What do you say to your child when she tells you that learning is not fun? I immediately had a multitude of reactions from “not everything can be fun” to “how can you say this -- we have fun every day” to “there are somethings you have to do just because you have to do them”. Wisely, I said none of these things. I asked her for her opinion. What would she like to see that we are not doing? No response. Hmm.
I considered the “fun” stuff to be the “extra-curricular” activities we do like Destination Imagination, co-op, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, basketball, etc. I seem to have fallen back on my school way of thinking without even realizing it. We have our “work” and they have their “specials”. I am becoming more of a task master and less of a facilitator. Ouch.
I know that when I chillax (a word we use all the time in our house) and let the girls take charge of their learning, we all rejoice in our experience. It is a constant give and take between giving them exposure to things I think are valuable (like map work which thankfully they enjoy) and letting them take the lead. Over the past month I have been laying out work every morning, thinking that structure is a good thing. They come downstairs to their math books, a few pages from their map/geography book, and whatever else I think has been neglected lately. I thought this was a good thing.....it set the parameters of the day, kept us moving along in history and science and ensured that I get my pay off of feeling like we have accomplished something.
This week has shown me that I pushed too far and upset the balance between interest led learning and mom led learning. I went back and re-read some of my posts where I felt we accomplished so much with great quality in the work. Rarely did I assign. I just encouraged. Grace has not touched her powerpoint project. Lilah has not touched her amazingly wonderful story. Why? They were so excited about these things. Lilah used to spend hours writing. Grace was tucked up on the couch surrounded by Daph and Jake typing and researching. In this one project she was working on vitally important skills: research, typing, technology, reading, writing. Lilah was writing a story with the intent to cast her friends as the characters and with my help, turn it into a movie. Suddenly I decided that that photocopied page of mapwork and a history narration had to come first. Why? Why did I slip back into a way of thinking I thought I had left behind?
Letting go and trusting your children is hard.
I believe in this educational lifestyle. Homeschooling (for us at least) is not school at home. It is providing my children exposure to a plethora of materials and experiences that will help them grow and develop. Within this context, they are able to focus on their talents and develop their skills by following their interests. That does not equal piles of work left on a table each morning. I am so sorry girls. I did not realize what I was doing until this week when it seemed like everything was falling apart.
Letting go of a fear to keep up is hard.
Perhaps it was because I have felt the pressure from many sides to examine “when my children are going back to school”. I realize that many people hold the opinion that homeschooling through middle school and high school is hard. It is. But the rate of homeschooling is growing by 15% annually. More and more opportunities for instruction in those areas that may be difficult (like lab sciences and advanced math) are popping up all over our state. In fact, a newly formed homeschool coop is providing a high school level biology class that meets AP standards. This is where my children can and will go should they continue on the path they are currently walking. Perhaps this pressure led me to think that I had to change. That I had to show that I was providing education in content areas similar to those covered in traditional schools. Newsflash to myself. The day I withdrew my children from public school I made a dramatic departure from providing my children a similar educational experience.
Letting children determine their own path can be frightening.
Whenever I get worried, I look back at this post. This thread of exploration is still ongoing. Grace is still learning about Clara Barton and President Lincoln. She is interested in this period of our history and asked to watch a history video we have. With Grace is is easier to trust that her path will cover all the content areas I wish for her to learn.
Lilah is a bit harder to trust. Not only is she younger, her path is not so clearly defined. She has tossed around idea of becoming a singer and a chef. She wants to be many things. I want her to be many things. But creating a curriculum around her wants is much harder. She loves insects. That is easy. But how do I find things to strew her way about cooking, and singing? That is harder. In my imaginary crystal ball I see her as Carrie Bradshaw, living in a cool apartment or coop, typing away at a computer while wearing a very stylish ensemble, with hard copies of her books lining her shelves. She has that kind of writing talent. Yet the girl despises using capitals and periods. Go figure. She loves words and poetry and is known to read the dictionary for fun. She does not see this for herself but I do. She has many possibilities.
This morning when Grace came downstairs she asked what she had to do today. I told her at some point I would like to see math done. Other than that she is on her own. She can choose to do what she would like. She gave me an odd look like she did not quite trust my words. I realize the error I have made. I realize that the fighting and arguing this week was not really about two sisters who don’t get along. I thought it was. But a conversation with my daughter on the way to basketball practice changed my perspective. It made me see things in an entirely new light. I strayed too far away from what I know to be true. This is what I know:
- For our family Homeschooling can work.
- It is not always easy and it is not always fun.
- We are constantly learning from each other.
- Love will see us through.
- Trust will propel us forward.
** This post was written February 7th. I was unsure if it would be posted on the blog. After reading a friend's blog in which she shared very similar emotions, I decided to post it. I am happy to report that things in our home have gone back to our version of normal.