Let me introduce you to “play.” That is, I’d like you to play with your homeschooling tools. Rather than focusing so much on “getting it right” and “scheduling enough time” and “completing the objectives,” what if you saw your manuals, your books, the pastels for artwork, the piano, your yardsticks and calculators, computers and binoculars, writing prompts, dissection kits, vocabulary cards, and field guides as toys in a big box waiting to be opened and discovered?
What if you skipped chapters and went straight for the single most interesting concept in the entire book (and it turned out to come nearly at the end, rather than at the beginning)? What would happen if you tried to build the catapult before you had learned how to hammer nails? Wouldn’t you find yourself suddenly far more interested in nail-hammering with this fascinating project in front of you that can’t continue until you’ve got the basics mastered for balancing the little nail between your fingers and smashing it with a swing of the hammer? Sometimes the end leads us to the beginning, and that leads us to enthusiasm!
What if when you read a chapter about revision in writing, you scan for the one key idea that stimulates brand new thoughts, and skip all the insipid ones about tightening your sentences or embellishing skimpy paragraphs with additional detail? What if you simply went for the best, brightest idea, such as: hiding a secret, or foreshadowing a future event within the budding story?
If this grabs hold of your attention, go for it!
Why not play with the toys of your curriculum? If you try a little, you might find you develop a taste for it all. These tools are under your command. You get to decide how to use them. It’s perfectly fine to throw your attempts at a wall and see what sticks, rather like testing spaghetti noodles for their “doneness.”
The most difficult part of being a home educator is that you feel you are flying blindly. As a result, you put far too much trust into the text books and materials, as though they hold the keys to educating your young. But they don’t. They offer you a possible pathway to mastery—that is it!
As the one in charge, you can determine which pieces actually accomplish that goal!
Not only that—please enjoy the educational process.
If you open The Writer’s Jungle, for instance, and you find yourself curious about “dumb writing assignments,” why wouldn’t you skip directly to that chapter and read it!? It might scratch your itch.
It’s okay if your child hates the Topic Funnel or resists the study of “literary elements” for today. That’s just today. Find some other tidbit worth enjoying and exploring. You may circle back to the items that were resisted and have more success once a child “buys in” through joy in another aspect of the program (whatever program – not just mine).
I literally have no stake in anyone approving every teaching I offer. I have a huge stake in your happiness at home with your children. I would imagine you do too, or you wouldn’t even attempt this slightly demented program of educating your children of multiple grade levels all day every day without a break from your charges.
You can trace the birds in the field guide without ever looking at a real bird, if that is what suits you. You can choose to never read poetry at teatime and instead only read geography terms or watch movies.
Your homeschool is under your control. But even more than that, it is meant to be wonderful. Play with the materials. See what happens when you allow your imagination to fuse with the orderly structure of the texts.
You may find, for instance, that jumping rope while skip counting is more fun than doing it at a table.
You may find that emailing the child’s father at work the five amazing facts about his favorite football team is more engaging for your young student than writing a mini report.
Try a little. Test it. See how it feels. Skip what disinterests you. Trust the process, not the product. Trust yourself, not the invisible educator not present in the room.
My goodness! You are all adults. You know what you know and you know how to find out what you don’t know and you won’t cover it all anyway, and what you do together with your children is going to be enough because you can never do it all.
Anything you miss? I promise, they will meet it again in college or they will never need it again (or they can AskJeeves).
Let loose a little. January is a good time for that.
Cross-posted on facebook.