Well it's been two weeks since we changed direction. It would be incorrect to say we are unschooling, but I keep refering back to this "When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear."So by that definition we are on the road, and moving forward.
We still do some bookwork because there are some things I am not prepared to give up at this point because I know that they are helping. Koala also needs some structure as we transition to a more relaxed approach. He has been very anxious lately when the boundaries aren't clearly defined, so structure is important for him.
The main thing I have noticed is that both the children and myself are much more relaxed. I am making a huge effort to put any anxiety about what we "should" be doing, behind me. I'm looking for more opportunities that are fun, or at least different from what we are used to. For example this week we went to see the Archibald Prize at the art gallery. The boys were underwhelmed, and keen to go way before I was, but it was something different that I took time to do, rather than thinking we should do that and not following through. Yesterday I helped Bilby make a cake. Yes it took a lot longer than if I had done it, but I was relaxed enough to not be bothered about the time taken or the mess because I wasn't stressing about all the things on the list that I thought we "should" be doing. We spent a bit if time on the Brain Pop app which led to discussions about WW2, and we read a picture book I have about the one women's experience of the bombing of Hiroshima, "My Hiroshima." Bilby went off to watch a few more Brain Pop annimations and take the quizzes! All without me worring about what we weren't doing from the dreaded *list*.
Why was I so bent on sticking so closely to formal school type learning? Well there were two reasons. I was so up tight about how "behind" we were that I felt like I couldn't give up the bookwork type things we did in favour of more fun relaxed experiential learning. I had the mindset that it was all up to me. If I didn't make them do x y z then I had failed my children. This year I have been able to see the foolishness of this way of thinking. My children will be who they are, no matter what I try and *make* them learn. The second reason is that I'm not a very hands on type person. I loved university lectures where I could sit and take notes and just drink in the information presented to me. Some of my fondest memories of my time at university are of inspiring lectures where I would be furiously taking notes, or when I was inspired by the way a lecturer conveyed his or her passion. My least favourite times were when I was in a classroom! Hands on activities were far less interesting to me. This is the same for me today. I love nothing more than sitting down with a book, listening to an interesting radio interview or watching a documentary. In fact I recently realised how often I say to the boys "I watched a documentart once..."
At the head level I was convicted of the common sence that came from a natural learning standpoint, but it scared the hell out of me. How could I let go without being consumed with fear that I was letting my children down if they couldn't do certain things at the level I thought they should? I respected and valued the unschoolers in my circle. I even envied them their calm relaxed lifestyle, but I couldn't become one of them. But times have changed and I'm ready to take on some elements of the unschooling lifestyle.
I have decided that it's well and truely time for me to take a risk and try something new. To open myself up to more fun and less structure. I have a list (some habits are hard to break!) of things I would like to do with the boys that are different from what we used to do all day, and I'm making suggestions to the boys of things they might like to try. I am really excited by the change in our atmosphere, and where it will take us.