Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To HS...that is the Question

I have been thinking a lot on the development of the Mind/Brain lately, specifically that of my children.
After the Rain
I have always been fascinated by the Mind/brain and if I had not gone the route of physical therapy, the back up plan was Neurobiology. During my PT practice I found myself specializing in the treatment of people with Stroke and Brain Injury. It was a time during which I learned of both the amazing plasticity and stubborn rigidity that an injured brain can present. I truly loved the work and always found myself wanting to know more. I even once dissected a (human) brain for a class, it was crazy, our teacher rolled out a bucket full of murky liquid and we had to reach in and grab one. Disgusting yet so fascinating. That squiggly mass inside our skulls dictates what we do and yet it is still such a mysterious thing.

A few months ago I began to seriously contemplate homeschooling the boys. It was something Tim and I had spoken about before we had children, a flippant remark I made here and there about wanting to be the one to show them the world. During those early infant days, well, it sounded like complete madness. But now, as we approach 2, I have become excited and engaged in exploring the idea of HS. Our current plan is to look at the community Parent Participation Preschool our city offers and enroll the boys in the program come next September. This I am comfortable with as there is active participation by parents of all the children, for me it will likely be weekly as I will be bringing in two. It makes me happy to think of seeing them grow and change in a new setting and I am fairly certain that the school itself promotes the things I believe in for child development.

From there, it is anybody's guess. But in order to know more and inform myself I am looking into the local HS network and also reading a few books that focus on the development of the child. I received fairly extensive training in school for physical development, but the cognitive aspect of development is such a complex topic. Years before I even contemplated children, I read a book called What's Going on in There, by Lise Eliot. It is a fascinating synopsis on the way the brain develops during the first 5 years of human life. It deals less with cognitive issues, more with the concrete senses and how each changes and matures, starting in utero and going on through infancy etc. Her approach is clean and well written and the lay person would find it very palatable...she has a way of explaining complicated bits. She herself is a neurobiologist that looked at her infant daughter one day and realized she had an amazing subject for study right there in front of her. She did not poke her baby's brain with electrodes or anything, just delved deeply into the brain development. One of the fascinating facts in the chapter on scent is that a newborn infant, only hours old, will turn his or her head to a t-ishirt that smells of their mother...not by instinct but because the bebe has literally breathed the mama's scent in utero. I highly recommend the book to anyone parenting or just interested in what does go on in there. You actually get a really good picture of the astonishing things that happen inside that little noggin wreaking havoc in your life.

The other book I am struggling through, but loving nonetheless is The Discovery of the Child, by Maria Montessori. I have always been attracted to the idea of Montessori education but never was truly sure of what that meant. To rectify this, I checked her book out and am working through it.

It is quite dense, not easily read as it was written and researched in the early 1900s, but I find her to be so mindful of the Child, and pretty witty too. I think the idea I am forming of her methods are that they promote internal awareness, early development of the senses and of the ability for the child to explore and interact with their world in a directed but free mode that gives them strength of character and mind. I am just beginning the chapters on how to use her approach practically, but it makes me feel good to realize I have already instinctively followed many of her suggestions as my boys have been growing and learning. One topic she explores is the ability for a child to sustain physically much more than we expect.
After the Rain
Well, those stairs? They did them all, at the end of the hike.

There are so many topics when it comes to child development, so many opinions and theories. You may wonder why we are considering HS. There are many reasons...I want the world to be their lab,
After the Rain
I want them to be free of standardized testing (which starts in Kindergarten in California). I want their individual spirit to be seen and celebrated. I want to shield them from the materialism so rampant in my part of the world, so that a train can be a train, not a Thomas and the name Diego only implies our friend D. It may seem ambitious, but if you think it cannot be done, please see Soulemama's blog and the way her children thrive in the environment created by her efforts and her family. Which reminds me, next method to research...Unschooling.

I think we vastly underestimate the depth and potential of the mind of a Child, and it would like that to not be so for my boys. So, please do not take this as a treatise on HS. And if it were not to work out for us, well, no harm done in all the reading. But I find myself embracing the idea. And before you, I would not keep them around in those teen years...come 13 I am giving them the boot anyway. I have heard living with teens is a terrible trying time. I think I will just ship them off to my family in Europe. Study abroad, you know?

So, what do you think? Any suggestions or ideas? Or even opinions? I would love to hear them. I think.

Sick Day


LauraC said...

I think you need to do what is right for your family. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

We continually assess whether we want to move the boys into Montessori. For now, Alex thrives in a structured environment with children his own age. Nate may be moving to an older age group in the summer, if we think the boys are ready to be separated.

But, we are so happy with the learning and social environment they have now. We did a lot of research before picking the school the boys go to now.

We are also lucky in that our county offers public magnet schools starting in kindergarten, including magnet Montessoris (free of charge!). That was a strong influence in our decision to move to this area and buy our home where we did.

If anyone can be a model for HS, I'm SURE it is you.

(laughed out loud at shipping them off at 13!)

Sereknitty said...

Beautifully written and well thought out! You are the best judge of what will work for your family and if that means HS, then go for it! A lot of my friends have done it with their kids, with much success -- I think the children have a much broader, less judgmental view of the world. They figure things out for themselves, instead of being told how to think -- not a bad thing, eh?

I've heard tell that if you spend a lot of time with your boys, working and playing with them when they're young, then the teen years are a breeze! Again, I have no point of reference on this one, but my gal friends who have boys, assure me it's true. :)

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear about your adventures in HS if you go for it. I also would certainly consider it. If anything to avoid all the damn sickness that I hear happens in preschool, uck. I don't know that I would want to do it beyond a few years, I'm not sure. or maybe just one year to get them "ahead" with more individual attention and learning and see how it went from there... something to ponder for sure. I suck at math too much to go to far into it I think.

Anonymous said...

Such a fascinating topic, A! We'll be needing to contemplate these issues as well. Oh, thanks for the book link- I know you mentioned it to me before, but of course I forgot about it. I so look forward to seeing you! xo-S.

Nicole said...

Because Soph and the boys are so close in age we're a the same crossroads right now. There is a gigantic part of me that really wants to literally take responsibility for Sophia's learning and educational development.

In addition to some of the great books that you're reading I'd recommend throwing in some of the things written by Rudolf Steiner. He is sort of a god, worshiped by all who live in my Waldorf schooling, biodynamic CSA town. A lot of his writings are available online in archives. You may have to sort through some of the values and such (they're a little outdated in some cases...but this is just my opinion).

In any event, it is great to have another Mama pondering the wonders of home or unschooling.