In more than one of the Home Ed forums that I belong to, I have noticed that many people seem to be wobbling at the moment. For those not yet familiar with the term, "the wobbles" generally refer to those moments of self-doubt when we wonder if we're doing enough to educate our children, or if we "should" be doing it a different way... if we're meeting their needs, if we're stretching them where they need to be challenged, if we're boosting their self-confidence without giving them an inflated sense of their own importance, if we're providing them with enough opportunities to learn, and exposing them to a wide range of potential activities in the hope that at least one will ignite a life-long passion. The "wobbles" are usually accompanied by a descending gloomy cloud of anxiety that we are failing our most precious ones somehow.
In my experience, when the wobbles get me it is usually a sign of one of two things: either I have fallen back into schoolish ways of thinking and need to deschool myself a bit more, or we have hit a different season and I am picking up on some unmet needs. But as I have often discussed before, any time I hear the word "should" cross my thinking, I know it is time to address a problem. There is no space for "shoulds" in my life. They are relentless, fruitless and insatiable task-masters.
So how do we beat the wobbles? Well, as the lovely Ross Mountney of Ross Mountney's Notebook (not to mention author of several yummy books) has often encouraged me, the wobbles are usually a sign that you are a reflective and sensitive parent/ educator. They show that you take your child(ren)'s education seriously, and frequent assessment of how well your style and strategy are working shows a creditable commitment and flexibility to your child's needs. So firstly, be encouraged: the fact that you are wobbling shows that you are already doing a good job!
Secondly, if you wobble, check that you're not in need of more deschooling (I am talking about parents mostly, but this could apply to the children too). Signs that YOU need more deschooling: you wonder how much work they would be doing if they were in class; you compare them to their peers, academically; you question how they will ever get GCSEs at the rate they are going (especially unnecessary if your child is still primary age).
Thirdly, check that you're still on track - that your style is still working. It may be that you are picking up on a season change. Children's learning is not linear and in this house we sometimes have seasons where plenty of work is evident (online curricula, lapbooks, educational games and art projects etc... sometimes we have fallow seasons where the children are not obviously learning a lot - there is more TV (and I'm not talking the BBC's learning zone here), more random playing, a lot less written output. And the more I do this, the more I am coming to value the fallow seasons, as I have come to recognise that the periods after fallow seasons are usually infused with great leaps made in the boys' abilities, and a fresh enthusiasm for learning new concepts.
One tip that I was given to see if you're still on track is to go back to the values that made you decide to home educate in the first place (in our case it was to encourage a love of learning in the boys and give them the freedom to follow their own passions, all the way through to adulthood. It was NOT about how many qualifications they could get). Once you have those values in mind, see how that affects the way you are assessing your "success so far".
So anyway in October we hit a sort of wobble... I wasn't really down about it but was feeling unsettled in our previously loved mini-schedule. I realised pretty quickly that not only were we experiencing a season change, but it had coincided with my need for some more deschooling. So I went on the attack (like I said, the "shoulds" are not welcome in this house) and deliberately headed in the other direction. The "shoulds" usually make you want to introduce more structure, more goals and pressure to perform... we turned our backs on that and rather than introducing more structure, we took the wobbles, or "shoulds" on at their own game - we interpreted them as incentive to rebel against the felt pressure, and relax even our small amount of structure and record-keeping... and so we nominated this half-term as our 'unschooling' half-term. Realistically, genuine unschoolers may well make more of an effort with strewing etc than I am right now, but due to various pressures I am not able to be heavily involved - and actually, by having very little planned (other than a couple of HE clubs) it's helping the boys to find their own interests without me furtively assessing everything for 'educational content'. I am not planning to consider reintroducing any kind of structure until after Christmas - and its really helping. The "shoulds" kicked up a right wobbly fuss to start off with, but a couple of weeks in and we are relaxing into not stressing about it. The boys are happy reading, making up games, drawing, playing (and obviously are immersed in the world of hedgehogs - see my previous post) - they are generally doing just fine. But I am not writing down what they're doing in my diary. My organised self resists, and I may possibly regret it in future - but actually, none of us need that kind of pressure right now.
Never mind playing the "wobbles" at their own game - I reckon we're winning!