I've been thinking lately about my oldest son's imagination.
He will turn 5 in August this summer. He would technically start Kindergarten in the fall. He's been in a year and a half of preschool when we lived in Louisville, KY. He also has had a younger brother for 2 years. He is just now starting to verbalize his pretend play, and he hasn't been "in school" for over 4 months. I wonder sometimes if our "school" environments do the opposite of what we want them to do.
Around here, there are a few people who take their preschool very seriously. You have to prepare these kids for Kindergarten. They have to write and test and read and do multiplication by age 6. But what about creativity and musicality and imagination? We have special STEM schools (science, technology, engineering and math). But what if all they really needed were Lego's and Minecraft?
We have Early College programs, but what if what we really need is getting back to a true Kindergarten. Rather than push our kids to do more than they are ready for, why not let them be kids for a little bit longer?
I can't tell you how gratifying it is to listen to my 4 year old son playacting with his cars (he is a boy so he has to have wheels). This morning, he was pretending that one of the cars was a mommy and a daddy and they were inviting some of their friends kids over for a sleepover. He's working through things he hasn't even experienced yet (sleepovers) and gaining miles of knowledge that he may never have experienced in a classroom.
I don't think that all organized instruction is wrong. Actually, I love the reading programs at our local library (they sing songs, play finger games, and read 2-3 stories). I try to take them at least once a week. I do plan on signing him up for either a music class or a sport over the summer. And we are signed up for a homeschool co-op in the fall. The problem is when the busyness of "being at school" takes away from the business of childhood. Maybe all this money being spent to "fix the school system" should be better put to use fixing the American family.
Because how can you fix a system if you want it to do something it was never intended for? The reason school is only 9 months is because kids used to experience LIFE the other 3 months. They would work in the fields, and help in the family business, and watch their younger siblings. They would hike in the forest, and fish in the streams, and sew their own clothes. They would learn to cook and paint, and read and write for pure pleasure.
I don't want to go back to those days, because I know they truly aren't the "good old days" but I do wonder what we are missing in today's world. I spend lots of money on occupational therapy to try to get my oldest son to eat some "real food" and the biggest thing they had them do was "heavy work". Basically it was exercises intended to work the whole body. They came up with all these creative exercises, and really what I was thinking the whole time was: pushing your brother uphill on a sled, swinging on a tire swing, carrying firewood into the house, tilling the garden. What if the only thing broken is that we are trying to live in a "brave new world' and our bodies and minds just haven't adopted to this new environment yet?
So we plan on homeschooling next year. I can tell you that our curriculum is meant to take only an hour or slightly more per day, and I'm okay with spending less time than that. I can tell you that we only plan to do "school" 3 days a week. I can tell you that if he fights me on the writing or math, that I won't push him too hard, but I'll try to find a more creative way to teach. I'm not quite an "unschooler" but I think I might be getting closer everyday.