Today Oliver began school as a full-timer. He goes from 9am-3:30pm and it’s just mental to me that he is in school again; it’s never been this long though. He went for a few months last year but it was part day so I could handle missing him for a few hours a day. He actually loved it. He came home with tons of projects every week and always played with the wee little boys and girls that seem so tiny to me with their little back packs and their little shoes.
I’ve had a variety of thoughts since my son was about two years old regarding school. It was clear to me early on that he was highly curious and he soaked in information at lightening speed. All kids are little sponges that soak in learning (they are natural learners) but there has always been something unique about my son in terms of how he learns. He’s very tactile so he needs to manipulate materials in order to understand. He learns very fast and has a curious interest in science and art. He also loves to make things out of ordinary items. I have had so many kitchen utensils disappear into the abyss of our home because he is always making robots out of spoons and spatulas.
I have long asked myself what I will do when it comes to school and I have read, and reread, countless books on homeschooling vs. public school vs. unschooling all before my son was even of traditional schooling age. He needed intentional investment early so I’ve been reading about learning since he was about two. While most kids are fine just playing I had to keep him busy by teaching him about space and the human body otherwise he was always bored.
I’ve always told myself we will only take school one year at a time because my kids are always growing and changing so their needs will likely change from year to year. Yet, I have gained a very different view on education because of what I’ve researched and the questions I’ve asked regarding my own family values on education. It’s been a fascinating journey that is very much still just that; a journey.
It was also clear to me that he needed school this year. He’s been very under stimulated at home these past six months homeschooling and I haven’t really been able to keep up with his level of curiosity and creativity. Many days were spent researching a project for him online, gathering the materials for it, helping him put it all together (all of this taking about an hour or more from start to finish) only to hear him, the moment the project is finished, say, “Ok. What are we going to make next?” Then I would collapse into a ball and rock back and forth, clutching my knees to my chest. This has been every day for the past six months, that and the endless asking of who we are going to play with every moment of the day. He’s also highly social.
We were able to send him to our community school, a centre for the expressive arts, and I was floored when I realized he would be able to attend this year. Oh, the stuff he will make!!! The thing that has been the hardest is feeling like we’re ‘giving him over to the system’. I’m entrenched with homeschooling mentality so it’s very hard for me to let go of what I wish I was able to do with him (homeschool). I still agree that every child is different and you can always take things one year at a time, which is exactly what we’re doing; one year at a time.
Matt made an interesting comment this morning as I was wiping the tears away after dropping off Oliver. He said, “It’s not like we’re handing him over to the federal government and asking them to educate our child! We’re sending him to a school in our community and there is also something Biblical about this model; the entire community helping invest into children.” It’s a valid point. I realize the analogy breaks down because it’s sort of a community we don’t know intimately yet but there is always space to be highly involved in our kids’ education even if we are sending them to school. In fact, I think that’s what teachers expect of us too; to be highly involved in our kids’ lives. Imagine that! I just wish first grade didn’t have to be so long.
In my heart I still agree that we can turn out amazing kids who are highly creative, compassionate, having close connectedness to family before peers, all while fostering a love for learning. I think it just has to be done very intentionally. But that’s what I found with homeschooling as well, it has to be intentional or it doesn’t work. So we’re still at the place with our children where we follow their lead in terms of what they are interested in learning, we create space for them to try new ideas in a safe and nurturing environment and we teach them compassion all in the same vein. The only difference is that he’s also in school while I do all of this. Oh the things we will all learn this year!