From the outside looking in it can seem that everything is simple, it is easy, and that it just comes together. However, there are times in our homeschool experience when nothing is simple, or easy, and in fact, everything is so disjointed that they magical flow of learning ceases and some large questions have to be asked.
We are at a point like that now. I have one girl who is struggling to find things that interest and captivate her. I have another who is at a point where I question how well I can provide her with what she needs.
When the learning seems to stall and the anxiety seems to build, we have to take a look at what we need to fix or change, add or delete from our lives in order to restore the balance which allows the flow of learning to begin again.
I have a tendency to go back to basics. For me that means putting on my teacher’s hat and doing some planning. I conferenced with each of my girls about what they liked, what they did not like, what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
Grace is researching the care and keeping of backyard rabbits. She is going to pursue this research and write a report to persuade us to allow her to own a rabbit. This is working for her. She loves to learn about her interests and spin a curriculum of reading, writing and art around it. We are in the process of finding a math tutor or teacher to guide her through the upper level math courses she will need in order to apply to a college level meteorology program if this is still what she wants when she is ready to apply to college. We are also excited to meet a new potential guitar teacher. This gentleman is an accomplished classical guitarist. I am crossing my fingers that this is a match. It will be our third guitar teacher in six months.
Lilah expressed a need to slow down and dig in. Her favorite memories of homeschooling over the past three and a half years were the projects we did around the study of Egypt. She would like to slow down history and dig deep, like we did with the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks. She would like to return to our study of grammar and memorization of poetry.
From our conversations I had the realization that my girls need more hands-on guidance from me than what they are getting. I thought they were organizing and managing their projects well. But the last few weeks our involvement in 7 Cool Homeschoolers was called into question because of the conflict that arose every week around the planning of the weekly video. This gave me great pause.
Perhaps my girls were not as organized as I thought. Perhaps they need guidance. Perhaps my 10 and 12 year olds are not as independent as I thought. I explained to them that I am happy to step in and act as a project manager. I explained that there are steps we can take to learn how to move through a project and focus on communication and collaboration.
We began by listing the steps involved in making a video. Once they saw the steps laid out, they identified where they have conflict. Once I understood this, I was able to help them with strategies to plan and help mediate conflict before it became a crisis. Their next video is due Wednesday. Hopefully this week will be more peaceful.
This strategy of project management was also applied to Lilah’s magazine. Her first magazine was created entirely on her own. For some reason she struggled with her second issue. She had ideas but seemed to get lost in translating them from her mind to the paper. We recalled our recent trip to Brooklyn and the project boards that lined the walls with each layout of the catalog posted for viewing and easy editing. She took this concept and began a project layout in her notebook. Each page is a sketch of what the issue will contain. This helped her to get out her thoughts and to know what she has and what she needs to complete a ten page magazine.
Homeschooling is not easy. There are days, weeks even, when it is very very hard. While the girls were watching a movie with their friends, I went back through my planner of our 2012-2013 year. Even when I thought we were not doing much, we were in fact, doing very much! We got stuck when we came back from Tennessee. We got into an early spring rut. I think I have pulled us out of the rut. There are still decisions to be made and curriculum to work through. My girls are asking for a bit more from me as a “teacher” and I am always willing to give them what they need.
I spent hours planning and getting excited over things I have wanted to try -- like personification vocabulary journals and digging out our analogy workbooks. We got away from these things. The beauty of homeschooling is even though it is the end of April, we can pull out those things and pick up wherever we left off, for there is no end date to what we are doing. It is all a work in progress.