Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sowing Planning Seeds

I enjoyed tribeofautodidact’s post on planning next year with her 9 year old son. I started to comment over there, and it got so long I decided to write it over here instead. But there are some interesting comments in the box, as well, if you visit over there.

Leonie at Living Without School shared how she planned goals with her sons — this was when I had first met her on an egroup almost 10 years ago. It made sense to me, but I hesitated for quite a while. The reason? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out for some time.

I think at first it was an immaturity thing. I wasn’t very unschooly at the time, and I was afraid the kids would say something silly like “I want to study Legend of Zelda”. I didn’t even want to go there, basically, and deal with whatever strange idea they came up with.

The second thing — the dreaded “I don’t know.” We are all introverts. “I don’t know,” is PRECISELY what I would have said as a child if a teacher or parent had asked me what I wanted to study. Basically, I would have thought, “If I don’t say anything, I won’t be commited to anything, or be embarrassed if I can’t/don’t want to follow through.” Plus, in a vacuum like that my brain would have gone empty. So I think I projected that on the kids and I knew I would feel as awkward asking them as they would in answering.

Later, when I got more unschooly, I started wondering if asking what the children wanted to study was something like asking them whether they wanted to take a bath or go to bed. Sort of a choice of the lesser of evils. (I noticed that tribeofautodidacts dealt with that wisely by explaining radical unschooling to James, and that he actually preferred not to do it that way).

Another obstacle for me personally is my perfectionism. It is a strong trait of right-brained learners.

I always used to visualize some sort of dreamily perfect learning interaction, the kind I would imagine was happening in other peoples’ homeschools, and then think — NOT! Not at my house. Then the irony between the vision and the probable (pessimistic) reality would just burn and I would decide to forget the whole thing.

Unschooling has taught me a bit more reality about that kind of thing. Or maybe it is all the 22 years of trial and error with seven distinctive kids. It won’t be as bad as the ironic pessimism and it won’t be dreamy and bubbly like one of those happy anime scenes in a Pokemon video ;-). Thank heavens! I suppose in reality I was afraid of BOTH of the alternatives. I don’t function well either way. Most times, when I try something new with my kids, I am slightly embarrassed, they are polite and a bit surprised, and usually fairly receptive. If it doesn’t work, it’s because it isn’t right for us right now, but often enough it seems to plant a bit of a seed. I can’t count all the times I’ve tried something new with a child, it doesn’t seem to “take” and then later on the child starts doing it on his own or saying, “Do you remember when we…. that was kind of fun. Maybe we should try again, only this time…” and they proceed to give their own feedback. Not always — there have been some bombs — but often enough so that I’m surprised I am still so hesitant. The bombs usually happen when I’m somehow investing something in the outcome — one of my kids especially would pick that up right away and back off as if it were poison.

So I am revisiting this “asking for ideas” notion again, this year, because I really do try to advance a bit in unschooliness every year.

I think I’ll try it this way though. This would be for Kieron, 12, because Aidan and Patrick are still at the play all day age.

I’ll make a habit of meeting with him, say monthly. I have to write it down on my calendar at least until it becomes a habit. I will ask him what he thinks of what we’re doing, whether he has any suggestions or changes to make, what skills or knowledge he would like to develop, what subjects he would like to gather material on at the library or elsewhere. I’ll ask him what things seem easy and which seem hard or boring. And go from there.

I think I will also ask him for his thoughts on this upcoming year. I won’t necessarily expect a whole lot of conversation, but hopefully it will open some doors and get us both used to having that kind of conversation. That might be valuable in the future.

Also, I think I will start seeing if I can get him a bit involved in doing things with Aidan and Paddy. It’s going to be a strange house here next year with only Kieron and Aidan and Paddy still homeschooled. We may start doing a few more outside the house things. Kieron may be quite lonely since the other two function as 5 year olds and he is almost a teenager.