Today is the third day of our home school year. Again, I’m battling the urge to justify my position by over-scheduling our learning experiences. That fear is rearing its head that they will suddenly stop absorbing knowledge if I don’t start cramming. This is the first year I’ve actually mentioned that, technically, by law, we are supposed to cover certain areas of knowledge. Part of me hates to peel back the curtain like that. Even when learning is fun, for some reason, knowing it’s required steals some of the joy. They readily learn from all these areas because they are curious and interested, and I don’t want to inject my own insecurities into that formula.
I also struggle with how much routine to impose on our day. The boys greatly thrive on free-play time, but they can and will play intensely for an entire day, creating intricate Lego characters and stories, setting up a new restaurant, wrestling with Minecraft blocks to make a functional virtual vehicle, or drawing complex scenes of action on colored paper. That time is well-spent and peppered with great questions, some of which lead to deeper learning experiences. I also hear them exercising their knowledge in their dialogue. Sometimes, I can set an effective “learning trap” that lures them into another activity on a topic I want to cover. Sometimes it takes a bit of convincing. My heart likes the idea of a more “unschooling” model. Is it my fear or simple practicality that drives me to put learning into a time slot?
Regardless of how our structure evolves, I want the boys to own their education. I told them the subjects we will cover because I want them to think about what they want for themselves. Today I’m going to do Math goals. Yesterday, I had them set their reading/language goals, along with steps they think will help them achieve those goals. I know they don’t know what they don’t know, but they came up with some pretty good ones on their own.
Ian, 3rd grade, decided he wants to “learn to read and write in cursive” and to “completely learn how to read and write.” To accomplish this, he has decided to “practice in cursive workbooks,” “work at [writing] with mom and dad” and “read with mom and dad.”
Isaac, 2nd grade, wants to “Read 100 books with mom and dad,” “read faster” and “spell better.” He decided that to meet these goals he needs to increase his reading time from 10 to 20 minutes a day.
Elijah, Kindergarten, wants to “finally be able to read the bible.” His proposed steps are: practice reading easier books, move up to harder books, learn how to spell, learn the sounds of all the letters and read with mom and dad.
I think it might be neat for them, if we can make them a progress chart of some sort – something that gives them an idea of their starting point and can show them what their effort has accomplished.
For starters, on Monday, the boys thought cursive writing looked like a foreign language. On Tuesday, I had them practicing a cursive “f” on the window, since it’s one of the less-obvious letters, and then we moved on to “fell” to get the feeling for the loopy-ness and direction. Then they all wanted to learn their names in cursive. Even Elijah wanted to be in on the action. Eventually, everyone was happily practicing in workbook pages. Shortly, they were able to make sense of many cursive words. How quickly they adapt!
Our favorite Math so far this week was Lemonade Math. The boys worked to scale a recipe, based on the number of lemons we had, and then we all made some gourmet lemonade together. Dee-lish!