Between the extremes of radical unschooling and boxed curricula, I’ve found a happy medium, a homeschooling method that is empowering and flexible. It’s not a set of goals and time tables and techniques. It’s a simple philosophy that shies away from theory. Pay attention to what is happening in each moment. It’s that simple, although it’s not always easy.
Being a type who likes to gather information, and whose happiness in life is demonstrating competence, homeschooling and the swirling rapids of decision-making that went with it meant research. Plenty of it. Major theory or style of homeschooling? I read about it. I found the most talked-about book on it and inhaled it. I filtered. I let the authors debate and pontificate inside my mind. I staged the theoretical equivalent of cage matches as style went against style.
I formulated mission statements, guiding principles, grand plans. In short, Ideals for the Preservation of the Magnificence that would be our Brilliant Adventure Through Learning. Those ideals even included room for change, leeway to adapt our Brilliant Adventure to the marvelous individualities that would no doubt surface. Thus armed with ideals and flexibility, I set forth.
Theory: Gosh but it’s a comforting drug when you’re high on it.
Reality: Gosh but it’s an experience that makes drugs seem pale and dull.
I can’t read homeschooling books anymore. I try occasionally. Karen Andreola’s “The Charlotte Mason Companion”, for instance, is full of ideas and reassurances and I have really tried to read more than 5 pages a month for a year. A borrowed copy of Rebecca Rupp’s “Home Learning Year by Year” sat rather forlornly on the counter for quite some time. When I try to read about homeschooling, it creates a physical sensation in my mind that can only be described as feeling as though my soul has set up a wall.
Blam! says the soul-wall. We aren’t having any of that in this brain. No more theory for you, young lady, until your room is clean and you’ve had a little fresh air and eaten your broccoli and taken care of numerous other things which I do not deign to mention right now. Lists? You want to make lists? And goals?! You slay me.
So theory seems off-limits for me just now. In point of fact, “The Tao of Pooh” is currently the most useful thing for my Adventure Academy. I’m trying very hard to be the Taoist Uncarved Block. Except that you can’t try hard to be it, you see.
“Let’s go and see everybody,” said Pooh. “Because when you’ve been walking in the wind for miles and you suddenly go into somebody’s house, and he says, ‘Hallo, Pooh, you’re just in time for a little something,’ and you are, then it’s what I call a Friendly Day.”
Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small, or Organizing an Expotition, if Pooh could think of something.
“We’ll go because it’s Thursday,” he said, “and we’ll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday. Come on, Piglet.”
Mindful homeschooling is like being a surfer riding a big wave on the ocean. Each moment has a new current, new wind, new center of balance. Paying attention to the moment, accepting it for what it is, is a power that comes from not thinking about power. Unlike many homeschooling methods, mindful homeschooling doesn’t make sweeping statements about whether the adult or the child is “in charge”. As you move through each moment, sometimes it is right to lead and sometimes it is right to follow.
“Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project into completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.” Lao-tse
That concept of ripeness, that’s an important one. You can force someone to jump through a hoop, to work through a lesson, but you can’t force them to be ready to learn it. Readiness cannot be rushed. Leadership means paying attention. Guides often walk beside. Children know when they’re hungry. Dust bunnies grow and multiply. Life isn’t following a schedule. Humans have their own tides of ebb and flow.
Some days it is the day to meet friends and wish them a Very Happy Thursday.