As time flies by, and we get closer and closer to Christmas – I find myself wondering how many families have changed their rhythm for the holiday season. Are people still going about their days, learning, doing workbooks, going to playgroups, field trips and all of the things that may or may not make up our homeschooling days? Or has everyone taken a holiday? And what does that holiday look like?
Reading through Learning All the Time, by John Holt, I am reminded that children (actually, people) are always learning. Whether or not we take a break for “the holidays,” our children’s minds do not shut off, and neither do ours. I was reminded of this today while reading this lovely post by Sarah of The Forest Room. She shares some of the wonderful moments she has been sharing with her kids, including the activities that have been initiated by them: the “Interest-Led Moments.” I think it’s a powerful reminder to let our kids lead.
I’m guessing that, at some point or another, all of us who homeschool feel some pressure to justify our choice. To make sure our kids measure up to other kids, someone else’s standards, our own hopes and dreams for them. The list goes on. Some of us rely heavily on curriculum, some of us not at all. But, we all have some sort of expectation for our children, whether it has to do with learning goals, or learning life, or becoming a functioning, thriving human being.
Christmas is a good time for letting some of that go. Enjoying those special moments together, whether it be making cookies, reading stories, picking out a tree, or making gifts for loved ones. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do everything. Nor do I have to do everything perfectly. Nor do we have to capitalize on every experience of the season. Sometimes, it is enough to just simply be.
And, it is in this time of being, that it can be easier to let our children lead. Giving up on some of those pre-planned activities, letting go of our “work,” allows us to listen a little better. And experience a little more.
I’ve been reflecting on these things as we go through our lives during the past few week. We have an Advent Calendar, and every day we open up a new activity for us to do together. Now, if I was the organized type, we might have done all of these activities. Instead, we’ve been treating them as suggestions. Ideas to put in the pot. Some days we do our activity that day, others, we don’t. Or we do it the next day. Or the next. Mostly, I’ve been letting my son decide.
Not only are we flexible with what we are doing, I am learning a lot about his likes and dislikes, and what motivates him. For example, making wrapping paper really didn’t excite him. Nor did making Christmas cards. But, when he had a reason to make a card (a friend’s birthday party), he went at it with gusto, and zero prompting. Again, I’m reminded of John Holt, and the idea that people learn best in context, and are motivated by what they need, not what is assigned to them.
One of the most wonderful moments of our week, occurred this weekend at a Christmas event we attended. Once again, we let our son lead. At the event, there was a kids craft table, and we tried decorating hats, but he really wasn’t interested. However, as soon as the band started playing, Dylan was all ears. He ran up to the front of the room, and deposited himself in the front row. While other kids crafted, he sat completely still, entranced. Until, that is, it became too much for him, and he started to bob his head. Pretty soon his hands were going. And then he was up. Dancing for all he was worth. Enchanted. Seemingly unaware of the rest of the room, as he felt the music. I absolutely adored watching him. It was a beautiful moment.
And it reminded me of why we homeschool. Because children should be allowed to be children. To be moved by music, and feel it in their souls. To choose what interests them, and follow their passions. To share their enthusiasm with others.
My point is, we never would have had that moment if I had forced him to finish decorating his hat. And, although, many times it isn’t possible to let him dictate the direction our day (we are more than one person, after all), when it is possible, it is both wonderful and beautiful to see what comes of letting the learner lead.
So, this Christmas, I am going to remember to sit back a bit more, and let a few of my “activity ideas” go. Because, especially at this time of year, we can. And, because, amazing things happen when we do.
In closing, I’d like to share the best unschooling moment of our week: Dylan read the word “red!” I had no idea he knew it (or any word for that matter). But, he pointed to a sign and told me, “and that says red.” I asked, “how did you know that?” And he answered (duh!?), “because that’s what it says.” Once again, it turns out, we are learning all the time!
And how about you? Do you find it easier, or harder, to let go during the holiday season? Do you have a great interest-led moment to share?