Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Lets just say that when we were in New Jersey, we heard some concerns about structure in homeschools. Unfortunately, I was not the addressee of these remarks, so I'm not sure what the exact concern is.

Structure as in routine? We have a weekly routine -- playdate on Monday, parkday on Tuesday, dance class on Wednesday, visit to Gaga on Thursday or Friday and assorted errands. Hmmm...that may sound like we're too socialized. So, the socialization concern goes out the window, but what about teaching? You see, the real concern here is teaching, not learning, which goes on all the time and cannot be stopped. Well, it can be stopped if you make learning deadly dull and force it on a child and then tell them that they aren't doing it right.

We have a daily routine. We have breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening. Our bedtime routine includes reading to the girls. As for the rest of the day -- well, it depends on the day. I love to read to my kids, but thats gotten hard to do since the 3 year-old screams "no read book" whenever I read to the 5 year-old. I hope that this phase will pass quickly enough and we can have a routine reading time together.

We also play games -- yes, thats right, we sit around and play all day. And my 3 year-old is learning her numbers from a deck of cards. And she's learning her alphabet from the numerous other toys strewn about the house. The 5 year-old is learning, well, I don't really know what because I refuse to quiz her and when others try, she often refuses to answer, but she knows what an aeronaut is. I didn't. Anyway, according to the state standards of learning and the Core Knowledge Series, she's at or above grade level, so I figure we've got some time to play. While I don't agree that these are a proper measure of learning or knowledge, its a nice place to hang my hat while we get settled.

Does routine mean that I'm supposed to sit a 5 year-old down at the table and ply her with workbooks? Fifteen minutes in the morning for math? Twenty for handwriting? This doesn't make sense to me. Structure such as this certainly isn't about learning -- my children learn so much more from playing than they would with stilted, limited, forced workbook or lesson time. In addition to this view, I also have a 3 year-old which would make attempting to 'teach' a Sisyphean task -- or would it be Promethean punishment? It would certainly feel like my liver was being plucked out on a daily basis. Imagine how the kids would feel.

If the structure is for discipline, than I must still ask why? So a 5 year-old can learn to be bored but to 'take it like an adult' because we all know adults need to get used to confinement and limiting their brain use so that they can be productive, earn a good wage, and then go spend it. How 'bout a little linky to Gatto just so you can see either how far gone I am or how deluded such thinking is.

Running around and playing at 5 does not mean she won't be able to sit in a college lecture hall or have the discipline to study. Those skills can be picked up later if need be. She's only 5.

Perhaps we shall agree to disagree. Perhaps this is why no one discusses such matters with me. And a nod of admiration to my DH who doesn't rant in public.


H. Stallard said...

Watch any nature show with young animals in it and somewhere during the program you will hear the narrator say that playing is how the young animals learn the skills necessary for survival as adults.

Marjorie said...

Hi Harold, thanks for your comment. Sometimes its so hard to remember the simple, natural ways in which we learn. So many of us think desks, pencils and workbooks are necessary for education. Have you read any John Holt? You could write your own books about education...

H. Stallard said...

I remember one year I had a 2 hour block of time where different groups of kids left my class to go to special classes, reading/math labs, speech therapy, PALS program, etc. Anyway with a large group out at any given time, I used that as an excuse to not do regular lessons but let the kids play at whatever they wanted. I think on my schedule I had to send to the office I called it something like "Enrichment Activities". My principal at that time was one of those who thought that no learning was taking place unless everyone was at their desk with pencils and workbooks so I had to do some fast talking a couple of times when he came into the room. Some of my smarter kids who like Holt said "knew how to play the game" were thrown for a loop by this. It took them several weeks to get over wanting to do "school work" during this time.