Homeschooling Update

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I was going over some old posts when I ran across this one from one year ago, about my shift from self-identifying as an unschooler, to taking a more structured approach to homeschooling. I was struck by how things have unfolded since that post back in September of last year.

I wrote about how my daughter, Miss Em, had seemed to withdraw socially from our homeschooling activities:

She now avoids crowds or groups of any kind which means she refuses to join any clubs, classes, or group activities even when the topic is one she is interested in or even passionate about. Despite having a wonderful homeschooling community around us she is a part of it in name only.

How far she has come! I almost don’t recognize this description anymore. We attend a weekly homeschooling group for tweens and teens, meant for socializing, creating, and learning together. I have seen her blossom in this environment, making efforts to interact, befriend, and participate with others. She has really come out of her shell this past year and I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. She has more friends and is engaged in more group activities than ever before, and I no longer worry about her future in that regard.

In terms of homeschooling style, I did introduce a bit more structure this year, but not to the extent that I had planned. The kids are both doing math twice weekly for about 30 minutes per session. And we are doing Project Based Homeschooling, with one session per week per child, which is very child-led and unschooling friendly while, at the same time, introducing the concepts of planning, goal-setting, checking in, and monitoring progress. It’s a great balance between structure and freedom. That, and all our activities outside the home, are keeping us Perfectly Busy (as in, not too busy that we are stressed, but busy enough that our days feel pleasantly full).

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I also wrote that we would be using a special tutor. That idea went out the window pretty quickly, and I have not regretted it.

Finally, I wrote this last year:

It has been very hard for me to accept that unschooling is no longer a good fit for our family, let alone the consideration that it may never have been in the first place…In a way it has felt like losing my religion. Like saying good-bye to beliefs that provided me with comfort and security but no longer fit my reality….The term “unschooling” doesn’t apply anymore.

I never did let go of the feeling that I am an unschooler at heart. I still largely self-identify as an unschooler and have not left my online community. I do use the term “eclectic” to describe our homeschooling, but it’s “mostly unschooling with a smattering of structure”. I really have to thank Project Based Homeschooling for the realization that imposing some structure didn’t have to be inconsistent with unschooling. And of course just watching my children closely, “observing for learning” as our homeschool program calls it, makes me realize just how much they are doing and learning and growing.

The truth is, I make the kids do math for many more reasons than concern that they are behind. They are both bright enough that catching up on the material isn’t difficult. For Mr. Boo, these sessions help him learn to focus – his attention span in this regard has doubled in the past year (he used to only be able to handle about 15 minutes, but now he is doing 30). For Miss Em, it’s about tackling something you feel anxious about and learning to love it again. I think of it as more related to autism therapy than academics.

All of this is to say that when I started this blog last September I had concerns and a plan to address them. Those concerns have been largely alleviated as I see the progress we have made this past year. And plans change, as plans do, as one goes along and constantly re-evaluates. That’s the lovely thing about homeschooling: if something isn’t working you can change it immediately. I’m very happy with how things are going and how the kids are doing. So, onward and upward!

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Learning to Sew

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Miss Em is currently working on two projects as part of our Project-Based Homeschooling approach to learning this year. Her first project is learning to sew using a sewing machine. She picked out a pattern for a pillow, which she has modified somewhat to turn it into her own creation. We had just started cutting out the fabric and sewing the larger seams when October came and she decided to work on her Halloween costume first.

She is going as a wolf this year. But not just an ordinary wolf. This is “Viper”, one of her own character creations. We are using the same pattern we used last year for her “Dragonflight” (another of her characters; a cat) costume. We could have just modified it to turn it into Viper, but she wanted to keep the Dragonflight one, so I told her she would need to make the costume (with my help, of course).

This past week we bought the fabric, lay it out and pinned the pattern pieces, and cut out the bits for the bodysuit. We finished up our session by having her sew the sleeves to the main body pieces.

I love that she is learning to sew, since I am becoming a big fan myself (having been quilting for over a year now). I think with her artistic talents she will find it helpful to be able to express herself through the medium of fabric. She has even offered to help me design a quilt!

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