My son took apart his old Nintendo DS last night.
It hadn’t worked in years.
In the past, he has also dismantled my old coffee maker (RIP sweet, sweet Keurig. I miss you so…) an outdated computer tower, and a boom box radio that had no business being in the 21st century.
He loves to do it.
I think he may be trying to figure out how the parts work together – at least a little.
But mostly, he likes the process of taking something whole and dismantling it into smaller and smaller pieces.
As he diligently worked to unscrew plastic components and tiny little springs began to litter the floor around him, I watched and thought to myself –
Does this count as school?
I have asked this question so many times, it would be impossible to tally.
My son is binge watching Man vs. Wild. Does this count as school?
My oldest keeps comparing and contrasting different computer parts in his system while a You Tube video from Linus Tech Tips plays in the background. This is school, right?
My youngest has been bouncing on the trampoline with yoga balls for an hour. He would have PE and OT if he were in school so this totally counts, doesn’t it?
Does This Count As School?
Our seventh year homeschooling has brought a much more relaxed and hands-on approach to learning than in the past. As I finally begin to let go of the idea of how school “should be” and instead, lean into how my children learn best, I find myself asking this question even more than before.
The truth is, when you are a tried and true, publicly educated educator, the idea of what is and isn’t school runs deep. No matter how much I see the benefit of our out of the box approach to learning, I still try to fit it back into some sort of box that resembles the school I once knew and loved.
Honestly, it makes me tired.
As a result, I have been trying to figure out why this is so important to me. I live in a state that does not require portfolios or even detailed record keeping.
The pressure I am putting on myself is all my own doing.
Why Am I Asking If It Counts?
If I am 100% honest with myself, I ask because I worry. I want to know that my boys are learning and progressing. I want to feel like this crazy experiment we call homeschool is going to pay off. Unfortunately, the only experience I have to draw from is my own education. In my desire for measurement, I try to force their learning into something I know a lot more about.
The Require Vs. Inspire Dilemma
Early on in our homeschool journey, I was told some variation of “You want to inspire your kids to learn, not require it of them.” I am totally, 100% on board with this concept. And yet, I have also found that sometimes, I absolutely need to require my kids to learn basic tasks and everyday functions that will help them be productive people in the world. (Think reading beyond a second grade level and showering.) I wrote all about this dilemma last week at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
Some days, when my kids are skipping through the halls of the science center, or re-enacting the Cold War in our living room, I am amazed at how inspired they really are when it comes to natural learning.
Other days, I am freaking out because neither of them wants to do anything other than play computer games.
Don’t they know they are going to be adults soon and have to get a job and be functional people and how will my youngest ever learn to read and maybe I should’ve been requiring a whole lot more all along and look at all the things my friend who is a classical homeschooler requires of her children each day and aren’t they great? (Read the rest here…)
Trying to follow my boys’ interests in our learning means it necessarily looks different from “regular school.” It means rabbit trails that last for days and include very little math. It requires a confidence that I just simply don’t have sometimes, and so, I find myself creating a checklist of what “counts as school.”
It does not serve us well.
Inevitably, I end up trying to force my boys to complete a worksheet or dust off the textbook I knew wouldn’t be a good fit for us when I bought it. Asking “Does this count as school?” brings unnecessary stress and pressure.
Lately, when I find myself doing this, I instead substitute this question –
Is My Child Learning?
The answer is always, always yes.