All due respect to those for whom Cyber School works, I don't know how else to describe it. You might remember that I mentioned way back in July of last year that we were going to try it out in the fall. We did. We've come to two conclusions:
1) The boys needed a taste of what "real" school is like. Living in Springfield, Mass was difficult for us, and they had largely escaped the loneliness by spending most days playing Minecraft. We think Minecraft is great, but the whole point of homeschooling is to give them things they can't get at a public school. Time creating in Minecraft is only one of those things, and we were all losing perspective. The amount of work, time, testing, and repetition in Cyber school helped us to get that back. I think all of us, myself included, had begun to take our good fortune for granted. Many people would love to homeschool but can't for various reasons.It also gave me a break from building curriculum and cracking the whip, both of which I hate (more on that later)
2) Cyber isn't for us. Since moving to PA, we've found ourselves in a situation much like we had when we began homeschooling back in 2009. There are so many opportunities for the boys to learn and grow just from events and activities available in our area - things that in the end, we believe are far more valuable than tests or worksheets. The amount of time sucked up by Cyber kept us from participating in much of that. Now there's a vibe of anticipation here as we make lists of activities we'd like to seek out, things we want to learn, books we want to read, skills we want to acquire...it's nearly endless. We've known for a long time that people learn best by doing. So that's the plan - to do.
This approach is often known as "unschooling" - not because we don't "do" school, but because we attempt to remove the labels of "school" and "free time" and just replace them with real life. Life is school anyway, or it should be. It's the outcome of asking such questions as:
*Is it more important for a child to read about making spaghetti or to actually learn how to make spaghetti?
*Is it more valuable to read Huck Finn or Shakespeare, or to read a story in a lit textbook designed to help them pass a test at the end of the year?
*Do we want them to read fast, or to read books that will impact and challenge them? Likewise, do we want them to write fast, or be able to express themselves well on paper?
*Will they learn more by doing money math on a worksheet or by helping to create a grocery budget, leading the way at the store, and learning to balance the checkbook?
*Which is better - days spent in a classroom surrounded only by humans of the same age, or the freedom to interact with people of all ages through volunteering, spending their own money, and taking part in community events? Which is true socialization?
*Is it more valuable to go to a string concert, silent movie, art class, science fair, cooking workshop, Renaissance Faire, and the library several times in a month by choice, or to be forced into choir class, typing, gym class, and have limited library access?
*Would you rather a child hear lectures for years about choosing a career about which they know very little, or have the time for hands-on experience mowing lawns, shoveling snow, volunteering, and talking to professional adults about what they do?
For us, the answers to all of this are a no-brainer. It will not be easy to get back to this mentality. I think the biggest challenge lies with Christie and myself - are we also willing to put down the "important" things we must get done in favor of watching documentaries together, reading a new book, attending a class or workshop, or involving the boys more in our day to day responsibilities? The first step is to challenge ourselves intellectually and lead by example.
It means real books over textbooks, doing instead of watching, pursuing interests deeply rather than gaining a shallow knowledge of everything we encounter, and yes, from time to time - good old fashioned pencil and paper for writing letters, working some math problems, and artwork. Because pencil and paper is also part of life.
This also means there will be more to report here, for those of you following our adventures. Thanks for being patient over the last 7 months. I promise to post more in the future because there will be more to post about.