Making Your Homeschool Tick
- Monday, January 29, 2007
I remember my daydreams about what our school at home would be like before we started homeschooling...
I imagined I would greet excited, smiling faces every morning who would ask, Mommy, what do we GET to do today? Instead, my children moaned when I said it was time for school.
I thought we would read our school books nestled together under the maple tree in the back yard on sunny mornings. The first day I tried that, my son was so distracted by the birds and the cars passing and the neighbor's dog barking that we never tried it again.
I dreamed that we would perform amazing science experiments in the kitchen or act out historical scenes in the driveway. Then the sweet cherubs would rest quietly on the sofa devouring every book I could bring home from the library. Instead, my kids would rather play on the computer than read a book.
Too soon, my homeschool mantra became, It doesn't have to be fun; it has to be done. My goal became simply getting one entire day of school finished before 8:30 p.m.
This is not the way I wanted it to be! I would shout aloud to God, I wanted homeschooling to be about family, and learning, and memories, and values, and togetherness, and fun!
I couldn't admit I had been daydreaming, and made myself miserable because I couldn't make it a reality.
We teacher-mothers want our children to be excited about learning. We want them to be able to explore the subjects that make their heart beat faster. We want them to discover their unique blend of talents and gifts.
On the other hand, we don't want them to miss anything that they are supposed to be learning. We don't want them to do poorly on standardized tests or miss out on the opportunity to attend college or pursue a career. We know that sometimes school is just dull, but that some things (like laundry and grocery shopping) just have to be done, and it would be nice it everyone could just have a decent attitude about it!
Let's think about the tick, tock of the clock for a minute. As the pendulum swings, it moves all the way to one side, then all the way to the other. That movement turns the clock mechanism and is how the clock keeps time. If the pendulum gets stuck in one position, then the clock is broken. I think that sometimes, our homeschool pendulum gets stuck in one position.
If the swing of the pendulum on one end represents fun, interest-driven activities and on the other end represents face-down-in-the-textbook learning, for our homeschool clock to keep time, our pendulum needs to swing back and forth.
I use textbooks. I need the structure they provide. I know that colleges look for the standard requirements on high school transcripts with names they can recognize, such as Chemistry with Lab, U.S. History, or British Literature. It is an important skill for students to learn to glean pertinent information from their reading, to be able to answer questions, and to take a test in a certain period of time. I could never cover all the material that is required to fulfill a high school credit without using textbooks. I wouldn't even try.
However, I have never found a textbook to be stimulating reading. If your home education is simply about textbooks, workbooks, and the like, it is probable that your children are complaining that their school is boring, too hard, or worse. Your pendulum is stuck.
We all dream of providing the world with the next Wizard of Menlo Park (i.e. Thomas Edison). As homeschoolers, wouldn't it be wonderful to afford our children the opportunity to develop their own particular genius? To read the books they found mesmerizing, to do the experiments that answer their questions, to let God lead them on the path they should go?
Personally, if I'd have let my kids off to follow their interests, they would have never learned to multiply! And not much of anything else for that matter! But if your kids refuse to touch a subject or a topic that doesn't interest and delight them every minute, then your pendulum is stuck. Your homeschool clock is broken.
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