Your Secret Weapon
You thought I’d tell you what your secret weapon is in the first sentence? Oh heaven’s no. You will have to read a bit to find out.
You know how you have kids who don’t want to “do school” or resist a new curriculum or say they hate assignments or projects? You know how you keep telling them that at some point they will just “have to learn to write” or they “can’t write fiction forever” or they “can’t play all day”?
It’s one of those things where you kinda sorta freak out a bit when that resistance really gets going—in the form of fights, tears, refusal to even write one sentence, a willingness to outlast you.
So, are we on the same page?
The tendency is to view yourself in those moments as a teacher who deserves respect and authority by virtue of being the home educator. You think you have the right to expectations because you are in charge. You can’t understand why that sweet little munchkin is becoming such a curmudgeon!
Here’s the thing, though. You’re at home. You’re the mother or father. Your kids know that there is negotiating space. That’s what home is. It’s the one place where “have to’s” have less power. Home is supposed to be a relief from the stress of the outside pressures of life. Enforcing “school” at home feels so contrary to the natural untidiness, lack of schedule-ness that home represents in life.
You need to embrace home as a home educator first—really allow yourself to notice and enjoy its properties (you know, like waking up when you want or wearing pj’s until lunch, or cuddling with a blanket on the couch for read aloud time).
For those formats and practices and programs you wish to see flourish in your home, then, you need to embrace them through that lens.
You ready? Here’s your secret weapon:
Stop talking, start doing.
In other words, if you want a child to write in a new form, stop telling your child to write in that form.
Wake up, gather paper and pencil, and after breakfast, without a word (that’s the key here), start writing. Write the kind of thing you are expecting your child to write. You might be writing a thank you note. You might be writing a short essay on paper dolls. You might be copying a quote from a book you love. You might write a non-fiction paragraph about Pocahontas.
Your kids may hover around you saying, “What are you doing? When do we start math? Mom, can I have more orange juice?”
You might respond: “I’m writing about Pocahontas. In fact, I can’t remember: does anyone remember the name of her tribe? Can someone get me the book we were reading?”
Someone asks, “Mom what am I supposed to do while you are writing?”
You reply, “I don’t know. What do you feel like starting with today? I’m going to work on this. You’re free to help me. Or you can get going with math. But I’m doing this.”
Then do it. Keep going.
You’ll be shocked. Some will join you. And because YOU are doing the assignment, you will discover just how difficult it is, too. You’ll have some raw direct experience of just what it is you are asking your child to do!
At some point in the next few weeks of doing a couple of these, you will see that your kids start to participate. You don’t simply flip over to telling them to take over, but you can say, “If you want to work on your own version of this, I’m happy to help you while I complete mine.”
Be open to collaboration, to multiple children doing one project, to everyone helping you with your project. This is HOME. Not school. Not about grade levels. This is about giving your kids a chance to watch a process before they have to engage in it or learn how to do it. This is your chance to model and lead by silence, rather than lecture and enforcement.
Stop talking. Start doing.
Image © Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com