One of the concerns I frequently encounter on this homeschooling journey is the concern that my children have too much say in how they spend their time. When I mention that they probably only do a couple of hours of academics a day (FOUR days a week, mind you, not five!) the reaction is frequently shock, followed by a remark along the lines of, “You know they have to learn to do things they don’t want to do at some point.”
This always kind of cracks me up, because clearly this information about how much time my children spend in school has conjured up images of my 6 and 7 year old swinging from chandeliers while knocking back a fifth of rum straight from the bottle. (I always make them use a glass. Geez people, we are not savages.)
Clearly, prevailing wisdom dictates that children need to have a certain number of hours a week in “school time” in order to develop the discipline to accomplish things in life. Unspoken but often implied in that stance is that they should definitely NOT be enjoying all of that time, which is another psychological ball of wax that could probably stand some scrutiny. (Not by me. I spend enough on therapy as it is.)
The reality is that my kids do things they don’t want to do all the time. These things are sometimes related to school, but often they’re not. (They’ve explained to me in depth, for instance, that having to do their own laundry is cruel and unusual.)Their sense of discipline is developed in a myriad of ways, and I am actually pretty thrilled that it is not being developed by by affecting their love of learning. I can think of no better way to kill interest in a subject than by making them fill out worksheets because we need to kill some time before the next section of time that has been arbitrarily decided is for science, or social studies, or whatever. Since our time is so open ended, and big chunks of time are deliberately kept free, we have the ability of delving into a subject fully when the interest is there, rather than adhering to a strict schedule that dictates that exactly five hours of time a week will be devoted to math.
Sometimes that means we spent about an hour a week on a subject. Sometimes that means we spend many, many hours a week on a subject. Our lack of scheduling, and our willingness to spend the absolute minimum of time on a subject that’s just not landing on that particular day, gives us freedom. Chances are, if they’re not all that interested in hearing about conservation on the Wednesday at 10:00 that I have scheduled, I’ll be able to work the same lesson in on a Thursday. Or on walk to the park later that day. Or on the car ride to dance class. The lesson will have that much more power for being presented when they are most open to hearing it.
Love of learning and understanding that there are some things that you have to do in life are two separate but equally important goals. I’m just not convinced that trying to accomplish both at the same time is the best way to go. As a result, our school frequently looks less like the pictures above, and more like the pictures below.
I know which one I prefer.