Monday, October 01, 2007

School in our Pajamas

We got many and varied responses when we began letting people know that we were really going to homeschool this year. One of my favorites came from my Dad. We were talking on the phone, and in response to me saying how much I was looking forward to the year beginning (this was back sometime in August) he replied something like: "Well, yes. But you're going to *really* do it, right? It's not like you're going to just hang out in your pajamas every morning."

This made me chuckle. It didn't upset me, because I knew exactly where my Dad was coming from. First of all, you have to understand that my Dad, bless him, truly does respect homeschoolers. Most of his grandchildren have been homeschooled, and he loves and respects the work my sister and sister-in-law have done in teaching them. He also, perhaps unbeknownst even to himself, is probably one of the biggest reasons that I decided I wanted to homeschool, because my Dad was a wonderful teacher.

I was never formally homeschooled, but I learned a lot at home, even before I was officially school age. Some of this was informal, just because my parents are both the kinds of people who love to learn and talk about what they're learning and thinking and doing. But some of it came about because my Dad took time and effort to teach me things. When I was about four, he and I had a big blue notebook we kept together. We did all kinds of things in that notebook: color wheels, rhymes, number games. I created my first poem for that notebook, which he dutifully copied down (I can still picture his careful capital letter printing in blue ink). So I had a very early example of how to pass on the joys of learning and discovery to a child.

But I know the other place my Dad is coming from too. He's "old school" in some respects, which makes sense, given the fact that he's 75 years old (or young). He appreciates formal learning, the kind of learning he himself experienced. He values order and routine. I'm his daughter, and I appreciate and value those things too, in part because I learned to from him.

In fact, one of the things I'm discovering as we move into a our sixth week of the school year is that I have to guard against falling into the trap of being too formal. One of the reasons we chose to homeschool is that we value the flexibility, the way learning can fit into the everyday and be an organic part of living. I am finding that I need to strike a creative balance between "formality" (for want of a better word) or an organized routine (which describes it better) and flexibility.

In the case of the sweet girl, learning flexibility, informality and spontaneity feel most important now. She is her Papaw's granddaughter through and through, inheriting not only his love of order and routine but mine as well, with a touch of it from her Dad too. I guess it's not surprising to find that she thrives on a schedule. She loves when we do things in the same order each day...morning prayers and Bible reading in her room; breakfast; morning chores; another brief prayertime on the living room couch; a musical interlude when we learn our Scripture verses; and on to lessons (reading, math, writing, sometimes art and poetry) before we take a walk and enjoy some sunshine and do some longer read-alouds outside. That's quickly become the shape of our usual morning, and she would love it, I think, if I varied it even less than I do. One of her great challenges, not just in schooling but in life in general, is to not shape expectations around things being done exactly the same each time we do them. I think she will likely grow up with a great love of liturgy (at least I am praying that's one of the side benefits or good fruits that will come out of this particular character trait!).

So I'm trying to let my own inner scheduler relax some mornings, and just take it easy. This morning we got a bit of a late start and S. was dawdling over breakfast, mostly because she realized it was the first day of a new month. This is always a cause for great rejoicing. We had to change the kitchen calendar and read about the new owl for October (a Western screech owl this time). We had to change the magnets on the refrigerator that spell out the month and day and date. This inspired her to put together all sorts of letters and play with sounds and decide what some of those sounds actually sounded like when you blended them.

Did I look at the clock? Several times. Did I consider telling her we had to hurry up and get dressed and get ready for "school"? Yes. But then I took a deep breath. I realized that we were "doing school." We were learning, we were enjoying learning. And we weren't, thank you, Lord, having to get ready to rush out the door (which is what we were doing this time last year).

So I relaxed. She chattered about letters; we talked about owls; I started a load of dishes and a load of laundry. And for a little while at least, we did our pajamas.

Just don't tell my Dad.


Erin said...

I think school in pajamas sounds fantastic! :D And it always helps to remember "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." ;)

Beth said...

Ooh, I like that one. I'll have to teach it to S. when she's a bit older! Flexibility is one of the key character traits we're trying to work on... :-)