I recently shared that my daughter cries during math. In case you’re wondering, we’re talking low level, basic elementary math. If you’ve read my book The Classical Unschooler, you already know that we do not use a curriculum. We simple learn basic math functions and drill math facts with flash cards.
I know this is the point at which some people lose me. In fact, I’ve been spoken to more than once about the matter – my friends who follow the classical model do not understand or respect unschooling and those of you whom I know to be unschoolers don’t like the drills or memorization. Both camps are entirely convinced that their side is right and education should be done their way.
However, I insist that you’re both right if that is what works for your family.
Here’s what works for us: mostly interest driven reading and activities and some rote learning that can be recalled at ease. That’s classical unschooling.
In the Middle
Sometimes, I feel like the middle child in all these education debates. The older sibling roars and the younger one cries and the middle one has to get along with both. Or as a friend once succinctly put it, “We in the middle get shot from both sides.”
There are those homeschoolers who think that anything that offends their children must be removed from the curriculum. Anything that makes them cry isn’t good – they should not be pushed to do anything they don’t want to do. So the idea of crying – at flashcards, of all things – seems preposterous. Why in the world would I choose that?
And then there are those homeschoolers who like rigor. They like schedules. They want their children at the table, pencils sharpened, hair and teeth brushed at nine a.m. sharp. They finish the curriculum before they take a break and they never, ever veer off their time tables.
The second group insists that discipline is paramount and life isn’t walk through a park, so the kids might as well get used to it. The first group insists that actually, life should be a walk through the park and why bother memorizing so much and torturing yourself when it’s all on the internet anyway?
Because a little pressure isn’t a bad thing. It gives us opportunities to grow not just our knowledge but those rudimentary skills by which we acquire it.
Because it forces our brains to make connections and use them in other situations.
Because when I’m teaching math, I’m not just teaching math facts. I’m teaching my children how to deal with challenges.
Because we like to share worlds together and talk about things like current affairs and history and we can’t have good conversations without them knowing something about it.
A little pressure isn’t a bad thing because our homeschool is about equal amounts of curriculum and character.