It occurred to me the other day that we’ve reached a milestone: our first year of homeschooling. Clearly it wasn’t a big deal, because I can’t tell you the exact day we started “officially” homeschooling. But, I know that we reached it, and that we’re now past it. Yup, we’re weird. We started homeschooling in January instead of August. Still, now that we’re no longer noobs at this, I wanted to sit down and process what we’ve done well, what hasn’t worked, and what we’re headed for in the next year.
What went right
The joy of learning
The Engineer loves learning. We’ve managed to hang onto that and encourage it. I’ve mostly figured out his learning style and I know what works for him. For the Engineer, school doesn’t mean homework and stress: it means sitting down to watch really cool videos, doing wacky science experiments, or going on field trips. It’s fun. It’s interesting. And it’s never ever boring.
The low-stress, easier life (for everyone)
One mom mentioned in a Facebook group that her son got in trouble in school for sitting on his feet in his chair. She got frequent emails and calls about her son’s “dangerous” behavior. I wanted to die laughing: the Engineer would never tolerate that kind of strict situation. If he was in traditional school, I would be constantly involved, emailed, called, and stressed out because he eloped out of the classroom, kicked a kid, or you name it. This way is better. Harder on us, but better for everyone.
He wistfully talks about going to school sometimes, but he knows that he would hate it: we talk about worksheets, sitting still at desks, and having to be quiet all the time. He admits that he wouldn’t be able to behave. I make sure that he knows that those kind of expectations are the problem, not his need for movement or his sensory issues. As much as is possible for a 5-year-old, he understands that he’s unique and wouldn’t fit in.
One of my own battles has been to deschool myself. Which is rather weird, because I never went to traditional school. As a second-generation homeschooler I have just as many expectations and hang-ups on what school is “supposed” to look like as the brick-and-mortar graduates. My expectations might vary from others, obviously, but they prevented me from fully accepting our academic setting as enough. I still fight this battle because I constantly worry if we’re doing enough. How much is enough? Enough is keeping him challenged and interested. Enough is demonstrable learning. Enough is me feeling like I’m not failing him.
What didn’t work
Anything involving sitting down and doing math problems, handwriting practice, or worksheets. Which is annoying because that’s the easy stuff. I can print out a worksheet in no time, but it takes time to whip up a personalized lesson on exactly what the Engineer wants to learn about. I’ve had to learn innovative ways to teach the basic stuff because he just won’t sit there and listen. He has to be moving: to be doing, wiggling, or making noise. That is not how I learn, and it’s not what I expected. He’s pushed me way out of my comfort zone as a teacher because I just don’t know how to teach him sometimes.
Boy oh boy, is that a constant battle. I know the library is a great resource that we need to utilize more. Every time I try, I worry about my kids destroying books, losing puzzles, and the trauma of library visits. I’m not kidding. My kids can’t all behave at the same time, much less stay quiet. Every library attendee gives us the stink-eye, and I want to drag my kids out by the ear when they get overly enthusiastic about the toy area. I won’t even go into the extreme book fees for overdue books – at $2 a day per book, I could go BUY the darn book already. And since I’m super frazzled anyway, it’s difficult for me to keep track of the varying checkout dates for different materials. Sheesh!
Nope, can’t do them. Can’t do co-op, music classes, swim classes, you name it. If it’s something I need to drop the Engineer off for, it won’t work. If it’s a parent-and-child class for the younger two, it won’t work. It’s just too darn difficult to deal with. Not to mention expensive. Why are mommy-and-me classes for toddlers so expensive around here? I balk at paying $18 or more per class (per child) for this stuff. I don’t like feeling fleeced.
Going forward: what I’m planning
I want the Engineer to learn more about the things he loves. I want him to experiment, to take a concept or theory and test it. We’re moving into history this year, and I want to spark his interests in wonderful things or people who made his world so much more interesting.
I want him to follow the rabbit trails to the bitter end. He told me today that if I lived on Mercury, I would have a birthday about every 3 months (yes, Mercury has an orbit of 88 Earth days. I fact checked him.) I have no idea where he got that from but it’s really cool that he found out on his own. I want more of that – more quirky weird facts that he dug up somewhere despite being limited by not reading. And of course, I want him to discover the freedom of reading.
I really want to teach him how to meet and overcome a challenge. I want him to realize that not everything comes easily, that you have to work for it sometimes. Until now, he’s just given up on things that he finds hard. I want, no, NEED to get him to understand that challenges are good. Challenges broaden you, deepen you in ways that easy work doesn’t. I want him to feel the satisfaction of solving the problem and advancing beyond it.
I really want to spend more time in nature with all of the kids. Now that the Destroyer is a bit more mature (and won’t reliably stuff random things in his mouth) I think it’s time that we roam the great outdoors. I fully intend on plopping them down in the woods somewhere and letting them discover. Hopefully not discover ticks, snakes, or other dangerous things. I have nebulous plans for this that may or may not occur.
Oddly enough, I really don’t feel that our learning style has changed all that much. Most people say things like “I wish I had known this,” or “We started off so differently” after they’ve been homeschooling for a while. Not us, at least not yet. We changed some things, sure, but in general we’re still trotting along the same kind of path. I think that’s because we’re following his lead. If you’re letting your child take the lead and spend time on things that they are interested in, your job as a teacher will be much easier.
I’m looking forward to the next year. I have no idea what we will accomplish or what he will learn, but I can promise you that it won’t be boring. Whatever our lives are, they are never boring!