Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scrapping the Plans

When I started homeschooling, one of the funnest parts for me was the planning.  I love to set up schedules, chose curriculum, set up my classroom, and visit my all-time favorite store, Office Depot.  Yes, it was all about the color-coordinated labels and file folders!

I realize now that I was preparing for my homeschool to be no different than school-at-home.  We had the traditional school room, and the traditional subjects broken up into different time periods throughout the day.  I split up the kids based on grade-level and made them sit down, be quiet and "do school."

Now, during my second year of homeschooling, I am realizing that doing that was setting myself up for frustration.  I would get irritated when my kids wouldn't follow my schedule, or sit in their chairs, or learn in the way I had imagined.

I was also losing a marvelous opportunity to teach my kids in a radical way.  I mean, if I am going to go to the trouble to homeschool, why do exactly what the local schools are doing?  I am able (especially in New Jersey, which has liberal homeschooling laws) to teach my kids in any way I want, why not mix things up a bit?  Especially since things weren't working the way I had imagined anyway.

The dining room is sometimes a good place for "table work."`
The first change I have made is to scrap the school room.  I loved setting it up, but no one wanted to sit down there (it was in our basement).  And, it really went against my central reason for homeschooling, which is to incorporate learning into our every day life.  I don't like the idea that education is something that happened "over there" at school, while "real life" happens at home with our friends and family.  We are really learning all the time, so I want to get rid of the artificial divide.  But, when we are schooling in our separate space -- our school room -- that too suggests a separation of learning and 'real life.'

So we no longer do school there.  We learn at the kitchen table, on the couch, and -- when we need to -- at a table set up in our formal living room (a room we perviously only ever used once a year, on Christmas!).  We also spend a lot of time outside of our home, be it in our yard or at museums, parks, and the library. Now, we are truly learning everywhere.

At Battlefield Park learning about the Revolutionary War

Another big change I have made is to become more intentionally interest-led. In other words, I let the kids' interest direct what we will be learning that day.  We are not exactly unschoolers because I do use a curriculum (Sonlight) and I follow it, although not to-the-letter.  We also have tutors for both math and Chinese for the three oldest kids, and Olivia takes a co-op writing class.  John, is a much more structured teacher than I am, also, and really likes to sit and work with the kids with workbooks and such.  But, I have purposed to using the time I have with the kids to follow their interests and their passions.  Because, I have found, real learning does not truly take place when I am forcing them to do something that I deem important.  I read somewhere that forcing someone to learn something is like throwing marshmallows at someone's head and calling that feeding.  Only when the student wants to learn, and sees a purpose for that knowledge, that real learning can occur.

Peter's fascination with magnets

So, I do read aloud history books and novels.  I do ask the boys to do handwriting practice and reading and math.  Olivia does that at a more intense level, too.  But, if they are resistant, I back off.  And if they are interested and engaged, we go beyond what I had planned for that day.

Ellie is really into painting right now

We spend a lot more time drawing U-boats, reading Captain Underpants, and writing up pretend legal documents for an All-Girls Art Gallery (AGAG?) than we do filling in workbooks.

But we do that, too.  And, when we do, the kids seems to have more tolerance for it than they did beforehand. My frustration level has gone down, and I am actually loving homeschooling again.  
So far so good.

"In this intellectual period the child's questions are innumerable. He wants to know everything. His thirst for knowledge is so insatiable that generally people are at their wits end about it. Therefore they mostly choose the easiest way, and simply force the child to be silent and to learn only what grownups feel is useful to him. But in doing so, we also spoil his spontaneous interest. Learning then becomes a tedious and tiresome business."
 --Maria Montessori

Also check out this recent post from Simple Homeschool.  Totally up my alley. 

No comments:

Post a Comment