kate5kiwis: home's cool


“If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth.” — Mitsugi Saotome

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

home's cool

Last week sometime, Cesca asked me:
Hey, just a question, maybe you could answer it in a post as I'd LOVE to know!! Why only homeschool for primary years? Most homeschoolers I know do the whole lot (or take the kids out at pre-teens and homeschool, but that's more to do with problems at school anyway).

The short answer:
There is no such thing as the perfect world. And in any case, I'm a paradox, and you know I like the best of both worlds.

The unbelieveably long answer including a whole lotta history. Well, this blog is a trip inside my head, to be sure:
When I was a little girl, I always said I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. So I duly finished high school and went to Teachers' Training College, where I finally learned the secrets of writing neatly. Firstly, I liked the idea of beautiful handwriting; secondly, I was ready to learn. Thirdly, the environment was conducive to learning: it was a teachers' college, after all.

Two-thirds of the way through my teacher training, Bulldog and I conceived D18. I was nineteen, he was twenty-one. Thankfully, the College was extremely understanding, and when D18 was born in late August the following year, they gave me eight weeks off to bond with my baby. Together Bulldog and I embarked on our journey of growing up and becoming parents within four months of leaving home. We celebrated our first blissful summer playing house and babies. Bulldog was half way through his tertiary study too, and so the following February we made the momentous decision that I would spend two more years becoming a certificated teacher while he continued to study full time and be a House Dad. It was heart-wrenching, weaning D18 at five months old and going off to a classroom, but delicious and wonderful having thirty beautiful six year olds in my care every day. We learned together and discovered nature together and read stories under the big tree and painted and swam and wrote class stories and made Hot Cross Buns together. We sketched each other all dressed in hats and I told them lovely updates of D18's baby progress and toddler progress. I wrote all D18's achievements and new words in a journal so that I wouldn't forget him while I was juggling the new wife/mommy/teacher thing. It was a huge learning curve for all of us.

When D18 turned two and a half, and Bulldog had been teaching in a classroom for half a year too, we decided to come home. I had missed two and a half years of the awake hours of D18's life and felt that it was definitely time to build a relationship with my son; and we had already spent six months trying to conceive R14, without success.

That was the beginning of Home Education. I remember receiving a note and a basket filled with crisp green apples from one of my lovely class mums, saying, "I was sad to hear that you are leaving, but I am very happy to know why." That basket still rests on our bench, holding our keys.

It took D18 and me a while to find our groove at home. We played with friends and cooked the dinner and hung out the washing together, counting pegs and grouping colours as we hung. We read thousands of stories and took photos and made books of our own stories and danced and bounced on the trampoline together. We started a wonderful Home Kindy with friends, hanging out once a week to paint and eat and sing and play.

When D18 was approaching four, a beautiful little girl was born. R14 was our newest little kiwi and we were all captivated by her. Over her first year I watched as familial love expanded exponentially and our two children developed a close bond; they grew up together, learning from each other, becoming friends. It was my hippie friend Helen who first suggested the idea of Home Education to me. She had three children at that time, and lived up North in a little town in the country, and home educated her kids. She said, "Five's too young for school. New Zealand law says that children don't have to go to school until they're six." I wasn't convinced at first, so I went up to the local primary school and spent two days relief teaching in a classroom. There were close to forty children in one room and it was mayhem. I immediately thought that we'd try school at home for a year. We did. We liked it. At the end of that year we had another little kiwi come to join us, the peaceful J12. We decided that this Home Educating lark suited us, and committed ourselves to it for another year. So we all played house and babies; D18 learned to read, R14 learned her alphabet, and my Philosophy of Education was beginning to form. Not without hiccups. Initially we tried to recreate the classroom at home, one year attempting nine different subjects. By then I was pregnant with the effervescent S10. It just about killed us.

Thankfully I saw sense and packed all the subjects back into the box. From then on, I started to explain our days as "We do life, with school added on." Lots of mates, lots of play, lots of cool experiences, lots of reading, lots of fun, and lots of housework lol. Ten years later I still have trouble articulating our Philosophy of Education. I do have a few strong beliefs, however. I believe that each child is born gifted. Each has been given their own special loves, desires, abilities. It's my job to create an environment where the whole child can be nurtured. I believe that at a young age learning happens best through play. Why would I interrupt J12 and M6's creative "stock exchange" game with the cuisenaire rods this morning to fill in a page of maths sums? Will we get to the maths sums? Maybe tomorrow. The kids are all a year ahead of their peers in maths anyway.

