Monday, April 29, 2013

Thinking but no time for a full post

I've been thinking about goals and education, and about the role of unstructured play. Does anyone else feel slightly guilty about unstructured play? My deepest impulse is to provide as much material as possible (things for crafts and building and exploring) and then let them do whatever they like with it, but I always feel a slight edge of guilt about not doing formal teaching. This is a constant source of internal tension. So far Nat especially seems to love it, and neither boy takes direction especially well, but I feel like I'm inadequate for not following them around correcting their play and making suggestions. Which is something I'd hate doing.



Sally Thomas said...

No, I don't feel guilty about unstructured play. My youngest kids are 10 and 9, and *at these ages* we do do some formal school, because *at these ages,* some formal school is appropriate. But their play is their play, and it takes up most of the day, without much intervention from me (unless they're trashing the house or about to kill themselves). And they notice and assimilate all kinds of things which I would never have thought to point out to them.

I know that for homeschooling families the temptation to turn everything into a learning experience is ever present, because . . . something has to be a learning experience, right? What is all too easy to forget is that they *can* learn many important things without our direction. In fact, even with our direction, somehow they end up learning things we didn't think about directing them to learn (sometimes but not always instead of what we wanted them to learn). It's also been my observation that a lot of processing goes on while children play. Generally it seems to be processing of things that happened last week, or six months ago, rather than the chapter we just read, but as we're not on anyone else's scope and sequence but our own, I think that's okay.

I would let them discover and play. Read to them, put on audiobooks if they'll listen, or else good music of some kind or another; take them places that are interesting (not just museums -- the Asian market is good); talk to them and ask them questions about things; but just let them play and don't worry about turning it into a lesson.

I feel all the more vindicated in this position, by the way, for having just reread Gregory and Martine Millman's Homeschooling: A Family's Journey. I reviewed it for First Things' On the Square feature a few years ago, and picked it up again the other day. I think you would really really really like it.

so many things to love... said...

I feel guilty about unstructured play, yes. But my goals are simple these days.

lissla lissar said...

I'll put it on my reading list.

Trusting in the process is very hard, especially when I feel like we're not doing anything educational. Although Nat has asked me about how paper dissolves and told me the Earth is a giant magnet, so at least we're fostering curiosity?....

Steph said...

I know what you mean. It's really hard to resist forcing learning, sometimes. It seemed for a while like Charlie wasn't very enthused about learning his letters, but we watched a few Alphablocks episodes, and he suddenly got very interested. Almost overnight, it felt like, he suddenly knew a whole bunch of letters.

I really like some ideas that other moms use on occasion, such as:

Setting up an invitation to play: leaving out something, all set up, that just BEGS to be played with, such as a miniature world that looks like ice and snow, with penguins if you want them to learn about Antarctica, for example, or some new tools and paper that just *happens* to be learning material.

Doing something that looks VERY INTERESTING. Letting them beg, then letting them try it.

That way there's no forcing involved, even though there is some subtle direction happening.

lissla lissar said...

That's called 'strewing' in the unschooling world, Steph, and I love it. I'm not going to be a total unschooler but I love a lot of their concepts. About Charlie- isn't it amazing how things suddenly just click?

I was actually reviewing a series of emails from last year about homeschooling and goals (thank you, Sally, for all your good advice!) and realised that while in some areas Nat isn't where I expected him to be, in other areas he's vastly exceeded my expectations and plans. It's pretty neat, and I'm proud of him. And of Thomas, too- last year at this time Thomas wasn't talking at all, and now he's using fairly complicated sentences and, while he doesn't recognize any letters yet, he knows what they're for and points them out. That's really cool.