Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Flux

     We've been homeschooling our kids forever.  Education and discipleship start when they're ever so tiny, then at some point we ease into "real" school and just keep right on learning.  I'm a firm believer that education is a lifestyle, not relegated to a few short hours of the day.  Yet, we're always careful about obeying the law and my goal is having kids educated beyond the State's minimum level.  With all these years of experience, true confession, I still don't know exactly how to implement the overarching goals.  We love the Bluedorn's book, Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style, but it's a little beyond what I can accomplish.  We've tried Veritas Press, Sonlight, and Tapestry of Grace.   I give myself permission to spend the money, try it, and permission to decide it doesn't quite suit our family.  I wanted to try My Father's World, but learned about them after I had told Bryan never to allow me to spend money on curriculum again.  They're all good, but never resulted in the kind of gentle learning I wanted.  My favorite site for good ideas is Ambleside Online, but I never follow it exactly.  All of that is only so you understand, I might like something today, but not next year.  There are certain core principles I always stick with, but the peripherals are in flux.  I think it's okay.
     This summer my mom (who also homeschooled) was telling me about the Robinson Method.  I read all their pages online.  I didn't buy the curriculum.  It's against my new rule.  I didn't implement it exactly, no sugar and no TV we're too much for our family (those subjects ought to be a separate post).  We already use Saxon Math, free hand-me-downs from my mom, and well tested and proved by my siblings.  I found the list of Robinson Books online, and have chosen a few of them  In the end, it's probably not even fair to call what we do the Robinson Method.  However, his ideas set me free.  Children have remarkable abilities to learn.  I realized much of what I did slowed them down or amounted to busy work that I'd always tried to avoid.  We eliminated and simplified and bought more "real" books than I've ever bought before.  We follow a loose schedule of math, writing, reading (which in our house includes science).  Ally has thrived.  We started discussing next year and she wants her time relatively unchanged.
     Then there's Sam.  He's always happy to read a book.  He's great at math, but claims to hate every moment of it.  We started out the year having him work his lesson, grade it himself, make the corrections and do as much as he could in an hour and a half.  There was a character issue.  I was in despair, but Bryan looked at it as opportunity, and we say character is the most important aspect of education.  Sam started the book over, from the beginning, doing it right.  Gradually his work slowed.  Working for a set time demotivated him.  Progress dwindled to 5 or 6 problems in an hour and a half.  We laid down the law, the whole book would be finished, even if he worked every day of the summer.  Nothing changed. 
     Now it's January.  We decided Sam can't go on like this.  He might never finish Algebra 1/2.  I had visions of making him schedules with check boxes.  We reverted to our old rule, one lesson a day, every single problem.  Worked, graded, corrected, shown to his parents, and (the piece de resistance) put away in the notebook and on the shelf.  We make sure it happens.  Sam is back to finishing a lesson in 45 minutes, missing one problem, and he's happy.  He might work at 9 PM, in bed, or 11 AM.  Bryan and I had a revelation: maybe Sam doesn't like to do math at 8:30 AM, our traditional math hour.  Is that okay?  Sure, there's just no afternoon fun til the math lesson of the day is finished (meaning, if he does it at night it's the next day's lesson).
     There's a lesson in this.  It's not that we need a new curriculum for next year.  We just needed diligence, a draining, exhausting measure of it.  We needed flexibility.  Sam isn't like Ally.  Kara isn't like either of them, and I'm turning my attention to her school days next.  I can't even imagine what "school" will look like when Arden does it.  I only wish I was faster to learn, because you'd think I would know by now.  It's not all in the curriculum.

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