Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Accepting the concept of Death

We have had a very educational few days - terraforming, biodomes, space travel, rockets, fuels, gravity, spacesuits, diving suits, desert plants, evolution, infinity, the lot.

Because my eldest child, who is almost six, has fully and completely grasped the implications of DEATH. It is unacceptable to her, and she insists that humanity figure out a way to solve the problem - and she has also latched on to the problem of a population without death, which can easily be solved with interplanetary colonisation, you see.

But under all the talk of space, which we are partially doing because we as adults find it easier to cope with than addressing her actual fears, because we are cowards, there is the basic horror of death.

And I don't know what to tell her. Because she knows what death is, and doesn't accept it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why home educate?

For some reason, I never published this when I wrote it in September. Wonder why not?

Short answers: I think it's a good idea. I think it's the best thing for my children. It's interesting. Everyone seems to like it. I don't think school (the only realistic alternative) would be good for my children right now.

Longer answers: When I was six I spent a lot of time very confused and unhappy about the fact that school kept us all in same-age groups, more or less, doing much the same things at very similar levels, in large groups, with almost no unsupervised or unstructured time. Also, I was bored silly. I asked my mother for an explanation and she wasn't able to give one which was acceptable to me, though eventually she agreed that once school was over I was unlikely to find myself in such a situation again, because offices, laboratories, factories,and most other workplaces are pretty mixed both in age and in activity, so I just had to get through school. Things were easier after that.

I spent some time in a school with mixed-age classrooms, a one- or two-teacher school, and that was less alienating and made it much easier to learn things, but still not quite right. The large large groups thing was probably part of it.

When I was about eight I met a home-educated child who had her very own donkey to ride around on. Her name was, I think, Sophia, and she was American, or her mother was, and we played a lot together for a while. She taught me to scramble eggs and make chamomile tea from fresh flowers, and had her very own donkey. Which was hers. So jealous.

I don't think I thought much about home education after that for a few years, but my mother periodically mentioned Máire Mullarney approvingly and assured me that school was not the pinnacle and highlight of my life and that if I waited it out things woudl get better, which they did, which was a relief.

Then later on I was planning babies and buying a house with my partner, and we were pleased to find an area with LOTS of schools to choose from.

But gradually, as I thought of it more and more, and the first baby was actually born, I liked the idea (of automatically sending them to school and hoping to continually firefight problems as they arose, through joining groups and committees and talking to teachers and principals and changing schools as necessary) less and less. I found various people living in my computer and read a lot. And decided that since what we were doing right now seemed to work, I'd change my default - instead of the default option being to change everything, from who we socialised with to what time we got up in the morning to what we did all day, the default is now to keep calm and carry on as normal, with the option of doing something else if that seems like a better idea at any point.

Linnea does best in a totally unstructured, unpressured environment where she can do things at exactly her own pace as and when she pleases - or a totally new environment with totally new adults. At least, she has until now, but she's only just five and a half, so things will change, I'm sure. Emer is a bit easier to handle, because she can take suggestion and instruction even from adults she actually knows. And she doesn't mind being praised half as much.

I like being able to accommodate their ever-changing physical needs. Children need more sleep, or less sleep, or more rest, or more running around, in hugely varying amounts from day to day, depending on the weather or what they're learning or whatever. I like not having to get anyone out into the rain in the dark to walk to school in the middle of winter. I like their ability to just do things, without any adults interfering or knowing what they're doing, and suddenly they appear with Something Finished, sometimes even with evidence, happy with what they've achieved.

I like that their friends are aged 1 year to 8 years old, if you don't count their grown-up friends. I like it when they teach grown-ups things.

It's hard to know what they like or dislike because they are young enough that their personal basis for comparison is meaninglessly small. But they are happy.

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