Monday, January 26, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of the many reasons one might have for deciding to homeschool is the tacit rejection of the established educational system. Children are bogged down with text books and testing schedules. Rote memorization is the order of the day. Fostering the love of knowledge and life long learning very often does not take place. So what does a home school mom do when she suddenly realizes her homeschool looks, feels and acts just like this pariah she was trying to avoid in the first place? The home learning environment gets an extreme make-over!

I didn't begin homeschooling using textbooks.  We used to sit together and read from multiple resources and then work on experiments and extension activities where the children's learning was almost completely experiential and fun. But over time we have gradually moved away from learning outside the box to becoming trapped inside the box. Active and needy toddlers and the fear I was not giving my children the education they needed to get into college were part of the reason I turned to textbooks and packaged curriculum.  As time has gone on we have had more and more difficulty getting our son interested in anything related to school.

Homeschooling was supposed to be fun and he was supposed to love learning but it has become a chore for him and his poor homeschool mom. I was beginning to consider other options for schooling our teenage boy when providence led us to two resources that helped us discover what we might do to remedy our son's lack of interest in anything resembling a useful education. The first resource is an excellent interview with a Legionary of Christ priest that I came across on Zenit and then later in the week my blogging buddy Sam sent it to me (divine providence, anyone?). You can read "7 Things Teenage Boys Most Need" here.  I first saw the second resource on Faith and Family Live.  Boys Adrift is authored by renowned pediatrician and psychologist Leonard Sax, who also wrote Why Gender Matters.  Among the five categories leading to lack of motivation in boys, his book gives some very compelling arguments against conventional public and private education.  While I don't agree with all of Doctor Sax's conclusions and solutions (he does come from a heavily secular/humanist point of view) I was able to draw some conclusions of my own that will help me change the way I have been homeschooling our son.

Last week I revamped how we homeschool several of our subjects.  First of all, Stat Boy is not a writer, yet.  I've tried several different programs trying to get him to write with little or no success.  His assignment last week was to write about the up-coming Super Bowl and to make predictions about which team might win.  My sports crazed son wrote six very long paragraphs without a single sneer.  I couldn't believe it!  

We also changed our approach to science.  I've been using the fantastic Concepts and Challenges texts.  I have to confess the reason I chose this series was the fact that most lessons included experiments and extension activities I thought my kids would enjoy.  We have NEVER done a single one in the two years I've used the texts.  I have just assigned the reading and had them complete the comprehension questions.  Boring!  Last week I looked over the last 10 lessons and culled 5 experiments we could do.  We had a "lab" week.  At first our son seemed disinterested but after a few minutes I could see a spark.  By the end he was thinking for himself and coming up with ways the experiments could be expanded.  I actually heard him say, "I wonder what would happen if . . ."  I was floored!

What I'm trying to express in this very long post is, if it isn't working look at it another way. Look at your children another way.  You do not have to lock yourself into a failing curriculum or program.  Constantly reevaluate your homeschool and make sure what you have is what you had planned and prayed for your homeschool to be. 

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Sarah (JOT) said...

I can see why you didn't post this in my comment box. :-) I'm going to be reading Boys Adrift, loaned by a friend, soon. The same friend loaned me Why Gender Matters. I agree with your assessments on his observations. I just did a post on what we're doing with our kids in HI when we get there. The biggest hurdle (ask Dawn at a Helping Hand) or JoMary - my husband thinks the kids aren't learning . . . there's too much lacking etc. Yet, only after asking, will he help. He says he's here for us, but I want him to be regular for us. I like homeschooing, it just is getting so boring - and I'm afraid I'm not organized enough to make my own curriculum. I liked this post very much - food for thought!

Tonya said...

You are a wonderful, creative mom. Your kids are so fortunate to have you! Good job at figuring out what will make JP interested!

I miss hanging out with you guys so incredibly much! Wish we could come over this afternoon to drink coffee and gab. :-)

Sarah (JOT) said...

I knew you didn't write this for me which is why I put that smile after my first sentence, but you did write this for me. He he he. All we can do is pray and hope and do our best. I am very grateful for this POSITIVE post and that you are praying for me/us!! THat means so much to me. Right back at you, Mau.