I have always called myself an eclectic homeschooler.
See that? It basically means everything and nothing all at the same time. I LOVE that.
Yet it is the only way to describe this constantly changing and evolving process we call education in our home. Funny to think that I started all of this seven years ago with Abeka curriculum and an actual area set up for a school desk. I laugh in my own face when I think back. I was SO UPTIGHT! I still think I have a lot of areas where I don't trust enough and let things flow. Yet, today's version is light years away from teaching my Kindergartener perfect cursive and making her cry.
Cringe with me. It's okay. I have apologized and she has long since forgiven me. She was the first, the oldest ... a.k.a. the guinea pig. I was an idiot. I tried to do school at home. It took about three years for me to realize I could determine when my children had grasped a concept, and the extra 20 worksheets or problems were for the kids in a classroom who may not yet have nailed it.
We slowly worked our way to unschooling. We had workbooks, but my two school aged kids loved them - asked for them. We landed somewhere in the middle of Sonlight, with no set schedule and an insane amount of flexibility. Again, my kids got very excited and wanted to know what we were reading next. Sonlight gave us stuff to pick from and rarely disappointed, mainly because it involved books. We eat books for breakfast around here. So, we just went with our interests of the day, but we didn't talk about it a lot. Plenty of frowns and looks of concern in our circle. Not many unschoolers, though.
And then came attachment disorder. The key to healing and attaching and bonding was EXTREME structure in the beginning months. Now, we had flexibility in how we filled our days, but our home was already structured when it came to sleeping, waking, meals, etc. Tourettes and OCD appreciate the heads-up on those things. We just had to make our schooling more purposeful and more predictable every day. Written out goals to be checked off. Giving a solid sense of accomplishment, and plenty of opportunities to succeed (even if that meant checking off in the right spot!). It was vital, and helped us all to have a sense of control and organization in the always escalating behaviors.
We are nearing the two year mark. We have seen wonderful progress. I say that after a day of yet another clogged toilet, a PTSD induced pee fest and sudden death to a flower pot. Yet, the big picture? We are starting to loosen up our boundaries. Unbenownst to most of our kids, I have been slowly opening them up to directing their own learning more and more. If you do it too quickly, your attaching kids will wig out. I have had to give just a bit more opportunity each day ... say, "Well, what would you all rather do?" ... allow them to finish breakfast and immerse themselves in something completely self-directed, like playing Webkinz Survivor for hours.
Not kidding. Actually, it was a full three days of challenges, immunity idols, tribal councils. It all culminated in the finale, where the votes were taken,
There have not only been miracles in learning throughout this stuffed animal monstrosity, but I have been shocked to see the amount of cooperative play, conflict resolution, trust and sheer joy with one another. I swear, my kids are leading themselves through play therapy.
I have had to approach these changes carefully, and keep a close eye on the hearts of the my most challenged kids. Yet, they are hanging with it. They are enjoying it. They all love to learn something new, and school themselves 24/7. It is almost as if we have always unschooled, except when we stop to open a textbook or workbook.
The heart and intent of unschooling is easy for me - most days. My dad was the poster child for autodidacticism. I remember walking into his office one day and finding him reading and talking about something new he had just learned. It was like crack for me. His desk was surrounded by books. I just wanted to hug them all. I LOVED being in his study. He taught himself electrical and plumbing through Time Life books. I cannot remember a day he wasn't learning something. He never taught that to me. Just exposed me to it constantly and I became an autodidact.
Now I do the same. It's not so much teaching it, as it is getting out of the way and letting it happen. The massive structure was for a season. We are able to move away from that now, slowly, without it harming the work we've done in the hearts of my kids. It is refreshing. It is still crazy. Most unschoolers do not have to plan around therapeutic interventions, but the basis of unschooling allows for that ... as often as my kids need it.