Homeschoolers have so many labels for themselves. We are unschooling, or doing Charlotte Masen, or virtual schooling, or farm schooling or…. well… about the only thing we can all agree on is that we are NOT doing school at home.
Yet, even though we agree on that verbally, so many of us have our ideas of “school” so deeply engrained in our brains that we are unable to truly let go of what a child needs to be educated. Don’t they need to spend a certain, designated amount of time each week studying history, science, math, reading, music and so on?
Well… ask 100 homeschoolers and get 100 answers.
Here’s mine. Feel free to quote me.
Yes and no. Sort of. Sometimes.
I believe that it is very important that a child learn history, science, math, etc. Some things require regular, if not daily, practice. Others are much more fluid. So we approach “school” with the attitude that some things are not negotiable while others are.
We do have a schedule. Sweet Hippie Daughter comes to work with me and she has an assignment book with a list of tasks to complete. Her tasks are based on the state’s grade level expectations. Usually she has 2 or 3 books to read from, a writing assignment of some sort, math practice, music practice, typing, and so on.
Sometimes she makes requests. A few weeks ago she found a book about the solar system at the local thrift store and asked if it could be her next reading project. Sure thing! I was going to have her read about Marie Curie but if she’s got planets on the brain Madame Curie will wait until after Christmas.
Sometimes the requests are less reasonable. “Can I watch this goofy Minecraft video instead of doing math today.” Uhm… no.
Yesterday, her request floored me and opened up a floodgate of thoughts about the real difference between homeschooling and schooling at home.
She knows that I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo (the what, how and why of that is in this post). I told her there was a “Young Writers” version as well. She just kind of shrugged and said, “OK” so I left it at that.
Then she came back to me and said, “I’ve been thinking about the thing where you write a book in a month. I have an idea I’d like to write about, but I’ve never written that many words before. I was wondering if, just for this month, I could use my school time to work on my book and, if I finish it, will you help me get people to read it?”
My first thought was, “NO! You can’t write a book during school hours! You need to do math! And you’re right in the middle of a book about Tecumseh. And we just start a Mr. Wizard’s chemistry project.”
My second thought was, “What if someone had encouraged me to write a book when I was 9?”
When I was in school I wrote all the time. I wrote stories in the margins of my history lessons and on the backs of my math papers. My best friend and I would write them and swap and edit each other’s work. I wrote after school.
I was constantly getting in trouble for writing.
It wasn’t the time to be writing. It was time to be learning. It was time to be studying. It was time to be washing dishes. My handwriting was poor. Sometimes my subject matter was very inappropriate for my age.
What if I had been given an entire month, during which time a teacher guided me, just to write? What if I had been excused from a few fact-repeating sessions of history class and given, instead, the opportunity to explore the area of my passion? What if someone had said to me, “Yes. If you put the effort into writing something and editing it and make a nice, polished finished draft I will do everything in my power to be sure people read it?”
Maybe nothing would have come of it. Maybe I would have written for a week, flaked out and started drawing doodles of the cute boy in the next row. I guess we’ll never know.
But now I’m the teacher and my daughter is the student and here’s what I’m thinking.
If you can’t toss your assignment notebook out the window to follow a dream as big and bold and exciting as writing a book in 30 days, what’s the point of homeschooling?
So I made a deal with my girl. I told her she could have the month of November to write. I will help her if she needs help but it needs to be her project (I’ve got my hands full with my own projects!). And if she finishes I will do everything in my power to make sure people have the chance to read her work.
If I see that she’s not being productive with her time. If, during work time, she is watching Annoying Orange videos or playing Minecraft, the deal is off. And she still has to do math at least 3 days a week and practice her trombone.
Math, because she really struggles and needs every minute of practice she can get. Trombone, because she has a concert coming up and her ensemble is counting on her to be able to perform her part.
She accepted my terms and we shook on it and she’s off and running.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Handsome Hippie Hubby has been with the big kids this week (they stay with their mom during the school year but he is visiting with them right now) and he mentioned Nanowrimo to Not-So-Hippie Teenager. She was signed up before he finished the sentence. She decided to go for the full 50,000 word brass ring and had a stack of pages finished by the end of the first night.
Now the girls, who can be fiercely competitive, can spur each other on. Setting a goal and reaching it is satisfying. Beating your sister is something entirely more exciting to them!
I am so crazy excited to be sharing this little journey with BOTH of my girls and I am so ridiculously proud of both of them for having the ambition and self-confidence to face such a big goal at such a young age. I can’t wait to see what these two beautifully creative young minds think up!
I’m also a little curious to see how these next few weeks of “school” go for SHD. She’s not the most self-disciplined kid on the block (she gets that from me, I’m afraid) so I wonder if sticking to the task of writing will be a bigger challenge than coming up with the words.
I guess time will tell.
So, I’m curious. Have you ever tossed your homeschool plan out the window? Why? How did it turn out? Do tell!
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
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