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What to Say About Afterschooling - Building an Interest in Traditional and Educational Toys

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

My friend,Crystal and I have started “afterschooling”. We’re not sure how to tell you why. Actually, we’ve tried to tell folks, “why” and have been met with a variety of responses – none of them exactly what we had hoped to receive. We’re not sure what we hoped to receive but, exasperated eye-rolling, appalled looks and competitive inquiries weren’t it.

Perhaps we expected looks of awe and admiration. Actually, I’m sure that’s what we expected or at least for what we yearned. A bit taken aback, we’ve stopped telling people and have reconsidered our reasons for afterschooling.

It’s always a good idea to rethink your thinking.

What were we thinking? Well, Crystal’s in-laws home school and she would dearly love to do the same. DH doesn’t agree. I too would love to home school but, gotta bring home the bacon, at least some of it.

As is common among somewhat crunchy types and over involved parents, we have been home schooling our batches of preschoolers for several years now. We’re suckers for educational field trips and “how to” books on educating preschoolers. We expose them to literature, history and science and eschew television and electronic “educational” toys. We do projects, make costumes, go to Shakespeare plays and ask docents at local museums to “bring it down” to a 5-year-old level – often to their annoyance.

Now our eldest children will start kindergarten. Rather than stop home schooling, we’ve decided to continue but, use a more structured approach. Noting that our local schools have little time to cover science, history and the arts, we plan to concentrate in these areas. We know we’ll be helping our kids with endless math and reading worksheets…so why go there? Instead, using The Well Trained Mind as a starting point, we’ve put together a simple Science and History based curriculum, that incorporates arts, designed to cover those areas schools may miss.

But, we have ulterior motives, at least I do! That’s what’s hard to explain.

You see, our kids don’t watch TV, an occasional video, bits and pieces of shows at friend’s houses, but no TV. We don’t buy Barbies, or action figures, or game boys or character based toys. We have no kiddie software or electronic learning toys.

It’s not that our kids have nothing to do. Our houses are overrun with wooden toys, Legos, Playmobil figures, fabric dolls, art supplies and books…lots of them. Instead of collecting Pokemon cards and learning the intricacies of adult designed characters, our kids collect rocks and learn about the differences between them. Instead of watching TV, they listen to audio books. Instead of playing with dolls and action figures with well developed “background stories’ they use generic figures or bits of rock or wood to represent people and create their own. We follow the Rule of Three and actually buy fewer toys - they just last longer and are used more often.

We let our kids be kids. They play sports and play games. They have lots of unstructured time but, absent the spell of commercial TV and toys, they develop passions outside that realm.

Let me explain, or try to. To some extent we, like many parents believe that some “benign neglect’ is good for kids. Let them be bored from time to time. Let them make up their own games. For kids exposed to television, game boys and commercials, that often results in adults we DON’T EVEN KNOW encouraging our children to “get interested in” characters created specifically to sell a toy, a game or an electronic device. So, that's the type of games they make-up or don't make up actually - reenact is probably a better word. These unknown toy marketers direct too many children's play these days with detailed story lines and inflexible characters. Who are these guys?

Wait, actually, I DO know who these guys are. they used to be me! I worked in the children’s products industries. I was young single and well, “unaware”. I saw sex and violence from an adults’ viewpoint, honed after years of slooowly being exposed to it in a much less violence, sex and media driven world. I wasn't a parent. I had no knowledge of child development. I attended seminars on how to sell to children, not how to best meet their needsand encourage growth.
Most toy, television and game marketers are like I was. I’m not anymore. I wouldn’t want the old me directing my child’s play. So I do it myself – afterschooling.

Does this sound incoherent? Am I rationalizing? Perhaps. Maybe I just want to educate my own child. Maybe I just enjoy teaching him so much, I don’t want to stop. Maybe so.

Well, so be it. I’ll keep schooling him while realizing that he’ll have “school” to contend with too. I’ll be challenged to make it fun. For me that means, no worksheets, no lectures, just “unschooling” … to a structured curriculum. Hopefully this will fill the void usually filled by commercial interests. Maybe it will resemble my childhood but in a bit more thoughtful way.
Maybe it won’t; we’ll see.
Visit The Carnival of Homeschooling here!

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