Sunday, December 25, 2005

Floor Time & Unschooling

This article is titled The Importance of One on One Time . I came upon the concept of Floor Time through researching for my special needs child. But the article linked here expresses well WHY I have been exploring unschooling even though my previous homeschooling approach was "working".

So often I was spending the days with my kids but no one was having any fun. I had my day scheduled out to the minute, especially the mornings. All our time together was what they call "on task". Have you finished this? You need to work on that. I say it was working, because it was. We weren't falling apart as a family, the schoolwork was getting done, and they were progressing academically. We weren't stressed... .and yet....? BY afternoon, all I wanted was to disappear into my room and just get away from my kids. I stumbled through the rest of the day trying to recuperate so I could start the next day again. When did family life become like working at Microsoft??

I never felt I had any time to do anything that was out of the box of household maintenance, home education or programmed activities. This Christmas vacation seems so strange for me because it is the first time in years I haven't felt like I was melting into the floor like a puddle. In other years I spent Christmas vacation doing behind the scenes lesson planning, gearing up for starting up again, feeling guilty because we were ALREADY behind --- again ---! I would feel such a strong physical need to just crash, to sleep, to read lots of novels, to retreat from my kids! I am sure that there are many moms who can sustain vigorous academics and relax and have fun in between times, but I was/am not one.

Our unschooling this fall has helped me to get out of the mold a bit. Not everything that is worth doing can be done on a schedule. Some things, the best things, have to be open-ended and responsive, where the end result may not be exactly what is planned when the time and energy are committed. I think Edison said: "I haven't failed 1000 times; I've found 1000 ways that won't work."

Perhaps it's a bit like the old quality vs quantity time. Quality time -- read here, learning time -- can't always be done from a checklist. Sometimes fostering learning may be like drawing a chipmunk to eat from your hand. You wait, you hold out your hand, you wait, you offer.... you don't tell the chipmunk, "According to my statistical research on the habits of chipmunks, by this time you should have been within six inches of my hand. Please understand, you're behind, but if you move double for a couple of times, you'll be back on the typical chipmunk schedule."

I don't think my old approach was all bad, and I am certainly not excluding the possibility that we will make use of that approach again. I'm still trying to figure out a way to have the unschooling, what is bonum-verum-bellum in it, and have my educational ideals at the same time. I don't have all the logistics down by any means, and I have a certain amount of ongoing discomfort because so much of this approach is responsive, contingent upon the child and the opportunities available to us. A friend calls it "serendipity." I suppose much truth & beauty & goodness arrives to us serendipitously, because we are seeking and receptive, not because we have paid our dues and it is somehow "owed" to us.

I am invested in excellence, because I think everyone ought to be pursuing excellence. But I hope I will remember that excellence is NOT generally acquired on a timetable or according to "statistical norms." Excellence is not standardized -- it creeps into the niches and hollows of a nurtured human personality, perhaps a bit like that chipmunk may someday, quietly and cautiously move onto my cupped hand, quickly nibble and withdraw, and hopefully come back again, growing calmer every time.


DavidofOz said...

My only concern with so-called "unschooling" is external parties interested in the children's progress. There are not only government and outside parties but also family and locals who get pretty concerned when you can't show some type of plan. We have compromised on a basic outline of Maths and reading every other subject with plenty of hands on as interests develop. It is a mix of scheduled and unscheduled learning.
So far it seems to be working. We have homeschooled all the way and the eldest is now in year 9 and doing pretty well. I certainly understand what you are talking about.

WJFR said...

I can see your point. However, our family and local acquaintances have never seemed that interested in the details of our plans : ). I don't know if that's good or bad! We already seem so strange in regard to other choices in our lives that unschooling would just be another bizarre bit of trivia about us.

When I'm struggling, it's usually with those two voices in my own head saying two very different things. Smeagol and Gollum, so to speak. Don't ask which one is the unschooling voice and which is the preciousss..