Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I posted about exams on my other blog and the final paragraph went like this:

I hope all this doesn't give you the idea that examinations in a homeschool have to be intense or stressful. If they are prepared for, and modified to the family and students' situation, they should be a challenging but basically positive experience, giving everyone a chance to display what they have learned, and vary the routine of the school year. You could plan a short break from school, a field trip or some kind of celebration to mark the finish to the past term and the prospect of a fresh start in the new one.
I wanted to remark on that last sentence. Yesterday after I had typed up Kieron's narrations and gotten all the exam posts up on the blog, I sat down with the three youngers I have at home presently, 11 and down. We played. And played. And played.

  • First we played chess.
  • Then I made dinner while the littlies played with playdough. (we made a fun meal -- sausages and pancakes for dinner -- Kieron helped).
  • Then I made a whole bunch of floor puzzles with the littlies, only it ended up mostly being Kieron and me since the puzzles were still too hard for the little ones.
  • Then we went hunting for more games (in the process I straightened our games closet a bit while Kieron chatted with me).
  • Then we played SET.
  • Then we played Notre Dame UNO.
  • Then I gave Aidan his Wilbarger brushing and Kieron talked to me about all kinds of things.
  • Then I read to Paddy and got him to sleep.
This was between about 5 and 9 or so, so LOTS of together time.

I think that for all of us, the playing was somewhat related to the exam thing. I don't think the exams were hard or stressful for Kieron. The littlies got pushed to the side a bit while we were doing them, but it wasn't that long, so I don't think it made them feel cast out in the cold.

However, one of my big "issues" about formal academics is the potential compartmentalization. Life vs learning; Mom vs teacher; serious vs frivolous. To put it another way, if I write down everything Kieron says about what I think of as an educational subject, but pretty much ignore him "uh-huh, uh-huh" when he is talking about his dragon game or something else close to his heart -- well, there's an uncomfortable twinge with that. Clare is old enough and observant and articulate enough to reflect on her homeschool experience, and one of the things she liked about our homeschooling was that we tried to keep a flow from one thing to another. Tried, but sometimes misstepped, and she remembers the missteps as salutory lessons.

JoVE who so often brings out something I'd only half-mentioned or half-thought of, made an interesting comment about her "inner unschooler". I have been thinking about this and hope to blog about it on my Spacious Place blog. Exams do not seem unschooly, do they? Nor do all these forms and assignments I've been posting on here. I have been silent about that because I can't quite figure out what to say. My inner unschooler is a right-brained thinker ;-). She tends to feel and experience and see (if I let her do it) .

If she, my inner unschooler, were given a chance to come up with her understanding of this exam thing, she would say she didn't like the word and wished there were another word that didn't imply Grand Inquisition.

But in a way the exam itself was one of the best parts of the academic year for her sensibilities, because we got to be informal, discuss, reflect and look back, focus on the positive, observe in a context -- all the things that she, particularly, enjoys a lot. (of course that makes it sound like unschooling is all about ME not the kids, but I'll have to leave that there for now and pick it up some other time)

The games and puzzle session seemed to be part and parcel of the whole thing, in a way. The whole day was draining for this introvert (and Paddy got a bit over the top with all the attention and interaction!) but it was a really nice day. Particularly because Kieron, the younger middle child, doesn't often get to be 'the oldest' and the main focus of attention.

I think he would like it if I sat down with him every day, or at least every week, and interviewed him about his observations and interests. It was interesting to see and hear his mind at work all day, and I think he could tell it was interesting to me -- that I wasn't critiquing or evaluating (two of my other kids would have/did find this kind of thing stressful and artificial, because of the type of private learners they are, but Kieron is like Liam in several ways and one of them is that he likes academic give and take)


  1. Yeh Ive thought about things like this too. It seems like I spend all my time with Tink but at the end of the day she will say I havent spent time with her and wonder if we can do something together. This always throws me a little. I guess school isnt the same. Its hard for my days to flow from school to evening duties because of the tutoring students. They make a definite end to the school day. It's all such a fine balance.

  2. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Actually when I read the details of what you and K actually did as an examination, I could definitely see the unschooling side of it. I only have one child. It isn't that complicated for me to listen to how her mind works in the normal course of things. But with more children, I can definitely see how making some time to focus on one child and have this conversation (particularly if this format suits the child's personality) would be helpful.

    You can go laugh about my inner unschooler now