“One Thing” High School Style Part One
(or what happened to Cozy Learning?)
Lots of moms are very comfortable with what I might call “cozy” learning during the early years. “Cozy learning” is that unhurried longer look at a topic of interest using our natural appetites to guide us in our study. So, for instance, if bird calls entice, a cozy learner packs an apple and a bottle of water in a backpack, loads the stroller and sling into the car and ties the shoe laces of her other three under-ten year old kids as they head out to the hills to hike. She hands out the free field guides she got from National Geographic when she renewed her subscription. When the four-year-old exclaims, “Mom, look! That’s an American Crow!” pointing simultaneously to the photo in the book, the happy homeschooling mother contentedly reflects on the day as a success. Learning happened.
Cozy learning, then, is that wonderful intersection of real studies combined with natural lifestyle (yummy snacks, walks, long looks, snuggling under blankets, fires blazing, soft music, enjoyment of art – both admiring masterpieces and finger painting-cheerful enthusiasm when learning the structure of the ear canal or the shape of a teepee or how to skip count 7s).
By junior high, the coziness starts to disappear. It happens slowly. This odd notion called, “Now it really counts” moves in and takes the cozy learner hostage. With the gun of college prep requirements aimed at the homeschooling parent’s transcript generator cautiously saved on the hard disk, panic and doubt ensue.
Sure she knows a Picasso from a Monet, but will that really help her get into college?
He’ll read any novel I hand him, but I can’t get him to take interest in current events. Doesn’t he need to care about his world and understand how to interpret the events of today to make it as an adult?
And math. Oh. My. Toothbrush! What will I do? My kids stopped loving it and I stopped knowing how to teach it and don’t they need at least three good years of it to get to college?
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the concerns. Writing, history, economics and believe it or not, some moms even stress over PE and Health. They look at the college admissions list, remember their own high school days and immediately lose all the love of learning they’ve cultivated for the last eight years. Enter Madam Textbook and Master Year-Long Program.
I totally get it. I yielded to the pressure like any good mom. When my oldest two were in 8th and 10th grade, I got “serious” and planned a program that would have them studying like good students for several hours a day, writing narrations, reading meaty books, preparing oral and written reports, all while being tutored in math, of course. Within eight weeks, my daughter (the 8th grader) told me she hated her life. My 10th grader looked at me one day and said, “If this is what college will be like, I don’t want to go.”
Good thing my hearing is fine. My nerves, however, were not and I did what I do when my plans fail. I freaked out. You see, the one thing I’m not good at – looking at a miserable child and doing nothing. We started over. I went back to what I really believed about education. Deep down I knew that what you hated to do did not educate you. It harmed you and your relationship to that subject (and the person requiring it). I also knew that any subject could be engaging if the learner bought in (believed he or she needed to learn it) and the delivery was compelling.
So I rethunk a lot of things at that point. My “rethunkings” will be posted in installment two: How I turned four years of fulltime “college prep requirements” into four years of doing one thing at a time.