homeschooling ups and downs, all in one day

I've written more than once about my degree of nervousness around unschooling. Mostly it's not about whether the boys are learning, but rather two other things: how well they can demonstrate that learning to other people, and the pace and scheduling of their skill acquisition.

For example. Because he lives with obstinate introverted anarchists, Harvey has become increasingly reluctant to "perform" in any situation where he's not completely comfortable. This is a problem when he needs to do a math pre-assessment for us, or when he needs to follow teacher directions in Kids Church, or when I try and get him to answer any single question he thinks I already know the answer to. No Socratic method for this boy! Zion, similarly, needs to work on how to hold a pencil and make marks on paper in any sort of deliberate way. But since he can't draw the pictures he wants, he won't work on it at all!

But maybe you see my mistake in the previous paragraph. It's all those "needs to"s. Because of course, from any rational perspective none of those things are strictly necessary at all. In one of those posts linked above (the one on "once") I mentioned worrying about the 4-year-old Harvey's pencil grip and artistic ability, and now he's a totally confident draftsman whose work often impresses (and sometimes confuses) unrelated adults. Not that he's an artistic prodigy by any means; just that he's comfortably middle of the pack. I have no doubt Zion will follow a similar trajectory—just maybe a little bit later, since he does lots of things later. He doesn't need to "practice"; more experience will do the trick.

In a perfect world, that would be that. Unfortunately, we really do need to make a portfolio, and showing progress via assessments is kind of useful. So how can we combine that sort of artificial process with the real learning the boys are working on? I don't know... that's what I'm working on! Today, we did our morning schooling at a friend's house, and worked companionably on our separate tasks. In the middle of his math, though—that pre-assessment, third try this year—Harvey got frustrated and stomped off. And Zion, as the youngest school-age learner there, was disengaged from any formal activity the whole time. So we gave up, and played instead, then had lunch, then walked to a playground. Then we drove home and had a rest, then Harvey and Zion played legos and fought, then we played catch and baseball (while Lijah listened to books on the ipad and Leah painted the interior trim). Then the boys played on the new swing while I fixed the fence, then they played in our neighbors yard while we made dinner.

Then I reminded Harvey that there was still that math to finish. He pulled it right out and got to work. Zion asked me if he could do some math too, so we talked about place value while Harvey worked independently. Zion did some drawing on the chalkboard. Lijah came over and asked to do math too; we gave him some dinosaurs to count, and he counted two and three. Then we thought up rhymes together. Lijah wanted to take a bath and wanted Zion to join him, but Zion wanted more math; he only went after I promised him "math in the bath". After our bedtime story together Harvey took a flashlight into his bed so he could keep reading his Magic Treehouse book, until I cut him off at 8:00.

So that all worked out pretty well. Besides just good luck and a little bit of patience, I think a new organizational scheme we just started may have helped things along. But it's brand new, so I'll let it settle in for a while before I start bragging about it... it's not the first new scheme I've come up with! Tomorrow is day two. We'll see how it goes (but don't expect an account this complete every day!).