Thursday, September 5, 2013

The 2013-2014 School Year

The more I learn about learning, the more I've learned that knowing where to find information when you need it is far more important that memorizing things. And that REAL learning is not a thing you do, but an experience you have.
-Elliott Hulse

I'm a little ashamed to admit it.  Last year, homeschooling was hard.  I mean, really difficult.  Every day was a fight to get my children to do what work was on the schedule for the day.  And sometimes the fighting got ugly.  There were showdowns.  Tears.  Screaming.  Whimpering.  By the children and by me.  

What went wrong?  Before the beginning of last year, I decided to really start doing a better job of planning.  I had been listening to other homeschoolers through podcasts and YouTube, reading blogs and I decided that what we needed was more structure and more planning.  I bought a plan book like a real teacher and instead of writing down (in a cute little spiral notebook) what we did after it was done as I had been doing, I started to try to foresee the future and write down what we would be doing.  This was disastrous.  

I felt pressure to complete what I had written down for the day (even though I was the one who wrote it down).  And, in turn, I really pressured my children.  In my mind, I guess I thought I was doing a good thing.  Getting things done.  But what I ended up doing was damaging my relationship with my children and stripping away their love of learning.  And I felt awful about it.  But I also felt that in all of that frenzy, we really accomplished nothing.  

So when July came around and other homeschoolers started gearing up excitedly for the new school year, all I felt was serious apprehension.  The way our homeschool had run in the last year was not the way.  I couldn't even imagine another year of that kind of hell.  Something had to fundamentally change.  But I wasn't sure what.  

I think whenever a homeschooler comes to this place, they will be given two types of advice.  The first is that he/she should abandon all curricula and embrace unschooling.  The other piece of advice is that the homeschooler should abandon homeschooling.  The difficulties are "proof" that it is not working.  But neither of those options resonated with me on a gut level.  Not at all.

And then, almost miraculously, two different blog posts were posted in my Facebook feed and I found myself nodding emphatically while reading both.

I realized that what I needed to do above all else was to re-articulate for myself what I hoped to achieve by homeschooling my children.  And to reassure myself that it was all right to abandon some curricula that just weren't working (even though I had already paid for them).  

Look, the fact of the matter is that I want my children to love learning and to be able to learn whatever it is they want to learn.  So my goal this year is simple: teach math and Language Arts (reading/writing) and let the other subjects come in naturally.  My modus operandi is "easy does it".  I don't intend to push anything else except 20 minutes of these core subjects (and lots of "pleasure" reading).  I hope to get lots of fun science and art projects in since my children really enjoy these things (but we rarely had time to fit them in last year).  But that's if they want to.  I'm excited to offer Latin, history, geography, typing, chess and other optional subjects.  

I have no idea if relaxing our homeschool this much will be a good thing or will work but what I am keeping foremost in my mind is that without enjoyment, no true learning can actually happen.  As a matter of fact, I believe that will be the theme of the 2013-2014 school year for our homeschool.  I am now willing and ready to drop anything that is tedious, drawn out, or boring.  There are many different ways to obtain knowledge and suffering is not one.  I've got a bin full of math and reading games and activities to switch to when our studies start to become just the least bit frustrating.  And I'm trusting my children to seek out other topics of interest that they would like to pursue.  To find projects on which they'd like to work.  I am putting more of their learning into their own hands.  It's an experiment, yes. But I feel excited about it.  And the sense of dread I had has cleared.  I have significantly pared down my list of "must-have" school books and the cost to start the new school year is well within the $100 range.  (My husband is thrilled about that.)  

We'll still keep up with our activities.  Karate, soccer, swimming and music.  I am working on a science cooperative with two other families as well.  

So this year, there's no long list of curricula.  I can tell you in a few lines what we'll be using:
Math-U-See Delta
Daily Word Problems Grade 4
First Language Lessons Level 3
Winning with Spelling Grade 4
Word Ladders Grade 4
Cursive Writing Joke and Riddles

Explode the Code Book 3 and 3 1/2
2nd grade spelling lists from SuperTeacher Worksheet
Handwriting Cursive
First Language Lessons Level 1
Singapore Math 2A and 2B
Daily Word Problems Grade 2

I would like Z1 to continue to practice cursive daily (short sentences not long, boring paragraphs) and I'd like Z2 to start learning to write cursive (he still reverses some of his letters).  "Required" subjects should not exceed an hour to an hour and a half.   And that's it.  

Sure, there are a lot of books on our shelves and I will be sure to leave them where they can see them.  I hope they pique their interest but if not, I'm fine with that.  There are a lot of things I would like to introduce to and teach my children but again, if they are not enjoying the process, they are not learning. And I am not really teaching.  So I'm going to leave it at that.  I'm going to leave us a lot of space to change and morph and do what works instead of what I "should" be doing.  I'm going to relax a lot.  

School officially starts this coming Monday.  My children are not excited but I am hoping that our new approach to things will generate more excitement as the days go on.  


Kristina said...

Good for you! Learning to throw out what is not working is something the traditional educations has yet to figure out, so consider yourself way ahead of the game.

Schedules work in our house- The Gerg enjoys knowing what is coming next. But when I was being educated as a child, schedules were bad for me. I just needed to know what was expected of me and then I did it. Having a schedule took me out of our comfort zone, but it works.

Also, adding a really cool project at the end of the day- something that she wants to do but never gets to do- works for us too!

The Original Wombman said...

Thanks Kristina! Schedules really work for me so it's going to be challenging just flowing but yes, I am glad that we have the freedom to change and do things differently.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to your updates about this. I'm also really considering a personalized learning approach for my entire school next year as I move away from a hard structure of what (doesn't) work for most children.

The Original Wombman said...

Hi LT! :) I will do my best to keep posting updates. I would love to see individualized instruction taking place in a school setting.

Jan Haskins said...

The road has been rocky and difficult, but you pulled through! Your perseverance is admirable. Others would have given up at the first telltale signs of homeschooling difficulties, but not you! I hope you succeed with your flexible goals this year, and don't forget to take a breather yourself. Best of health to you and your family!

Jan @

The Original Wombman said...

Thank you Jan! We are more than halfway done with the year and my approach has given me more sanity.

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