Friday, August 30, 2013

Things We Got Right

I posted my Homeschool Do Over List earlier this week, which got me thinking about what I would not do differently, or in other words, the things we got right. I'm always adapting and changing what we do in order to meet Mikro's needs, but here are some places I think we hit a homeschool homerun:

  1. We let him be a kid. I am a firm believer in kids learning through play, especially in the early years. We did things in a natural, everyday life way, and didn’t sit him down with workbooks and get all academic before he was ready. He learned to write using chalk in the driveway. He learned math with toy cars and dinosaurs and blocks. He learned biology through nature walks, visiting the riverbanks, going seining, bird watching, and trips to nature centers, zoos and museums. Later he took formal classes and started reading college biology and anatomy textbooks “for fun”.

  2. We have always followed a relaxed schedule, introducing a subject or a skill, seeing if our son was ready for it and receptive, and backing off if necessary until we saw signs of readiness or interest. (I was a gifted kid and come from parents who pushed. I think I was always a miniature adult. I decided I did not want that for my own gifted kid.) My son is somewhat asynchronous in his development. He reads at a college level, has a vocabulary that astonishes people (he sounds like a little professor), but has the handwriting of a kindergartener. He’s left handed and had some fine motor issues. He’s also stubborn, and did not want to write or draw because it hurt his hand. We have helped him over those hurdles, and he’s still not writing with grade level penmanship, but he is writing and drawing, spontaneously, voluntarily and often, because we never made a huge deal over this as a weakness, just encouraged him to do things that promoted hand strength and dexterity and trusted that he would do things when he was ready to. I bought him a book on drawing dragons that sparked his interest, and suddenly it became difficult to keep him in art supplies!

    He now spends hours drawing and writing in a collection of notebooks. He draws fantasy creature cladograms, where he diagrams the imaginary evolutionary trees of mythical creatures. He draws and labels their life cycle stages, draws maps, designs ecosystems where these things evolved, and generally just applies his biologist’s filter to mythology in a unique and creative way that is an absolute joy to watch. I think if we had made him to do copywork to improve his penmanship, we would have discouraged him from writing, convinced him he wasn’t “good at it”, and had a far less joyful outcome than we got from encouraging, supporting, and providing resources, rather than forcing the issue. We took a similar approach to creative writing, and encouraged storytelling before handwriting skills could keep pace with imaginative flow by being his scribes. We emphasized expression over proper grammar and spelling to build a love for writing, and then moved into teaching self-editing once he was ready to hear criticism without becoming discouraged or thinking he couldn’t write.

  3. We have always incorporated his interests into his studies. Mikro loves science, especially biology and paleontology, and we have let him run with it, even crafting math word problems around his interests. He also loves mythology and folklore, and those are a big component in our history studies.

  4. We spend as much time as possible outdoors. My son is interested in and engaged with nature. One day he said to me, “Mama, there is so much beauty in this world and so many people are too busy to see it.” That he can see it is success enough for me to be eternally grateful for our decision to homeschool. I am confident that he will carry the ability to really see, to stop and notice a pattern in a leaf, or the complexity of a feather, to appreciate nature and his place in it, on into his adult life.

  5. We encourage activism. Mikro has accompanied us to rallies, protests, and festivals promoting peace, environmental stewardship and Constitutional rights. He has a strong interest in politics and American History. He isn't afraid to express an opinion, understands that opinions backed by research tend to have more value than knee jerk reactions, has been known to make a sign, shout a slogan and sing a protest song, and is a joy to his old hippie mama.

  6. We are flexible. If we try something and it isn't a good fit, we move on, and find something more appealing. The few times I have forgotten this, I have made us both miserable until I realized that forcing us to do a program just because I paid for it was actually just costing us more: harmony, contentment, and enthusiasm for the subject, all of which are worth more than whatever sum I wasted on an inappropriate resource.

  7. We have always focused on our main goals: That our son love learning, and that he learn how to ask questions and find answers, rather than be able to memorize and regurgitate a particular approved set of facts according to someone else's schedule. So far, it's working!

1 comment:

jugglingpaynes said...

"Let him be a kid"...That is a favorite of mine too. Our society is in such a rush to make kids reach that finish line of adulthood, no attention is paid to the journey. My kids and their friends acted like kids much longer than their peers in school. While it did cause some issues for us (don't even mention Santa Claus around here)I don't regret letting them enjoy the wonder and magic that is childhood.

Good to see you back to your blog!
Peace and Laughter!