When my children were ready to crawl, they crawled. When they were ready to walk, they walked. Oh, sure, we held their hands and clapped and cheered them on. But the readiness came from the child. It's the same with learning to read, or write, or memorising the Times Tables. The child shows readiness, the parent responds with encouragement and a bit of direction. There's a whole lot of input from me as required, but it's child-directed, not teacher-directed. The children have all this time to discover who they are and to learn through play. We go off in search of experts to take us bush walking and kayaking and shooting and learning french and how to play the piano and other musical instruments and we meet friends to have picnics and play on the beach (ah, we do so *love* the beach).

And as we have continued our Education journey, I have come to trust each child that when he/she is ready to learn the next thing (whatever that may be) he/she will just go off and do it, even if it takes until age seventeen to learn to write letters neatly. Of course there's nothing wrong with a bit of practice, I'm just not going to throw marshmallows at anyone's head... unless they open their mouth.

One boy + a bunch of onions + a bit of kiwi ingenuity = the beginnings of tonight's delicious pasta sauce

Education happens all the time. See the quote at the top of my sidebar? "Happy hearts and happy faces, happy play in grassy places. That was how, in ancient ages, children grew to kings and sages."
That's the essence of why I do what I do. I believe in the Big Wide Open Spaces. I believe in a thing called love. *grin* I love this lifestyle of learning together, growing together, developing a strong family bond and sharing each others' worlds.

So why do we give our children the opportunity to go into a classroom at age thirteen?
Compromise, my darling. The best of both worlds. Even though I say I don't believe in the classroom, Bulldog teaches at high school. We are joined by the bonds of love and nothing can track that. (movie line) So it works this way for us: I hang with the kiddos during the first half of their school years, they get to hang with him during the second half. And be inspired by teaching professionals who have strengths in Physics or History or English or French. And individuate from me. And try debating at a regional level. And act in the school stage production. And sing in the school choir
. And get singing lessons for free! And travel to exotic locations (watch this space). And continue developing their passions in a more formal environment. (Just in case there's any gaps in their learning, lol.) Our first two children have had the awesome opportunity of being in their Daddy's maths class. He is in their world, they're in his. It's been an easy transition because they are ready, er, to grow up. (movie line)

Mr G. summed it up quite nicely yesterday when he said,
"I think it was the best choice we ever made for our kids and the quality of our family's life. Having primarily one income prohibited us from having a lot of "stuff" and "extras" but I credit homeschooling for giving our kids the freedom to be themselves and learn how to learn naturally and with passion. And to take responsibility for their own education."

And so far, for our kiwi kids, it's been a beautiful equation.
Of course we are still on the journey. Somewhere around the corner there are the million dollar questions awaiting us:
Where to from here? What will happen with the last three lads? Will they go to school too?
Well, I can't tell just yet: you know we only take one year at a time.


OpenID hippyhappyhay said...

A very serious explaination on your life philosophy....I thought I was at the wrong blog ;P.

So many wonderful things about this post, though I almost cried when you talked about leaving D18, I feel your pain there mama!

You are amazing. Your kiddos are amazing. Your man is amazing. Keep doing what your doing and loving it :)

10:49 PM  
Blogger Antipodeesse said...

Oh goodness, it sounds just perfect: I wish you would adopt ME!

11:42 PM  
Blogger Amber Lee said...

I really enjoyed reading this, Kate! Because of the community I grew up in, the church community mind you, I really came to hate home schooling. My introduction to home schooling was parents terrified of their children seeing the sinful world. So they banded together and taught their daughters quilting and their boys carpentry - the “correct” education for each gender. I grew up in what’s called a Megachurch. When I graduated, the members under 18 were about 1000. About 700 were home schooled. At this point though, it was a co-op. Most of these children came together to study at the church. Two years ago, June 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention narrowly missed passing a resolution saying that all their members should pull children from public school. Instead, they decided the best choice was to infiltrate the schools. Literally. Those were their words. So, saying all that, Home Education creeped me out. By the time I graduated from secondary school, I had moved away from the evangelical movement anyways (I should state at this point in life I am very much Not Protestant. That’s how I label myself, or Very Orthodox). My philosophy on education is “concern for the community.” I’ve seen some great home education since going off to college and I’ve seen some great co-op. I’m okay with informal education now, as long as the community can be part. There are some Amish Mennonites down the road, and they “home educate” their children. The big difference is all children are welcome. The families aren’t off by themselves. The whole community is educated together by the families. Communal Education is probably the best term for me instead of Home Education.
So those are my thoughts :)

2:40 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Amen, sista! One thing I'll never understand is the all-fired hurry to rush kids out of being kids.

We have a similar philosophy to yours in our home. :)

4:13 AM  
Anonymous BeachMama said...

I love your philosophy. If J didn't love school so much I would pull him out and go back to hanging out with him all day long. They get the best part of J, the mornings. He has always been a morning boy and now I get Grumpy Gus in the afternoon and they get my sunny J. Last week when he was sick it was like the times before school. A little tv, a little breakfast, a little quiet learning, a little playing, a little time together, all the fun good stuff. This week we are back to Gus.

