Saturday, 18 August 2012

"Have you started yet?" - The ongoing process of learning with our children

I've been asked a few times recently whether we have started homeschooling yet, so I thought I'd write a bit about my perspective on this. I'm really grateful for the interest people have shown and the questions they have asked, it always give me a great opportunity to go away and reflect on how I'm feeling about things; this blog post is a result of some of that reflecting I guess!

Since Joseph finished nursery at the end of July things certainly feel different and Oliver and I were only commenting yesterday on how much happier and more relaxed he seems. There were aspects of nursery he enjoyed but Joseph was never too fussed about going, he's just the type of child who prefers to be with his family and at the age of four that seems to make perfect sense to me. It's lovely knowing that we don't have to watch the clock and work our day around nursery runs, we're all enjoying the flexibility this brings to life. So far Joseph has spent much of the time he's usually at nursery watching films and having naps...he's loving his lazy afternoons :)

Learning at home won't be 'starting' as such. The truth is that although I didn't realise it at the time, our learning at home adventure began the moment Joseph was born, and probably even earlier. I had no idea when I became a mum that I wouldn't send my children to school and in all honesty I had some pretty stereotypical ideas about homeschooling and the type of people that chose to do it! Nonetheless, the three of us began learning together in the moments after Joseph's delivery. I remember Oliver carrying him through to the recovery room while I was stitched up, and by the time I was wheeled through only a few minutes later Ollie was telling me "He likes being tapped like this, it really soothes him!" Already father and son were learning together...beautifully and naturally :)

I was in hospital for four days after Joseph was born and remember that in the two hour 'breaks' in the afternoon when the ward was closed to visitors, I learned how valuable our time alone together was. That's still the case for Joseph and I; we still benefit from time out alone together, away from the interruptions of the rest of the world! We started off 'tuning-in' to one another that way, and we still do.

In the weeks after becoming a mum I learned about my own vulnerability and felt it intensely, probably for the first time as an adult. It was the first and only time I have ever felt concerned that Ollie would leave me, not that there was ever any sign he would, I just felt an overwhelming need to have him close by in a way that I hadn't before. Allowing myself a sense of vulnerability has been a wonderful learning curve. In becoming a mum of twins and three boys under three I learned not just to slow down but to stop! I don't think anything else would have made me stop, but in stopping I have learned what matters to me.

Parenthood has exposed the best and worst in Ollie and I and we've learned endless amounts about ourselves and one another. The five of us have learned both individually, and together as a family. There are plenty of books around to help us understand what babies learn and how they develop in the months after their birth but I don't know if there are any about what parents learn, or what couples and families learn about one another! I'm sure no two individuals or families are impacted in the same way and I doubt we are even aware of much of what we learn, but nonetheless learning happens, whether we realise it or not.

So yes, we have started learning at home but in this home learning is not 'schooling'. Learning is what happens here all day every day in everything we do, regardless of how consciously it is taking place. The 'subjects' we learn and the things we learn about the world are a natural part of this and occur because we allow ourselves to be curious, fascinated and mystified by the world around us. All I have needed to do in order to feel convinced of this is simply to watch my own children interacting with the world. They have smiled, laughed, moved, enjoyed food, walked, talked, made friends, taken risks, recited songs, role-played (I could go on!) when they were ready and in their own way. Joseph is interested in and shows a good and growing understanding of sounds and mathematical and scientific principles; I am convinced that he and his brothers will develop all the skills they need, why wouldn't they when they have all managed it so well until now? To learn in the place where you are valued the most also makes absolute sense to me too; I'd like to think about this more and write about it separately though. And learning for us has also been about our relationships, our home and family life...the way we are together and learn together. For us its not about league tables, exam results or careers. Because this is the view of learning I hold sending my children anywhere else to do it makes no sense to me, and so for now we will continue to live our lives together, learning happily as we go.


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