Sitting front row to a person's becoming

I'm currently running a course at my Patreon called Freedom Education. We're having a great time over there and I am so grateful for this opportunity (the kick in the pants you get from a paying gig) to gather up my education philosophy, psychology, and practice in one place and actually publish it.

I've been building the content of this course for years, before I knew it would be a course, in text documents and blog posts. And to finally work through the ideas and present them in a way that makes sense and is helpful to other people is extremely satisfying. Especially since I'm near the end of my own homeschool journey. And when I'm done, sometime in the next two years, I don't how much more I'll teach or write about homeschooling. Who knows.

One of our recent lessons at Freedom Education was about record keeping, planning and assessments, really nuts and bolts stuff.

That particular lesson was quite time consuming and fun to put together because I revisited all of our homeschool records in the process; the family and individual learning portfolios, boxes of papers, and many files in my digital records.

Going through all those old binders I kept of the kids' childhoods was so nostalgic for me (it doesn't take much) and also a good reminder of all the stuff we did. I forget so many things.

Looking through the notes I kept of what we did, as a record of their learning and our days together, I am so deeply grateful for their childhood experiences of relationship-building, deep interest-led learning, delight, play, and discovery.

All things made possible with Freedom Education.

The world of late teens and young adults feels so far removed from those relaxed early years. (As I may have mentioned once or twice on the blog. Ha!) They are still following their interests but where that looks like play as children it looks like work as a young adult. (As it should.)

Yes, we have to step-in from time to time as parents to keep everyone on track - physically, emotionally, relationally, academically, etc. and we recruit the help of mentors and professionals also. But in this stage, the kids-almost-adults are really "getting down to business", because that's what they want. It's the natural progression of things.

my babies

Looking through our old learning binders I'm reminded of the slow progression (and I tell you, sometimes it was really slow!) of certain skills, especially math and writing in our homeschool.

Slow progressions tend to cause parents so much unnecessary worry. I've had a good share of my own. Sometimes our concerns are founded and more help or intervention is needed. So fine, use the necessary inventions and help. And thank God for them! But why can't we be more embracing of the variability of humans in their growth and development? And why do we let ourselves be driven by fear around this variability instead of curiosity?

Celine sewing, 6 years old

still making at the same table, refinished by my Dad last summer

Another thing that was brought to my attention in revisiting our homeschool records - memory binders of kids' work and notes on family life - is the connections between their young adult/teenaged selves and early childhood selves. The seeds of our artist, designer/seamstress, and self-expressionist were always there.

Which is not to say our kids don't grow, evolve and change, they do. Nor do we keep them in boxes with labels (artist, expressionist, seamstress - they are so much more than that!).

But they are their own people, they always have been. I see it now, I saw it then. My job as a parent, in homeschool record keeping, has been to bear witness to the growth, to record this beautiful journey. Which is a completely different posture than "how does this child measure up against her peers?"

It has been especially delightful to see the threads connecting their early childhood and their late teen/launching years. And I know it will just continue. This delight, this joy as they engage with and contribute to the world, beyond childhood, outside our home as adults.

Patricia at Wonderfarm calls this recognition of our children's innate and unique curiosity and character traits Where the Sparks Fly.

Like she says,

Often I worried that we weren’t getting enough done in our homeschooling days. That we weren’t covering enough. The making and the playing and the talking took time. We went deep instead of wide. I could see how much that mattered, but sometimes I still worried.

I would try to make guesses about where it all would lead, where the kids’ lives would take them. But of course I didn’t know.

Now they’re 25, 22 and 16. And you know what’s really fun? Looking backwards, because now I can see the connections, the arcs of light. I can see how their little kid selves predicted who they are today.

That's exactly what I'm saying. How much I'm enjoying the gift of looking back and seeing how who they were gave insight into who they are.

Record keeping is so much more than a means to verify our child's learning. Honestly, to me that seems like the least important piece of the whole. Observing and recording helps us really see what's going on. It's a reflective practice. And it's also a gift that allows us to go back, to remember, recollect and make those connections to the present.

In the Freedom Education lesson on record keeping I explain my whole process of record keeping, planning, and assessments. How I've done it from elementary through high school graduation. In the video and handout I share a lot of practical tools, I provide a template for your own record keeping, I explain how you "plan" with interest-led learning, and provide an outline and show samples for building learning portfolios.

This is just one lesson in a 13 week course that is jam-packed with practical help for homeschooling preschool through high school.

The course is still open for enrolment during April and May. Sign up here.

Whether you homeschool or not, as a parent you've been given the privilege of nurturing a human being from infancy to adulthood; of protecting, supporting, guiding, and sitting front row to someone's becoming. What an incredible gift. Let's enjoy it.

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  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on April 10, 2019, 4:44 p.m.

    That is so beautiful. It truly touches my heart. I know that the day I will open the boxes I stored at a friend containing all we did in the early years, I'll be weeping big fat tears and seeing all these connexions even more clearly.


    • Renee

      Renee on April 10, 2019, 5:05 p.m.

      Thanks Catherine. I'm doing so much reflecting these days, as the kids finish high school and chart a path to careers/post-secondary schooling. And also teaching Freedom Education is having me re-live a lot of the the experiences of "how" I did things as well as "why" I did them and it's just very reflective for me. I'm grateful for it. The reflection is necessary as I start to close the chapter on this part of my life.


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