This is Part X of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. I will tentatively call this the last post in the series but can’t promise that I won’t ramble on about this in the future. Apparently I can’t stop myself.
Last week I formally committed to a decision about what to do for Kindergarten. Not bad, two weeks before Back-To-School. The decision had been gradually unfolding over the course of the summer and in some ways was precipitated by the news of our pregnancy but it was only last week that I finally signed up for a homelearning program.
Maybe part of me always wanted to make this decision, but I was scared. I’ve been looking forward to a bit of a break. I do feel sheepish saying this but it is true. Aside from a 6 month contract doing part-time work for Environment Canada, I’ve been home with my kids for 4.5 years. In that time, I went back to University to complete my degree, wrote two business plans, participated in a year long self-employment program through Service Canada and BCIT, ran my own business, moved to a new community (and changed houses twice), and helped my husband start his own business for which I now run the office. On top of that, I’ve had about 1 year of decent sleep since Rain was born and 9 months of that was pregnant sleep. I’m tired. I was looking for some time to think about what I want to do, to think about self-care. I’m tired of trying to fit work in during nap times. Kindergarten looked like a realistic time when I could accomplish some of these things.
Not to mention, we all get along better when we occasionally hang out with other people. Sometimes we need to miss each other. It’s good for Rain to do some things without me and for me to be away long enough to remember that he’s just a wild four year old, not someone intent on driving me crazy.
Thankfully, there are enough positive things about homelearning to make me commit to it and to commit to us finding mutual breaks as a means of making homelearning successful too!
So, putting the fears aside, here’s why I’m excited to embark on homelearning:
For a variety of reasons, I don’t think that Rain would really enjoy certain aspects of school as we know it. He would probably surprise me and do better than I imagine, but I think that homeschool is the better choice for him right now. The implementation of Full-Day Kindergarten was the catalyst that made me think long and hard about Rain’s learning style and about how Rain does for long periods of time in large groups. I am confident he will be happier and more excited to learn by facilitating small group social activities and by following his lead and interests when it comes to formal learning.
I am excited that the process means I get to learn with him. I am really looking forward to the things I will learn both along side Rain and in my role as facilitator. This is an adventure we are embarking on as a family and we will all grow and learn through it. Through this process I have the opportunity to learn more about parenting, marine life, learning philosophies, wet felting, math, our family relationship, discipline and more. Basically, I get to learn everything Rain is learning PLUS I get to learn through the experience itself. How awesome is that?!
I am looking forward to exploring the varied ways there are to learn including mentor relationships, classes, hands on, or more formal learning like reading or doing worksheets. I hope to encourage a love of learning by focusing on child-led learning, exploration and play. I want Rain to know learning doesn’t just happen within the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm and within the walls of a school.
We have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people through this endeavour. There is an active homelearning community here and they have already met to plan specific activities for home learners to do together during school hours. This includes dinosaur museum tours, Ukrainian dancing, swimming lessons, hockey, a bowling league, skating lessons, art classes and more. There is also a vibrant online community as part of the program we are working with and of course, we are looking forward to getting to know our learning consultant as well.
They say home is where the heart is and I believe that’s true. Our home is more than just shelter. We have made decisions in our family that have prioritized our home life. We don’t just come here for dinner and sleep and spend the rest of our lives either in the car commuting or at work and school. I made a choice not to go back to work after my babies were born. Aaron made a choice to work for himself so he had more control over his hours. We birthed our children at home, primarily because it’s shown to be safe, but also because there was something that felt intrinsically right about welcoming our children into the world and into their home at the same time. Likewise, the decision to homeschool, while made with our heads also feels right in our hearts. I’d like to share with you a quote from John Holt from his book, Teach Your Own that speaks to this:
I have used the words “homeschooling” to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all. It is not an artificial place, set up to make “learning” happen and in which nothing except “learning” ever happens. It is a natural, organic, central, fundamental human institution, one might easily and rightly say the foundation of all other institutions. We can imagine and indeed we have had human societies without schools, without factories, without libraries, museums, hospitals, roads, legislatures, courts, or any of the institutions which seem so indispensable and permanent a part of modern life. We might someday even choose, or be obliged, to live once again without some or all of these. But we cannot even imagine a society without homes, even if these should be no more than tents, or mud huts, or holes in the ground. What I am trying to say, in short, is that our chief educational problem is not to find a way to make homes more like schools. If anything, it is to make schools less like schools.
Further to this idea that the home is the central part of our family structure is the idea that young children need their parents. I know that it’s not always possible for families to make the decisions that I am making. I certainly don’t fault anyone for the decisions they make. Children are resilient and I don’t mean in any way to say that sending your kids to school is bad. For my family though, I feel that we have things to gain from prolonging our time together. In fact, according to Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté all kids need their parents. At this point, I’m happy that I’m able to be home with my kids to strengthen our attachment. I’m hoping that I’ll reap the benefits in their teen years.
Otherwise, there are some logistical reasons I think this could be great for our family. I’m looking forward to NOT having to pack up all the kids in the car twice a day to go to school and then again for any extra-curricular activities. I’m happy to have control over our schedule and how busy we will be. I’m looking forward to creating a better family routine and imposing at least a bit of structure on our days BEFORE the arrival of the new baby. And lastly, I’m thankful that the decision to homeschool means that I will have no choice but to prioritize mama breaks and self-care.
I’m planning to write about our experience over the coming months and I hope you’ll join us as it unfolds. I look forward to following your varied Kindergarten adventures too. We will all learn from each other.
How are you feeling as Back-To-School draws near?