Thursday, January 19, 2012

slow schooling

 I was looking around at us the other day, wondering where all the time goes, and thinking about a conversation I had had with a friend who has just starting homeschooling her son and has lots of questions about "how" for all the home learners she knows.  A phrase came to mind that has sat there for a few days that I think in some ways describes our how in some sense: slow schooling. I had been thinking of it in terms of the Slow Movement, which, in the words of wikipedia, "advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life's pace." In as much as our family is a culture...that feels a bit like what we are doing.  (Incidentally, the website linked to above cites homeschooling as one of the many signs that people are slowing down their lives, turning to growing their own, making their own, learning from life...)
We are moving at our own pace, with a lot of space to do that.  We don't over-schedule our weeks, we don't push through a curriculum or a project, we don't have a checklist of things-to-know-by-June.
Puppet show
 This is not to say that there aren't days and weeks and months that move by at break-neck speed, full of Life and Everything that is not to be missed, and we say Yes to it all.
 This is not to say that there are not huge connections being made, and great strides forward in development and knowledge.  Sometimes, when it looks as though very little is happening, there is so much coming together.  For example, my wondering when things would click for Eliza and reading? Some time in her ninth year, things have definitely clicked! She is not eating books quite yet, as I know she will one day, but she is willing and eager and capable.  She is reading words like "ominous" and "although", "brought" and "vibrations" without skipping a beat (Dan was teasing me because I started keeping a list - kind of like when she started signing and then talking when she was a baby - but really! It's a cause for celebration!).
 I think it's because she had time to get there, and space to do it in. I think it's because we have piles of books of our own and piles of books from the library and we spend a lot of time sitting together and reading them and sitting apart and reading them and then asking them to be read aloud again, or "can I bring my book in the car to look at a little longer?"
 Time and space also gives us mornings like we had a few days ago.  Ani brought Anno's Math Games II to the breakfast table (it has been lying around for months without so much as a glance, as far as I know), and we read through the whole thing, both of us reading, and all of us working through the concepts.  This lead to talking about measurements, and out came the scales and that was a good bit of Ani's morning, while Eliza practiced piano. 
 Piano is benefiting from our own mini-slow movement in a big way.  Eliza sits down to play several times a day, once to work through with me her new pieces or new bits of songs, and then countless times to work through them on her own, to play them over and over (we have a really nice electric keyboard with weighted keys and a good sound, enough so that I could stand to play it, but it also makes other instrument sounds, so most songs get played a minimum of 8 times, once each for harpsichord, electric piano, strings, etc.).  If she were rushed, she would not be doing as well, moving forward so confidently, nor enjoying it so much!
 And then there is play.  Play which takes us so many places.  Play which inspires us to write menus, make books, draw up lists, make maps, create clothing, cook food, play school (gasp! out come the workbooks for a few pages of math and cursive handwriting), climb mountains (er...small hills in the backyard, but well roped-up to each other and a tree).
  Play where I am invited to join the tea party and listen to the story time.  Yes, she too is reading. And reading. And reading. With confidence and pleasure. I am so deeply happy for her!!
 What we have right now is time, and it is such a gift to us. Time to sit and create. Time to figure out how to share.  Time to find center and start again instead of having to go! do! now!
Time to go "slow".


alissa said...

so lovely. you need to reread this over and over and over again when you aren't feeling quite so confident! they are learning and growing so fast!!!!

Stephanie said...

Yes, a lovely piece!

One of the most beautiful parts about it is that if you aren't bonded to a checklist schedule, you can move with the seasons and the hearts.
Sometimes it's slow and so delicious, and it's savored so well... at other times life is eaten up madly in huge gasping gulps. And that's great, too. :)

kelly said...

So true. Love the bits about reading. My 11 year old, although able to read for a while hasn't been inclined until she found the book "Mr Stink" and is loving it.

Kerry said...

I love the "slow movement" and have thought about organizing a slow bike race: last one in is the winner! It's really hard to ride a bike as slow as you can.