Contributor Amida writes for Journey into Unschooling
My friends and I were recently lamenting the end of our carefree days. It used to be that the group of us met up at the zoo or park every single week to play. This was when all our oldest were 7-years-old.
Seven years later, they are swamped with extracurricular activities and more rigorous curriculum, making it almost impossible to schedule a regular, weekly get-together just for fun.
The saddest part is that the younger kids in the group end up with the short end of the stick and never really get to experience that playtime that their older brothers and sisters did. In most cases, they end up tagging along to classes or worst, are left to fend for themselves as we work with the older ones on their algebra or science.
With high school looming ahead, the days of weekly play dates slip away from us even more. Even for those of us striving to attain a more free range education, it’s not always easy to ignore the pursuit of academics so ingrained within us.
We want the best of both worlds — one without institutionalized schooling and standards shoved down our throats and still be considered as “educated” as the next traditionally schooled grad. We want to be accepted into the best colleges. We want our kids to succeed in real life and somehow, in our minds, the two are directly related to each other.
I think as homeschoolers, and especially homeschooling parents, we are often left with a sense of guilt, no matter what we do. Whichever end of the spectrum we fall on, we’re either not doing enough for our kids or over-committing them.
If we follow a rigorous curriculum, we are depriving them of a carefree childhood and ruining their lives. If we don’t, we are not preparing them properly for the “real world” and ruining their lives. In my own experience, I often feel a need for my children to get more done and be up to standards, or I have ultimately failed.
Photo by scui3asteveo
Coincidentally, this feeling of pressure usually manifests itself around testing or reporting time. Does this need to constantly prove ourselves mean that, as our older children climb up the academic ranks, we instantly have to give up on fun as more time is needed for serious study? I don’t know about you, but, even with a teenager in tow, I am unwilling to put away the finger paints just yet.
Lately, as I chauffeur the kids back and forth between their extra curricular activities, I find myself fantasizing about a different sort of routine. One without commitments. No attendance sheets to turn in. No classes to hurry off to. No assignments to complete. No tests to study for. No accountability.
But I can’t let it go. At least not all of it. I’ve come to realize that while the idea of an academia-free childhood fascinates me, it doesn’t really suit our family, at least not all of the time. We strive more towards a happy medium.
My children are still in this great experiment known as homeschool, so I don’t have all the answers. We may not get to play everyday nor are we always able to figure out at what time two trains leaving opposite stations at varying speeds will cross paths.
We don’t know what a hydrostatic skeleton is, or how to conjugate Latin verbs. But luckily, Google does. And if we really needed to know, we will figure it out.
As our family evolves from one child to four, so does our homeschool. I can rest assured knowing that one day (or week or month) does not determine our success as homeschoolers.
I am confident that, whether we spend any given day playing with LEGOs or cranking out 500 word essays, it will most probably all turn out ok in the end. I may forget often but hopefully, I can come to savor the days, as varied and imperfect as they be, and remind myself that it’s not all or nothing.
Today may just find us at home and frantically trying to cram for the algebra exam, but come tomorrow, we are going to the zoo.
Have you found your happy medium?