I’m a firm believer in not rushing children to acheive certain milestones. As a society, we seem to all understand that you can’t teach a child to crawl or walk, and that there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process. We all seem to have faith that babies figure this out on their own, and all they need is time and some space to move.
When it comes to “academic” acheivements, all that faith goes out the window. Being in a School culture, with it’s curricula and standardized tests and grade levels, one would think that any child not reading by Grade 1 is some sort of aberration. When you consider the Normal Distribution, there should be some dispersion about the mean; yet when it comes to education, the classic bell shape gets squeezed into a pointed dagger, with the mean at its sharp tip and anybody not within 0.12 of a standard deviation diagnosed as a deviant.
Fortunately for us unschoolers, this isn’t an issue. I do have faith that my kids will read and write on their own terms, at a time that is right for them. Inspired by many other unschooling families who have gone before me, I know it will happen.
But there is one area where I do feel the pressure to start rushing in, albeit for different reasons. There are so many cool programs out there and I am so eager to get started. From Silbury* to Silverdale, from the Young Naturalists Club to Science Camps – there is just so much learning out there available to children who are self-motivated, eager, and excited about it all (i.e. anyone who hasn’t been in school, ).
DD will be starting Silverdale this fall. You might ask why an unschooler would register with a homeschooling program that involves curricula, portfolio submission, and evaluation by a public school teacher. Well, for most of the unschooling moms I know who are doing this, the answer is simple: for the money. Not only are the programs free, but you get cash from the government that would otherwise be spent on educating your child in a school, and you get your Internet connection paid for. The teacher evaluations have no effect on your child’s standing and don’t even need to be shared with the children. But as I can honestly say that we are not doing it for the money, why do I want to do this?
I think it’s because I’m an organizational nut. I like forms and spreadsheets and having visual evidence of my progress and my direction. Silverdale provides this for me by requiring me to maintain a portfolio and submit it three times per year. It will make me feel like I’m doing something. It gives me something to tell others, instead of “…we just Are…we just Live…” and watching the thinly veiled looks of horror from the grandparents.
I know none of these are valid reasons when it comes to the success of unschooling my children – they will do just fine without such a program. We could keep doing what we’ve been doing all along – a gym class here, an Ecology Centre class there, a playdate here and a trip to the Aquarium there – and it would all be Good. She won’t be missing out on anything, because I really feel that until she is about 7 or 8 there is no point in any “formal” education (like day programs at the local University, for example) because she really isn’t mature enough to sit and focus for that long.
But when she is, oh the things she will learn! I just wish I had more faith and patience. I wish I could get away from this feeling of wanting to “do” something and trust that what we are doing now IS unschooling, not “waiting to unschool”. I’m going to give Silverdale a try because I figure I have nothing to lose. But I admit I wish I were stronger in my convictions. I wish I could dispell this nagging notion that I am providing “nothing” for my child in terms of education right now(when really, what is Kindergarten providing except part-time daycare?).
*I find their website to be very un-navigable; simply put they are a school for the gifted that also runs “daytime enrichment programs” that homeschooled children can attend