I always wanted to be a teacher, perhaps my time hasn't come just yet.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Sharonnz said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, babe! The honesty, sharing and authenticity are sooooo important. (By the way...I'm currently seriously pondering your wee winter hat too...not quite on the needles yet though;-))

9:27 AM  
Blogger Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

luv you Katie
I enjoyed reading this
thanks my dear friend

11:10 AM  
Blogger cesca said...

Thanks for answering my question Kate!!!

It sounds fantastic, and now knowing that Bulldog is a teacher at the high school, it makes sense too. (Would you still do it if Bulldog *wasn't* a teacher?)

I've always been attracted to homeschooling, but at present I'm more than happy with our small community school, and N is very happy there.

But I like the way that I can change my mind at any time, and if we decided to homeschool, we could, even if for only a year or two.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Ang Jackson said...

Wow Katie, this is a great read... you have such a handle on your philosophy, it comes through, I for one am inspired and have taken to home educating my little dudes this year on the example that you have set... as Amber Lee said, I used to be creeped out by home school types too, hiding from the big bad world, it kinda rubbed me up the wrong way! But you do it for positive reasons, and that's what attracted me to it. We love our local school, but we just wanted to be together at this time, and I need to keep remembering its not about me "teaching" them, its about me being with them, and creating environments where they can experience and learn through opportunities that come naturally. The thing I find hardest is "how the hang do you fit a hair cut in!"

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Embejo said...

Oooh...thanks for this Kate...I so needed to be reminded why we chose to home school in the first place after getting a little too serious and stressed about it with wee E5 yesterday! (Shame on me....she's only 5!!!) so today played with mates while the mums chatted all afternoon! Your story was so beautiful I want to hear your whole life story! and the arrival of other wee kiwis.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your sparkly life.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Kate, reading this made my heart sing.......you guys do it so well, thanks for encouraging and inspiring us all those years ago:-)

**** I believe in the Big Wide Open Spaces. I believe in a thing called love. *grin* I love this lifestyle of learning together, growing together, developing a strong family bond and sharing each others' worlds****

That thing of not just 'them' learning but 'us' too........such an important part of it all, a privilege. Love Rxx

9:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Kate -- (I've been crippled without my computer working and I've got so much to catch up on!)

Love your post here. We turned whole-heartedly to unschooling when dd was 12, ds1 was 7, ds2 6. I come from a family of teachers. My parents were both teachers early in their careers. My beloved little sis, who passed away three years ago, was a second grade and special ed teacher, and she loved teaching. We grew apart as my family moved further into the unschooling philosophies and family life. That was difficult.

The kids have always had friends who go to school and they've always had the choice to go back, anytime they wish. Jesse, 15, was practicing with the High School cross country team, and talked about going back last year. I really didn't want sweet, shy, vulnerable Jesse going to that High School,(Meredith would have been fine, even funny, sarcastic Owen, but not Jesse) but I set about preparing to enroll him. He had some running injuries and dropped the idea. School without track team? What was the point??

Anyway -- isn't the whole idea to help our kids get what they want, be who they want to be, whatever path it takes them to get there? Your kids and your family look amazing and happy and so ALIVE and joyful! With that at the center, all the other stuff, future stuff, falls into place. Tada!

10:48 PM  
Blogger Little Miss Flossy said...

I loved reading this, a fabulous way for kids to grow up. I can honestly say that teaching in the school I am now and having my eldest son in my class this year has been the most fun I've ever had. I LOVE having him around, love having him bowl into my classroom at odd times (almost always looking for food!) and sharing the school day when we get home. And Tim can't wait to have him at his high school next year. Then it's my turn to have the twins for 2 years... fizzing about that too. It's all so GOOD at the moment.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Thomas, as told to Sarah said...

So cool. I knew we should be friends. We're two teachers here, too (one former, one undeclared for the future), but when my husband's teenage sister came to live with us for a year, we started really looking in to home schooling. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
*pls also make me 2nd in line for adoption. mi francais ...uh...necesite trabaje?... I've been in TX too long*

12:55 PM  
Blogger Nikki (Mother of the Devil Child) said...

Ohh Kate. You are so inspiring!! I wish my life was following along the same path... I would love to have the adventures and fun times and learning that you and the kiddos have!

I know I *could* do it if I really tried but my life is going a different way and I think I need school to do the things I have to do to be the best mama for the devily kid. Time will tell though...

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Nik said...

Oh Man, sounds like years of walking and talking and lovin girl! And not just about the kids but us too, mums and dads learning along the way to give and grow together. Awesome! No regrets for all the time spent being together aye! All that soup, coffee and trampolining, so cool! I am so loving time with our kids, wouldnt swap it for the world. xxx

9:26 PM  

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