I can’t believe that a year ago my daughter Gia was still struggling with schoolwork.
Oh my goodness, what a tangled mess we used to live in. She hated standard curriculum, would zone out if I suggested movies or educational videos like those her sister was using. She was staggering, literally staggering, through a few programs we’d found and she would often make herself sick by giving herself pressure to do things that felt so un-natural to her. Often I would suggest unschooling to her, but this worked against her desire for structure, for routine.
We know we both work well with routine and rebel against it at the same time.
I relate so much to my girl. We look a lot alike, but more we learn alike. I was home-schooled off and on when I was growing up, and the concept of sitting and memorizing what people told me to, without any explanation why, without any dramatic build so I could feel it in my soul… it was like pulling teeth!
But last year we started the grade 7 Oak Meadow curriculum with my girl, and it all changed.
I myself was home-schooled a lot of my childhood (have I ever told you that?) and my mom was left with very little choice to what programs I could be enrolled in.
Back then it was workbooks… really, really boring workbooks which left no room for imagination what so ever. My children are shocked at my stories of standing in front of the basement door which had a multiplication table poster hanging on it. I would recite and recite with tears streaming down my face.
We worked through some interesting approaches with what was available, I must admit:
My older sisters trying to teach me about the planets by using balls in our living room. My mom buying a set of Harvard Classics telling me that if I read them all my education was done. Oh, then the famous time I had to take my GED at 16, as the agreed way to get me into the College Theatre Program I’d set my heart on...
It was the biggest, boring-est workbook to date!
But apart from being bored, I often felt restricted with the subconscious belief that I had to go through a back door to succeed or cheating a system.
I often felt like I wasn’t getting something.
That I just couldn’t grasp certain things.
As I continued my education, going through College and University, that disappeared, but I knew as I overcame certain stumbling blocks, that homeschooling was a wonderful opportunity, but it needed better tools in place for parents.
I want my kids education process to set them free not hold them back. (I got accepted into the theatre program by the skin of my teeth. My math scores were shameful.)I want them to be able to move through exams, essays or life experiences with a confident flow, not because they are so used to doing them, but because they aren’t afraid to make mistakes or to learn how things work.
I have 3 kids and each one learns completely differently, as I’ve often mentioned. But one clear element remains the same;
The mission here is to learn how to learn.
. I don’t want them to feel intimidated to make a mistake, to have to make a certain mark, I want them knowing that mistakes are gifts, because (as all scientists know) they give us knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Mistakes are as important as successes.
My 8 year old went outside in the snow yesterday and built a snowman for an hour and a half… alone. This is new patterns for him and I’m excited to seeing him exploring them. When he came in, I shook off his wet clothes, handed him his hot chocolate and told him… no reading practice today unless he wanted to. He didn’t.
“I build snowmen for schoolwork.” He laughed. “I have the best life.”
At 8, I want him living creatively, productively and knowing the satisfaction of learning something new. I want to see him playing to his hearts content… which since his sisters are older he’s always struggled to find the rhythm to. He learned jingle bells on the piano the other day and it was like a light going on. He still forgets what fun is found in learning. Same as the other day when he did some reading practice, he was so satisfied to see the new reality that he can actually read, having been stuck in the pattern of thinking he couldn’t.
This has been so re-occurring in my children’s individual journeys through home schooling. The concept of “schoolwork” is often seen with negative connotations and that creates a block around how they learn.
At one point with my second daughter we actually stopped using the term schoolwork, instead it was called Pineapple every time we had to do it.
She was so much like me when I thought boring workbooks was the only way my kids would learn. She would just lay on her book and cry.
But then, as I've mentioned, we discovered Oak Meadow, which fits her like it was custom made. We put her a year “behind” so she could get a strong, confident start in the program and she is like a different girl. She’s confident, she’s honest and upfront, she doesn’t hesitate in mistakes anymore or feel like she has to reach for a brass ring.
Rather, Oak Meadow has allowed schoolwork to transform into Learning… and that is the life process, right?
(by the way, Oak Meadow is sponsoring one of the days on the homeschooling conference and I think they may be having some nice treats to go along with that… and I can’t recommend the program enough!)
Our eldest girl… oh she dreams of high school.
Well actually I think as she gets older she’s starting to see the bigger picture of University and other adventures… but still she’s eager to jump into life. She sometimes starts to spin about opportunities missed by walking the home-school route. And yet, I always remind her, homeschoolers are sought by Universities for their ability to self regulate and learn. She has the ability to be building her blog at the same time as working on her algebra. She loves to push herself and now her interests and passions are being thrown into the mix of her educational pursuits. Music and blog writing has made the “schoolwork” list, helping her remember that “work” doesn’t always have to be things that we don’t like. Pleasure, learning, work and
I’m interested to see how she works with teachers who expect her to get things right, as in how they want it, rather than how she knows she can learn it. She was working through core-curriculum work, but I love watching how she suddenly finds different solutions to problems and learns things quickly, ready to bounce off to the next adventure.
Homeschooling has truly allowed my kids to grow confidently, self aware and with a joy in actual learning. Also, I’ve learned so much along side of them.
Actually that’s another thing about homeschooling. It has taught me that I don’t have to stop learning as well. There’s no expiration date on knowledge. (And thanks to Oak Meadow, I think I finally understand grade 7 math!)
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