Reinventing Our Homeschool

Last Friday it came to me quickly and harshly – homeschool isn’t working.  I wasn’t seeing happy, enthusiastic faces, hanging on every word that I read to them.  The joyful learning that I had hoped to give them wasn’t happening.  It wasn’t education full of life and experiences and love – like I had envisioned.  I have to fix this!  Something’s got to change!

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There’s got to be a better way to relate to these young men.  They are SO smart.  So am I – that’s why I’m abandoning most of our curriculum. 

I’ve  shaken up homeschool before, but nothing as dramatic as this time.  Clearly, I haven’t done enough outside the box thinking in the past… 

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I did a shit load of reading this past weekend.  I locked myself in my office with words of encouragement from homeschool friends and places I wanted to visit online, terms I wanted to become more familiar with, like:

1. UNSCHOOLING

and

2. MONTESSORI

And you know what?  It makes TOTAL sense for us.  AND some of it sounds like it was invented for my children!  (It was so nice to get confirmation that our boys aren’t unusual in their inability to focus or sit still or in their total fascination of anything related to video games.)

One of the main ideas behind the Unschooling movement and Montessori is that education should follow the child’s interests.  Another is that giving the child choices in education will give him more freedom and a sense of control  over his own life.  Everyone wants that, don’t they?

So there’ll be no more assigned reading.  I’ve stocked their bookshelves with age appropriate books about subjects they suggested.  Reading will be a requirement everyday, but they get to choose what to read.

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There’s not enough time for creative writing and art because our day is already  full of stuff that is BORING YOU TO DEATH!

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There will always be time for art and creative writing now.  And having been a former fanatic scrapbooker, there is a ton of cool art supplies in this house! 

Scotty LOVES to write stories – it sickens me that I haven’t let him because of my agenda.  (he loves me anyway.)

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There’ll be video games because it’s what they’re passionate about right now.  At one time it was Barney and Teletubbies, then Dora the Explorer, then Thomas the Tank Engine.  Right now it’s Halo and Minecraft

And although I don’t agree with unlimited video game playing, I recently  have read several studies that say video gaming isn’t the big evil some say it is.  The interactive aspect of video gaming is mentally and physically engaging.  “A kid who is completely absorbed in a video game and can’t hear a word his mom says is actually exhibiting the behavior psychologists like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi call flow —which is the highest form of learning because it’s such engaged attention toward mastery of a skill that you don’t notice anything around you.”  -Penelope Trunk

It isn’t the same as being a couch potato in front of the television.

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Speaking of Penelope Trunk, one place online that I spent a lot of time was her homeschool blog.  Her opinions on  traditional education are refreshing and eye-opening.  (her views on video game playing are interesting and although I’m not giving my boys unlimited time to pursue the next level of Call of Duty, I’m not near as worried about the time they DO spend playing.)  It’s so fantastic to hear about boys acting like boys.  There’s nothing wrong with my boys…  THEY’RE JUST BOYS.

At times, while reading about her experiences with her kids, it felt like dejavu. She has a plan how to educate her sons.  Now I’m making mine.  (Here’s her address, if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about:  http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/ )

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I’m guilty of putting things on the back burner because I didn’t know how to fit it into our already full school day.  More than once Will has expressed an interest in learning Italian and I’m actually ashamed to admit that I discouraged it, telling him that Spanish would be so much more useful.  DUH! 

I looked into Rosetta Stone and then Scott mentioned Duolingo, which both my boys have already “played” and loved, I was informed.  When I asked them if they’d like to make Duolingo part of their day, they seemed genuinely excited. (and it’s free!)

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The next one was recommended by Penelope Trunk.  I haven’t taken a close look at it yet, but I think the boys will have fun with it.  It’s a video game app about state geography.  (way more fun that the State Fact worksheets we were doing.) 

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We’re also going to be doing ONE vocabulary word every day.  I’ve printed out cards with pictures and definitions from http://www.insidestoryflashcards.com/ (Thank you, Dawn, for telling be about this one.  GREAT IDEA!)  One word a day – who can’t do that?  And over the next 5 years, how many might you retain, having learned and used 1 A DAY?  (I bet a bunch!)

Another big, new thing for us is going to be daily outdoor activities.  I still have to give this some thought.  The first thing to come to mind is taking Boo to the park.  Both boys have asked to take her to the park, so the desire is there already.  When they grow tired of that, I’ll have to come up with something else.  I’m thinking some kind of adventuring…  photography scavenger hunts or birding.  Gardening in the summer.  But what to do now?  Need to think it through.  We’re generally indoor people, so this might prove to be more challenging than it sounds.

We’ll continue using Math U See daily because we think they need it.  They’re still in basic math, skills that we use everyday as adults.  You just need to know that stuff and I don’t buy the notion that they’ll be exposed to multiplying and dividing fractions in their life experiences right now.  So Unschooling won’t work for math, in my opinion.

School has a new start time too.  Our boys are growing like weeds right now.  We’re buying longer jeans every few weeks.  It’s getting harder and harder to get them out of bed in the mornings.  And we’ve just realized, why are we fighting so hard?  Maybe they need extra sleep right now.  So school is starting between 9:30 and 10.  (used to be an inflexible 8:30.)

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This homeschooling “thing” has been a giant learning experience for me too.  I hope we’re on the right path now.

And as my younger one reminded me the other day, “Isn’t that a great thing about homeschooling?  If it isn’t working, we can change it.”  Damn, I love that kid!

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2 thoughts on “Reinventing Our Homeschool

  1. Bravo! I love how in tune you are with your family and how hard you will work (and do work) for them. Clearly your boys love homeschooling and it is great that you are willing to work to make it the best experience for them. You are such an inspiration and a loving, caring mom. Best of luck with the new changes – looking forward to see how they go!

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