Our doctors believe we had COVID19, our symptoms matched the typical COVID19 cycle. And while we had a couple days of labored breathing we never needed hospitalization. We did, however, spend an exorbitant amount of time resting. Like really resting...staring at the ceiling and listening to music was about all I could do. The kids on the other hand didn't have the pneumonia and had a lot more energy than I did.
Instead of stressing about failing as an educator, I realized that I had an opportunity to use the illness as an excuse to try on "radical unschooling," extending all decision-making power to the kids. They chose where and when to sleep, when and what to eat, what to wear, when to bathe, how to spend their time all day every day.
Radical unschooling is different from how I normally operate. Normally, we spent our mornings doing schooly work - computer programming, project-based math and science lessons, Prodigy math, Khan Academy, read aloud. Then we would spend the afternoons out and about in the world exploring, meeting friends, and doing extracurricular activities. All of those things were things we liked to do and required minimal compromises from any of us. And I felt like I was doing alright as an educator - a little heavy on the community-participation, a little light on academics, but overall pretty good. I credited that feeling to how I planned and managed our days.
But with COVID19 I didn't plan or manage the days. This is what I learned:
1. My kids will live and learn.
Left to their own devices my children learned all sorts of things, though not academic things. They learned:
- how to negotiate what to do together, what shows to watch, and what games to play.
- when and how to move their bodies - they were sick, too, and learned when they needed to rest and when they needed to move their bodies.
- by reading descriptive blurbs, they learned how to decide what show to watch or what book to read.
2. The video game culture deserves a lot of credit.
Already fans of Minecraft and Prodigy, we stepped further into the video game culture. First, we connected with friend using Discord (a social media resource for gamers). Second, we jumped in to Steam, which claims to be the ultimate online game destination.
Here are some of the benefits I observed (as a parent and as a new gamer)
- reading, writing, and arithmetic skills emerge in a lot of games
- the community is strong
- creativity abounds, it is astounding
- immersing in game play feels good, which is especially therapeutic these days
3. I'm not comfortable letting math, movement, and writing slide undirected forever....BUT their creative work needs only a small tweak.
Skills are important. Movement is essential to health and well-being. And while living with illness these are the things that fell by the wayside. So as we become healthy and my stamina as mom grows (as opposed to my recent role as couch-holder-downer), I have my sights set on slightly more formal math, movement, and writing.
4. Peace & progress remains important.
I already leaned heavily on peace in my homeschool life. With peaceful and contented children (and parents), academic learning always follows. Not always in the way I expected or topics that are aligned temporally with national expectation, but topics always come up.
The challenge while ill became having my needs met. Sometimes the kids wanted to stay up late but they didn't have the energy to do it well or peacefully. But being sick and tired myself I wasn't prepared to help or guide them with patience and grace.
So self-care remains the clutch of homeschool life.
Moving forward this summer and next fall I have my sites set on planning and managing Math, Movement, and Writing. I've already seen how beautifully the kids live and learn on their own. So I aim to blend the newly-cultivated trust in their ability to learn important things as well as my commitment to preparing them for future endeavors.
Math Skills - My family leads a Boco Math Lifestyle. So our real-world math skills and understanding are bomber. Arithmetic is spotty though - they can both figure stuff out but not quickly or from a place of memorization yet. They have big dreams and I know they will need to be fluent in math skills to pursue those dreams. To that end, we've agreed on daily practice using Prodigy and Khan Academy.
Movement - As our bodies heal from COVID19 and we're able to move and breathe, we've chosen running and parkour.
- Run one minute, walk four minutes. We'll do this for 15 minutes total to begin and build to 30 minutes.
- Run 2 minutes, walk three minutes.
- Run 3 minutes, walk two minutes.
- Run 4 minutes, walk one minute.
- See where we go from there.
Writing - my kids have been typing to communicate about gaming. However, their creative writing and longer prose need more support. They have brilliant ideas! The challenge is holding my commitment to writing those ideas down, thereby creating evidence of their awesomeness AND showing them how to communicate using writing. With so few social commitments these days it is easy to carve out daily time to Jot it Down.
Altogether math, movement, and writing practice take up less than three hours per day. That leaves a lot of time for my children to continue to pursue their interests. And after living as a sick family for two months, I believe in the power and progress they make when they do so.
No one should slave over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
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