Saturday, September 16, 2006

School, Cleaning, and Treats

First of all I suppose I'll address the school issue. I realize the flavor of much of our learning lately has been that of school.
It's not that I find dissatisfaction, or incompleteness in unschooling. I'm just trying to find my way. For quite a while, I was just letting Trev roam at will, explore at will, and often he was very active. He'd get out his LeapPad, or watch Magic School Bus, or dinosaur documentaries, or choose one of a few other activities. And while these things he was certainly learning from, they were sort of always the same things. He wasn't venturing on his own to other things.
Though we were doing outside activities, it was just seeming that he was sort of "stuck".
Of course, at that time, everywhere you looked it is time for "Back to School". I started feeling dissatisfied with the way things were going. Like I wasn't doing a good job of exposing him, and us, to new and different learning possibilities.
I was also worrying a bit about math, as sometimes he gets numbers mixed up.
As I said, I've had my eyes on Cuisenaire Rods for quite some time, and finally decided to go buy them, and while there, picked up a couple other math treasures.
I've really enjoyed playing around with them. Building, stacking, counting, etc.
I started noticing immediately that Trev was enjoying the different things we were doing. I got out the magnetic board, and the letters, and we started practicing reading, also. Now while it's true that he doesn't initiate the reading practices, he certainly does not object to them. Almost always it's just a matter of "Do you wanna practice reading for a few minutes on the couch with me?"
While sometimes I do cajole a bit more... ie will you?, I back off if he is not interested. I know of course that this does not follow unschooling strictly, but as I said, currently I am experimenting.
He is truly blossoming right now. It is my intent to figure out how much is enough, and stimulating, and encouraging to him, and what is not. Of course, going too far with it is unacceptable. Even a bit too far is unacceptable to me. (The reason it's unacceptable, of course, is because I don't want to quash his love of learning, and make it something to be dreaded.)
What I mean is, it is my goal for him to blossom, and nothing else. It is not my goal to teach him to be able to sit still for an hour-and-a-half while doing lessons. It is not my intention to make him love, like, or even tolerate lectures. It is not my goal to teach him to focus. It is not my intent to make him into a desirable school student.
My motive is to keep my son's mind and desire to learn active. To provide tools for him that aid him in becoming himself, and the grandest version of himself.
Currently, our lives seem very full and rich. I am hopeful that I will continue to learn how to draw interesting things into our lives that facilitate our learning. For now, my ways seem to me a bit conventional, but as I am just starting to learn how to do it, I am hopeful that I will continue to grow in my methods.

Now about the cleaning thing.
I said on OLM that I've been trying to get Trev to clean his room. Now most people wouldn't even ask why this would be an important issue (they view it as the child's responsibility, something he must do "because I said so".) But to someone who subscribes to an organic learning way of life, it's a big deal. I've mentioned cleaning and chores a few times on this blog, so you probably know my feelings on the subject.
Add my desire to let everyone in my home be free to my need for neatness and organization, and you have a bit of a problem.
There are a couple of things I have problems with. First, when his room is a mess, he doesn't find as much enjoyment playing in there. I don't believe his quality of play is as good. He'll avoid his room, and watch television or something. Secondly, I find that he (our whole family does it, actually, which I find unacceptable) steps on things that have been left on the floor, or tosses things over his shoulder uncaringly, and I find that nonchalant behavior deplorable.
It's not intentional, it's out of total disregard. I have a need for my family to respect our home, it's members, and our possessions. Our things should not be viewed as the most important things in our lives, of course, but they are tools, and do provide us with enjoyment and entertainment (big smirky grin, and as far as I'm concerned, should be put in their proper place when not in use!).
The absolutely best way to handle it would be to voice my concerns and needs to my family, and then to ask for their help when I was feeling like I couldn't do it all on my own. The problem with that is, I would be cleaning for ten hours each and every day. And while I do find satisfaction in a clean house, there are also many other ways that I like to spend my time. And I don't want my son to think I never have fun, I only work, and I care more about a clean house than playing with him. Ultimately, I would just like everyone to pick up after themselves, and I'd do the actual cleaning. I can't quite seem to get into a perfect groove, where I can do it all. (play downstairs, clean house, work on the pc, change diapers, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have sit-down learning time, game time, make cookie time, etc.) sigh. I guess I'll keep trying!
My friend Rebecca, who also unschools, has a sort of standing rule in her house that old projects (not ongoing ones) need to be put away before new ones are started. I like this policy. There is also the Fly Lady's way of doing it, which is everyone cleans like mad for 15 minutes a day. That might be okay for some, but it would have to be an hour-and-a-half for me. I can't stand pretend cleaning, it doesn't seem clean to me unless the bathroom has been gone over with spray and a wet cloth, the living room has been entirely dusted, the kitchen is sanitary, and everything smells good and is shiny. There is also the whistle-blowing every two hours time-to-clean-up method. Don't think that would work for us. What would you do if you're in the middle of something? Cleaning up projects is a much more realistic way to do it for my family. I don't know why we're all in this habit of leaving things around when we're done with them. Wonder if we can be mended? hmmm. Think we'll try that for a while. It's certainly a preventative way to do things, which is usually a good thing...

Along this same line, I said on OLM that I was very impressed yesterday that Trev cleaned his entire room (crayons, marbles, little tiny toys, legos, books, everything), putting everything where it goes (different boxes and baskets) and then vaccuumed his room by himself. I was so impressed that I told him he could pick out a treat on our venture out yesterday.
Now, I didn't do this as a sort of bribe, or reward. It wasn't that I was so "thankful" that I felt a reward was in order.
But to see him do all of that sorting and cleaning all by himself was sort of a rite of passage, I thought. He did it without any input from me. He knew where everything went (ha! unlike his father, who still -after 16 years - doesn't put the dishes in the correct place!) and put them away all by himself. It was sort of grown up. Something inside him just kicked in gear, and he got the job done. I know it's probably semantics, but the treat was, for me, a celebration of a milestone, not a reward for cleaning.
I'll probably have a talk with him about it tonight when we get home.

I think that's it. I just wanted to write about some things that are going on with me and us, and the comment on the what's and why's.
I'll write again soon.

No comments: