or wasted time….you’ve found a way that doesn’t work, which means you’re that much closer to finding the right fit. I think it’s great that you all gave it a sincere effort before deciding to go a different route. I’ll be interested to see how that shapes out next.

    1. You’re right. And I think you paraphrased it beautifully. I’m forever quoting that to my budding engineer son when he inventions don’t quite go to plan. Maybe I should start quoting it to myself?

  5. You chose a better thought from Ecclesiastes than the “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” that’s been echoing through my head this week 🙂 Your thoughts on screen time and passions are very insightful.

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