We've had an abundance of social time this past few weeks, despite the fact that there are numerous people we haven't seen for ages (and would like to). Adding trips to the pool and beach into the mix has been a treat. I love the arrival of warm weather! Miss 4 and Mr 5 are apparently loving it too and seem to have endless energy.
In the moments when nobody needs my attention (rare) I've spent a lot of time thinking and reading ... about discipline, natural learning and intelligence, mostly. It all comes back to an intense need to believe I'm raising my children in the best way I can (I say 'I' because even though P. and I are happily in it together, it's me who complicates everything with over-thinking ... P. just gets on with things and doesn't seem to get caught up in the why, how and what ifs of life). How to raise children, or even how to live my own life, involves so many variables, and the choices are so many, that my head spins until I realise ... I've once again overcomplicated everything. I need to simplify things and decide on what really matters. I'm so grateful that I have a compass in life, which is my faith in God and an eternal purpose.
Now that I've realised Natural Learning isn't just about sitting under trees all day looking for bugs (excuse my naivety, although that could be fun if I didn't feel so creepy about crawly things), I'm enjoying the even greater freedom we have. Raising children without school is liberating for a start! And my approach to homeschooling was pretty eclectic anyway (relaxed, tidal, etc.) so Natural Learning is really just another small step away from conventional, packaged education, and diving further into interest-based, intrinsically motivated learning.
The philosophical jump related to accepting any label however, is one that's involved a lot of thinking for me. Particularly one so different to my educational experience and teacher training as Natural Learning. Am I rejecting the validity of textbooks, flashcards and phonics programs? No, we'll use them when they seem like the best way or anytime the children want to (I think Miss 4, like me, will actually enjoy written assignments, whereas Mr 5 is inclined to be workbook-phobic). I will continue to have ideas of what I think my children need to know next in maths. It's not so much about rejecting anything schoolish, but more about elevating the status of 'unlabeled learning', celebrating accomplishments that don't fit neatly in a curriculum box, and having room to explore outside grades, subjects and year levels. Maybe the added sense of freedom comes from confirming my belief that we, children included, learn all the time, sometimes purposefully, randomly or deliberately, perhaps by accident, through play, imitation or by watching a TV program. We might seem to take dolly steps for ages then go ahead in leaps and bounds, but in fact what we did during the quiet time paved the way for the noticeable growth spurt.
I feel like this is a big sigh of relief. I don't have to make my children tick all the boxes. We can enjoy their asynchronous development rather than fear it. I'm still working out what this means in terms of routines. A sense of rhythm is still evident in our days even though we don't call any particular time 'school time' (unless we're playing schools, which the children actually love in small doses!) Next year I'll have to work out how to articulate what we do and why, for the purpose of registration. I'm looking forward to it ... just like a uni assignment, but with more heart!