Friday, January 26, 2007


My regular educational musings about what I'm doing, where I want to be going, etc. :) It's kind of my "Sharpen the Saw" as the FranklinCovey company puts it. Or I suppose in Montessori, part of my own inner preparation.

I've been reading Free at Last, a book about the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. It sounds like a wonderful school! It's like unschooling, but in a large group with a wide range of ages which means the kids are exposed to so much. The freedom they have, although coupled with responsibility, is truly admirable. I find myself, of course, examining my homeschooling. There is so much in the book that I find appealing, yet I don't have the environment (physical resources as well as sheer numbers of children) for anything like that to happen. It's like homeschooling with Montessori: it's just not the same as what happens in schools because the physical and 'human' environment aren't the same at home as they are in a classroom with varied ages.

And so, I find myself thinking about what it is that appeals to me most, that something that speaks to me on a certain level, a level that needs to be listened to. While I admire the total freedom they have, I know I am not personally comfortable with the idea of letting a child do nothing but one activity for years (like the boy who fished for years and years, all year long), nor am I comfortable with the idea of leaving them completely undirected. So it's not that. The various activities that they can and do participate in, freely, marvels me. And so I think it's about something I've brought up before: the need for a more inviting, enriching environment. Which can be a formidable task in itself.

But then there's something else: I find myself torn in different directions. I have 2.5 years (not quite) to get one up to grade level. He won't do it of his own accord and so, as Marva Collins did, I need to direct him enough with inspirational things and drill him with skills until he's able. I have to admit that I haven't done the inspirational thing as I'd thought of doing. I just realized this week I have yet to do Emeron's "Self-Reliance" with them, something that Marva found so vital in her classrooms that I believe she did it every year. So, on the one hand, I want to have an environment where I do show the kids some things and they have certain freedoms, yet on the other hand, that really isn't what is suitable for one of them (well, and for the 15yo, whose studies are made up mostly of provinical requirements to get her diploma) because I really feel the need to direct him a lot. He's not stupid; he sees the discrepancy. (There's also the aspect that he's not mine and so isn't with me all the time.)

I still feel in the cases of Montessori and Marva that inspiration is key. Marva provides a key to turning around the older child who has lagging skills and no self-confidence. Montessori is what allows the child who already has some confidence to keep building on it. And back to the Sudbury Valley school, it's the type of thing that a child with some desire to learn and some sense of self-confidence, a willingness to be responsible for oneself, that child will be self-directed. I could see both my kids flourishing in such a school (we have a very small one in town based on the Sudbury model, but it's VERY small and only English, although one of the owners is a former French Immersion teacher), but I could see the 12yo just meandering or avoiding all that he fears. For years. Forever. Hiding behind them, lying about them, making sure nobody would see those particular weaknesses. Sure, he might become really good at playing guitar or cooking, but I could really see him becoming an adult who can't read and write because he was too embarrassed to have others see that. Although, perhaps I'm wrong and the fact that a lot of the kids do read later would encourage him, at least not have him feel so badly.

So, to carry out these two different models in my home... I almost feel like I need to be cut in two. Or cloned. ;)

I find myself back at where I've been before, each time with a slightly better sense of where I'm heading. It'd be nice to have a nice big jump. ;) I see how I need to figure out a way to structure things so that the opportunities are there for my kids but that the 12yo still gets the things he fears most (the basic language arts and math skills) AND has a chance to be inspired. But this is one of those things where I have all these details that I need to somehow put into a whole. That's not my strength. Give me a whole and I'll show you all the details!!!

I'll have to work it out on paper. I have a need to physically write when I really need to work things out.


Correne said...

I wish I could help you, Daisy. You certainly have a full plate, trying to help kids with such different ages, needs, and styles.

The more I read your blog, the more I see we have in common. I, too, need to physically write things out when I'm thinking. I also like to do a lot of reading and research. However, you are waaaay better about details than I am. I really like the TJ-Ed idea about "structure time, not content!"

Daisy said...

Thanks for the feedback, Correne!

I soooooooo wish I could structure time, not content with the one, but it won't work. Too much baggage getting in the way.