This has been the lesson I’ve been learning most during these first few days of our home kindergarten. Way back when, I wrote about our goals and priorities in early childhood homeschooling. It helps to keep them in mind as we begin something a little more structured (but not much more). For the most part, what I’ve thoughtfully planned has proved to be a very good rhythm for us. Just enough planned activities to keep everyone occupied and learning new things, enough time to myself, enough outside time, enough free play time. But sometimes it is time for one of those planned activities, and the children are doing something else, and I have to decide what is the good and what is the best.
For instance, yesterday I sent the kids upstairs for quiet hour. After the hour was up, handwork was planned. As I looked around to gather the children, I found that Miriam had fallen asleep and James had gotten out a small rake and was raking up the few leaves that have fallen so far. He was totally absorbed in his work, and when he saw me he told me he was, “making a great big pile of them, way up to my knees, so that I can run and jump in them, and kick them all around” which are lines from one of our circle time poems. I knew full well that he was doing absorbing work that definitely should not be interrupted, even for something “good” like the week’s handwork project. Handwork was skipped.
Today during circle time, we read a story about St. Barbara and how she was locked up in a tower by her father. The minute we finished circle time, they were collecting blocks to make St. Barbara’s tower. The tower eventually became a castle where the saints can stay safe. I tone down saint stories quite a bit, but there is no getting around the fact that the martyrs became martyrs because of “bad guys,” and I often wonder how these stories affect them when they are so young. I could tell James was working out through play his feelings about there being bad people in these stories. James asked me to help him write “only saints allowed here” on a sign to put on his castle. I know by now that play is how they process and internalize the stories they hear, and I’d be foolish to interrupt that because it is officially time to do something else.
We are not unschoolers and I’m sure homeschooling will always involve a lot of thought and hard decisions about when to encourage discipline and getting things done that need to be done, and when to back off and allow space for a different form of learning. For these little years, I think there will be quite a lot of backing off.