Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Learning to listen

Currently on my mind at the moment is the issue of listening to my children’s hearts: hearing their feelings, even when they are hard to hear or understand.
My middle son suddenly wants to give up Cubs. He has loved both Beavers and Cubs, he has counted down the days until the weekly pack night, he has talked about becoming a Scout and a Venture Scout. And now he wants to stop. He finds it too strict, he is afraid of getting something wrong. I want to solve this problem for him, speak to the leaders, reassure him that he is almost certainly one of the best behaved children there. I am also concerned that maybe something has happened to upset or scare him, but he maintains that it has not. In the past he has frequently changed his ‘out-of-school’ activity but usually the feeling of having had enough has come gradually, like the sky clouding over. This seems so sudden. Yesterday, he decided that he would like to go to the film making class his brother attends. I do not mind what activity he does, but I am sad at the sudden demise of his love affair with Cubs and I have a strong desire to try to fix it.
Yesterday, we went to a university space science department on a Home Ed trip. We listened for an hour and a quarter to two talks. The first was fairly well done, although a little slow, with a few movie clips of rockets taking off. The second, while delivered with evident passion for the subject, was way over my head, let alone my six-year-old’s. She, who had been bored from the beginning, became increasingly restless and my middle son began to wilt. I could see time slipping away and it wasn’t hard to calculate that there wouldn’t be time for both of the practical activities which we had been promised. I was frustrated at the lack of time management and audience awareness. I debated whether to raise my hand and ask if there would still be time for both activities, I wondered if I should ask if I could take my little one for a walk. But I sat tight and hissed at her to sit still, resulting in tears. I agonised about whose needs I was putting first and whether what she needed was for me to act on her behalf or to learn good manners. Eventually we made some fab rockets and the children were thrilled with the heights reached, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that we’d wasted a lot of time feeling bored with something so potentially exciting.
I am beginning to put together next year’s ‘plan’. Inspired by Julie, I set the children a free-write on what they would like to do in the coming term. Following Bravewriter principles, I gave feedback and they wrote again, two days later. The ideas they have were rich and varied but I am not sure how to make puppets or how to manage them doing separate activities and still ensuring that it’s constructive. What I want to do is to allow our time to flow, to let them lead the way, with just a sprinkle of Maths and English, yet I find it so hard to be without structure or schedule, a list, if only mental, that I can tick off. There is part of me that would feel so much safer if I had workbooks, a time-table, an attitude of ‘you’ve got to learn this’; if I could see what they’d learned: text-books completed, exercise books filled, tests achieved, even though experience tells me how hollow that is.
There are times when dictatorship feels like the easy option yet I am striving, uncertainly, to value relationship over control, to trust my children and their feelings, and to allow them the freedom to grow.

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