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Beit HaChatulim -- The Reality

Okay, are you done laughing yet? If so, maybe we can talk about what happened.

First of all, the boys suddenly become totally incapable of doing something by themselves when there was the slightest possibility I could be paying undivided attention to someone else. (That was actually a surprise -- we didn't have this problem when they were doing homework in a more traditional school setting.) Next, everything took longer than I expected. This extra time was largely a result of the boys' own interruptions.

Then every time we tried to do something together (from baking bread to reading a book to chemistry experiments), various boys would wander off and never be seen again. (Wait a minute! Was that really a problem?) Worst of all, trying to review the kids' work and make suggestions for them took up several hours each night, meaning I was getting to bed well after midnight every day. You can imagine what that did for my disposition the next morning.

Then, quite without warning, their older sister decided to leave the public high school and learn at home instead. Her first two or three months were spent sleeping until nearly noon. The boys saw no particular reason why they should be expected to do anything while she was being allowed to sleep.

So, what happened next? We threw out the schedule, we threw out the text books and workbooks, and we tried unschooling. What was the result? Everyone sat in their own corner and read, or they played cards together, or they played computer games between chores and TV shows. Another result was that we had little or nothing to put in their "let's show the school committee what you've been doing all year" folders.

We've been trying to find a balance between these two extremes, but it hasn't been easy. Each of us (adults and kids) has certain baggage we bring with us from our years in schools, and each of us is dealing with unresolved issues from those years in schools. We are pretty sure that we don't want to do "school at home", with formal schedules and lesson plans and testing. But just letting go and trusting that each of us will get what we need when we need it can be really scary.

In the end, we had to take each week as it came. Here's one sample week. Stay tuned for further developments.