a turning point in our homeschool journey
|October 3, 2013||Posted by Mama under family life|
How fast September rushed past! I sat down last week to review what Buddy and Girlie had accomplished in the last month and where their learning would likely go in the next few weeks when it suddenly hit me how quickly that happened. In the past month we have figured out what works with our new curriculum and what doesn’t, tweaked a few things and kept others the way they are. It’s important to us that the education we give our kids is built around them and that we don’t try to force them into a boxed curriculum. That doesn’t benefit anyone!
Last week though, I had an aha moment in which I found myself on this very interesting, pivotal point in our kids’ learning process. I realized I was being forced to choose between my instinct to give them more freedom and forcing them to obey me, in two very different situations. Now, I realize my kids are young. At 5 and nearly 7, we have many more years of learning ahead of us (especially if you consider that learning is a lifelong process, not just 12 years). But I want to start off on the right foot, laying a strong foundation in values and beliefs about learning so we don’t have to back track later on. On this particular day I knew I had to make a choice that wouldn’t be easy, but would be important as part of that foundation.
It all started when Buddy started crying about the idea of having to do school. He is a sensitive kid, and this emotion had been expressing itself in increasing amounts since the first day. It seemed to be revolving around the idea of reading, with questions like, “how much do I have to read today” frequently asked. Part of me thought that the best thing for him in the long run would be for me to lay down my foot and hold him to it. Regardless of what the upset was about, it felt in one way wrong to let him take charge with his learning.
Then, I stepped out of that realm of thinking, realizing that attempting to force him to do anything would only result in more tears and a child who would grow up to hate reading. Definitely not my goal.
So, somewhat reluctantly, with an inner battle brewing over what was the best path for me to go, and wondering for a brief minute if I was being irresponsible for even considering an alternative to making him read, I decided to make a deal with him.
With his agreement, this is the new direction for his reading – instead of reading two or three level 1 readers a week, or reading a page a day from the graphic novel Tintin with its small type, Buddy will be reading most of the simple directions in his language arts and math books, and will otherwise choose when, what, and how much he reads. If he doesn’t read anything other than those directions for the rest of the year, he will at least get a little practice, and I will not be responsible for causing him to struggle with reading for possibly the rest of his life. The relief is mutual, and I know he’ll read when he is ready.
Then, later the same day, a second opportunity to make an important decision occurred, though it carried slightly less anxiety. Perhaps, having made a leap of faith already that day, I was ready to be brave now. Girlie had completed two pages of math and began crying when I closed up the book! She wanted to keep going, and couldn’t understand why I would stop her. I thought, for some silly reason, that if I let her do a lot at once, her interest would begin to wane. But the kid enjoys math!
As a side note, this is a big change for Girlie. She has always been good at solving puzzles and enjoyed math games, but recognizing symbols has been a challenge, and it wasn’t until this past spring that she started connecting the numerals with their meanings. By the time we started school this September she was ready to do math pages with all sorts of puzzles about the numbers 0-10.
On that particular day last week Girlie was in the mood to devour her math, so when I closed up the book she went, “Hey! I need more of that!” Because I feel I am particularly in tune with my kids mental and emotional needs, having to admit that I didn’t see this coming, or thought it wasn’t relevant is actually kind of embarrassing. I should have had more confidence, but seeing the effects of my attempts to make school happen a certain way helped me to know for sure which way to go.
So I put the math book back down on the table, and with her characteristically giggly tone she finished nine more pages! Then she decided to stop so she could hurry up and get outside to visit with her grandparents who had arrived.
I feel like our curriculum is quite lax. Our lessons are short, some lasting hardly five minutes, and they are usually simple enough that Buddy and Girlie learn them quickly, but I want to be flexible so they can direct their own learning. Kids want to be smart, and I have said and believed all along that I trust they will learn what they need to learn to do what they want to do, but this day was a turning point where I was able to apply a tiny bit of that faith – giving them a little bit of freedom in their learning experience to direct their education to meet their needs. I need to trust their natural abilities to learn at their own rates.
Plus, this was also a crucial point for them to see what their role actually is in determining the direction of their learning.
How will it turn out? Well, I know some who were late bloomers, and others who were fast learners, and they all turned out fine in the end. Buddy and Girlie each have strengths and weaknesses, but both are intelligent and driven by their own interests. I’m sure that however our path winds along they will each learn what the need to, to accomplish what they want to in life.
When I chose to listen to them (tried as I might initially to fight it internally) it felt right, and it made sense. It gave me confidence anew in being our children’s guide in their own educational journeys, allowing each of us to enjoy their learning every day for what it is right now.