Thursday, August 1, 2013

on unschooling and housekeeping

I've taken the boys out for a few hours every day this week.  As a result, the house looks messy, but not trashed.  I could hardly believe I've gotten to Thursday without the place looking like a tornado spiraled through it (make that 3 tornadoes and their friends :), until I realized what a difference it makes when your kids are out of the house.

My neighbor (also a homeschooler) told me a few years ago that of course the house is messier, because we are using it the entire day.  For some reason, I hadn't thought of that.  (Probably because we all know a house can be trashed in about 2 minutes, and I never realized the quantitative difference between the 2 minute trash and a day's worth of a lot of 2 minute trashes).

I've been thinking about Elazar's education, probably because Chana's away at camp and so I have a break from teaching her.  He's kind of interested in reading, and kind of interested in Torah, and I'm thinking about the difference between nudging him a bit vs unschooling.

My neighbor asked me about R' Winder workbooks yesterday.  I used them with the girls and we loved them.  I don't start them until the kids can read.  This is usually first grade.  Elazar is 6.  But I'm not teaching him how to read.  When he wants to, he'll teach himself or ask me or someone else to teach him.  (Not to say that when he asked me to write down "lava coloring pages" this morning so he can type it into google to search and print, that I didn't ask him what sound it started with, which he correctly identified as "L" and the next syllable, which he sounded "vvvvv...V.")

He loves music and sings a lot, yet when I sat down and layned the first pasuk in the Torah, it didn't call out to him.  He got bored.
I don't have much exposure to the Zilberman method, but I think he'd probably respond to it.  Unfortunately, I'm not trained in that method, nor do I know enough about it to implement it.

But I was thinking, what is the difference between me teaching him now, slowly, laboriously.  Pushing him, but not painfully.  Making him stretch a bit.
Or, I can wait.  And when he's 10, he'll zip through it.  Either through the R' Winder books for elementary ages, or the books designed for older children.  What might I gain by having him spend the hours now, when he's younger, as opposed to him doing more speedily and efficiently when he's older?

Classical education has the teacher stretching the student.  Not painfully, but ideally in that sweet spot right out of the comfort zone but before frustration, where they gain new skills or expand their thinking in new ways.  I was thinking this morning of the many tussles I had with both Chana and Sarah about Chumash, and how after a few years of "stretching," they got into the groove and could read and translate fairly independently.

Unschooling has the child playing, playing, playing.  The play is the essential activity through which they learn and grow and discover.  They also become interested in different areas of knowledge, and learn what they need and want in order to pursue what they want to pursue.
I think, given our home environment, it will be unlikely that Elazar will reach bar mitzva without desiring to read and understand the Torah.

Am I willing to risk that?

Some might argue that having the discipline to sit and apply himself to learning is an important skill to develop.  All I can say to that is that in my experience, playing for more years does not impact on their future ability to be self-disciplined and to apply themselves.  Sarah went from learning 45 minutes of chumash, 45 minutes of math, and 15 minutes of rashi a day (less than 2 hours, not in a row) to sitting from 8am-5pm.  And homework.  With no trouble at all.
Probably the fact that this was her choice had an effect.  I would hope that my education includes enough of a sense of responsibility that applying themselves diligently to work to support themselves would be their choice, too.

Another argument is that perhaps my son is old enough for chinuch and I am not educating him to immerse himself in Torah.  I have numerous thoughts on this so maybe it would be better to have it its own post.

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