• Tot School

Keeping Us On Our Toes: The Best Laid Plans of Unschooling

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted before about how whatever we plan for our kids, they’ll turn things all topsy turvy and surprise us.


In our case, it’s how I overdid early academics with my son, forcing him to do lots of workbooks (and yes, I do mean *forcing*) when he was far too young because I thought he showed signs of giftedness and wanted to jump on it, having been gifted myself (and never gotten the FULL chance to excel from a young age), as well as a desire to ‘prove’ how superior homeschooling could be.  It created a lot of damage and took us years to heal.


I learned my lesson well and learned a TON about homeschooling methodologies, freedom, child development, etc etc.  I resolved when my daughter Pomme was born years later that she would be unschooled.  At *least* until she was 7.  Around age 7, we might start some gentle academics if she seemed so inclined.  We’d use Montessori “lessons” through toddlerhood (not academic but practical skills) and let her be creative and independent and all that wonderful stuff I didn’t do with my son.  And there would be NO WORKBOOKS!  And I was so happy and pleased with myself, and so looking forward to this ‘better way’.


Well, then my daughter, barely age 2, started begging for workbooks.

Oh, not every day, but when the mood struck her, she could sit at her little desk and work for a solid hour, focussed and uninterrupted.


She’s now going to be turning 5 this December.  Along the way, everything else has indeed gone as planned… the Montessori practical skills, the independent self-reliance, the creative free range imaginative play.  But… she also LOVES to do sit-down academic work.


It’s like they do this on purpose, you know?  Just to drive us mad?  Just to keep us on our toes?  Just to always challenge our drift into complacency?


If she were going to school, she’d be starting kindergarten this year, although with her December birthday I think we’d have the option of delaying a year if we wanted to.  Except when I look at the kindergarten curriculum here… well, she’s finished all that.  It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged here, but as a quick catch-up: she’s now reading, loves doing lapbooks and learning about science, is CONSTANTLY asking questions and telling us “I learned something!”, and we’re almost finished Right Start Math level A.


What I really wanted to share right now is the story of what happened yesterday.


This time of year is, of course, back-to-school.  When I was young, this was my favourite time of year.  Yeah, I was a weird kid.  I love school supplies.  New pencils, crisp fresh new books, the latest nifty binders, colourful scissors, sparkly pens… Love it, love it, love it.  I’m almost 40 and I still love it.


I do not love shopping for school supplies this time of year, though.  The store is crowded, full to the rafters with parents dragging their kids around, supply lists in hand, desperately trying to get the 8 binders and the made-in-Canada-only pencils and the right colour pens and the white bristleboard that every store seems to have run out of.  It’s not a fun place, it’s a place of stress.


But, we needed poster mounting tabs for her new world map.  So off we went.


She, of course, was in heaven.  She wanted everything. But the thing that caught her attention most of all, more than the pretty pencils, more than the stickers, more than the bright highlighters… The thing that made her stop and beg… was the “curriculum helpers” workbooks.  Which every other kid in the store was very specifically and deliberately not noticing.


You know the ones I mean.  Every bookstore and stationery store has the little display of these grade-level subject practice books.  Usually there’s one for math, one for reading, and one for writing, as well as a big fat combined one for each grade.


My daughter picked up a grade 2 math book and exclaimed, “mommy!!!  This is math!!!  Can we get this??  Please!??!??”


I’m not making this up.


Now she is advanced in math, but not that advanced.  I took a look through the book, and well yes, she could do some of it, but really it was too much.  So I told her we’d need to look for one that had a “K” or maybe a “1″ on it instead of a “2″.  She eagerly helped me look.  We found “K” math — which a quick glance through proved to be waaaay too easy.  We found “1″ writing… but since we’re doing cursive first, any standard writing book would be useless, besides she’s not interested in writing too much yet anyway.  Unless it’s numbers, or her name.


We eventually did find a “1″ math book, and it was indeed “just right”.


She carried it proudly through the store, beaming.


When we got to the car, she couldn’t wait to start it.  We used her new pencils (I caved there too).  She’d read the instructions out loud, and spell for me any words too difficult for her (‘mom, what’s n-u-m-e-r-a-t-i-o-n?’)  She would squeal with glee when she finished a page.  She would whine with disappointment when she came across an activity that needed coloured pencils (since we had none with us).


When we went to the grocery store next on our errands, she sat in the cart and worked in her new book.


One lady stocking shelves noticed, and commented “oh, are you getting ready for school?”


Pomme grinned and giggled shyly.  I knew she was going to explain that we actually homeschool — she has been very keen on this fact lately.  And indeed, she did.  Almost.

She said “Actually, I do homework!”

“Oh,” said the stock lady, “this is homework, is it?”


I should add that school has not yet started in our district, though I know it has in many other areas.  So it probably seemed a little odd to her that this little girl had homework already.


I whispered to my daughter, “you mean homeSCHOOL, sweetie.”


She laughed and said out loud, “I mean, actually we do home SCHOOL!”


The stock lady said “oh, I see, you do homeschooling?  That must be very nice.”


“Yes,” said Pomme, “It’s way more better than regular school!”


Although it seems we need to work a little on grammar.  Heh.

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One Comment So Far

  • tracyNo Gravatar

    Thank goodness..I have finally found another homeschooling mom from NB. This is a good thing.

    I love your post about the school shopping…we are new to homeschooling and my kids have been telling EVERYONE for a month we are homeschooling.Do you get the funny looks I get?

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