Email: How it works for Donna
Sometimes I think it helps to hear a practical, personal description of how a homeschooling mother embraces and applies the Brave Writer philosophy to her homeschool. I loved this email from Donna (sent a little while back) and thought I’d share it today.
Radical Unschoolers would look at what we do and say we’re totally UN-radical. Yet, we live a pretty unschooling lifestyle in MANY ways. We DO use curriculum (Sonlight), so others might say we’re “inside the box”, however, those who use curriculum would probably call us “eclectic” ~ or something. We use it in our own way. We simply do not fit a mold and I need a new word to describe our style!
Our process is much easier to describe. It is simply this: let go of ALL expectations. Now, the kids might have some for themselves, which is great because that is how they will become all they were meant to become: by being WHO THEY ARE and setting goals for themselves. I have no expectations except for this: that no matter what, they are not to use failure or mistakes as an opportunity to beat themselves up or tear themselves down. Instead, they are to be used simply as an experience to learn by – a stepping stone. They are never “behind” ~ they are where they are at. That is where we start and go from.
This was scary to do – especially for my husband and even for the kids. I’ve been unschooled all my life. Oh, I went to school, but my education took place outside of that building on most days, on my own time and in stolen moments while I HAD to be inside that building. The kids and husband were never comfortable with “radical” unschooling, and I simply could not and would not abide school-at-home, so we needed to find a “happy medium”. That is how we eventually formed our “method.” It was pretty easy for me to let go of expectations, but I still like to hug a bit of fear to me now and then: am I doing enough? Will they be ready to take on the adult world? Will they pass their SATs? What if they simply don’t get algebra (I never did – and yet here I am! Alive and well without full knowledge of algebraic formulas! A fully-formed human being, though some might argue that!).
My husband has let go of his expectations V E R Y S L O W L Y…and he still holds some pretty tight. He has had to completely revamp the way he views education – he played the education game very well as a student. But his eyes are slowly being opened to what a true education is (8 years after we began)! This has sometimes been a painful process for him, as he has seen how his own fears and expectations have affected the kids and even his relationship with them. He is working hard to change and we are loving him through it!
I have learned to be where the kids are – not try to drag them to where I am. I learned to get interested in THEIR world – the video games they love, the music they listen to, TV shows, movies and even inside jokes (which sometimes push the line a bit and make me feel that boys can be really, really gross!). I’ve learned to listen ~ JUST LISTEN ~ when they are speaking. That means to STOP what I am doing and give them 100% of me. I notice that they do the same when I am speaking…pretty cool!! I’ve learned to monitor my reactions to things they say or tell me. Teenagers are funny creatures – if they catch the slightest whiff of judgment, they clam right up!
I’ve learned to see them, myself and my husband and our family as a whole as unique. Comparing us to others: our kids’ progress (or lack of); what our education looks like compared to others; what our family life looks like; how we dress; how we worship; how we keep our home (or not)…this is like quick sand. It is a slow, suffocating way to kill joy and stop learning. We are who we are – and that is a beautiful thing!
I’ve had The Writer’s Jungle for over a year now. I have longed to use it, but the time was never quite right. I’ve carried this book around with me, reading and re-reading parts of it, trying to visualize a Brave Writer Lifestyle. I think in a lot of ways I had to become brave. I know how to write pretty well, but I have no clue how to explain it to my children. It is intuitive. So, rather than take a chance of making them hate writing, I’ve never bothered to teach it. I love writing and I so want them to love it, too! Words are magical and powerful – I want them to experience the JOY of that!
These kids are so FULL of stories, ideas, events to be shared with others, commentary that I knew that when the time was right, it would all happen – just as they learned to read and do cursive and play video games and beat them. Step by (sometimes slow) step they have each wandered down the personal path of their own educations and I have been privileged to be a part of it.
By giving them freedom to be who they are, right where they are, they have learned much of what I was so afraid that they would not learn. I truly believe with all my heart that writing will be no different. And just as they have learned most other things in joy, step by step, so, too, will they learn to express themselves through the written word in their own voices, if only I will be brave enough to let it happen!
Yesterday we were looking at objects through jewelers loups and my youngest (13) said to no one in particular, “I can’t wait until Friday Freewrite! I have alot to say about what the inside of this shell reminds me of.” Unable to contain myself, I said, “Oh, you could write it now.” And he replied without even looking up, “I’ll just wait until Friday.” Ok…
Later on, my other son (16) and I were out running some errands and he told me that he had written a 2 page poem the night before. He said it wasn’t anything great, but it “was a start”. You bet!
So, I am looking forward to Friday Freewrite to see what these guys have to share with the rest of the world (even if the rest of the world never gets to read it)! It seems that they are, too. And not an assigned topic in sight! Woo Hoo!
So, in the same way we meander through our education, I’ve meandered to the end of this email. Just wanted to share this with you!
Donna in the ‘Burg