Stealth Attack Learning
Rather than teach, lead. Rather than talk, act. Rather than following the curriculum or opening the book, express what it is you wish to be known.
The secret of a vibrant homeschool is not in a book. It’s you. You are the secret weapon. You don’t have to be a good teacher. In fact, it helps if you are not.
It’s better if you are an enthusiast—someone for whom the feast of ideas is so compelling, you sneak time to follow up on the material you read to the kids to get the adult perspective. You are the best home educator when you can’t wait to make dinner because that’s when you park the kids in front of PBS to watch Arthur while you listen to Jane Austen on Audible.
There’s no magic here apart from the contagious energy that oozes from your engaged, fascinated mind! This is why home education actually works! It’s why you don’t need teacher training. Yes, you might learn something about how to impart the mechanics of writing or the formulas of math. Of course! But you don’t need to know how to give lectures or prepare worksheets or organize data into incremental chunks to be mastered through quizzes and grades.
You get to lead by passionate example.
We wonder why our kids don’t jump on the train with us? Usually it’s because we take that raw energy for the material we are about to learn with them and turn it into something schoolish. We say things like, “Let me check the lesson plan book” or “Go get me the teacher’s manual” or “I wonder what X curriculum has us doing today.”
When we delegate the work of homeschool to a company, we dilute the natural curiosity and energy with someone else’s prescriptive expectations.
But what would happen, say, if you read the manual before bedtime? What if you committed 10-15 minutes a day to simply looking at the material you hoped to cover the next day? If in doing so, you could authentically lead with that material the next day without referring to a program or a schedule or a system, what might happen?
Here’s what I mean.
It’s one thing to open a Brave Writer writing program in front of your kids and to say, “We’re going to do Project Six which is called Body Art. Come here. I need you to lie on the floor.”
It’s another entirely to get up from the breakfast table and say to one of your kids: “I’m going to lie on top of this long sheet of butcher paper. Would you mind tracing around my body with this big Sharpie? Thanks.”
Once the child has done it, you get the scissors and begin cutting your body out. Your kids are going to wonder what you are doing at some point. In the meantime, you keep going. You clip words from Pottery Barn Catalogs and you glue them to your body-butcher paper.
As you work, you ask for help: “Hand me the glue stick, would you?” and “Do you think the word ‘sparkly’ describes me?”
Before you know it, someone is going to want to have their body drawn and clipped and words stuck to their elbows and forehead too.
This is leading and immersing and playing and learning all rolled into one. Stealth attack style—the same way you taught your kids to kick a soccer ball or play peek-a-boo or decorate a Christmas tree. There was no moment where you said to your 8 year old: “Now let’s see—the planner for childhood says you need to learn how to hold a kite string and it will take six steps.”
The quickest way to kill the atmosphere of learning is to suggest that it’s time to learn!
What do you do with those pesky skills that require some incremental work? You do the best you can to support a rich atmosphere—you add treats, you rub shoulders, you sit next to your struggling second grader, you give encouragement, you try the process yourself in front of your child, you use calculators, you use Spell Check, you add brownies and candles and nature hikes before or after.
LIFE is appealing to everyone. Everyone. Life is learning. Invest in what feels alive and good and curiosity making.
If what you want to learn is not on the agenda of your child, YOU go learn it in your off minutes. Read an extra chapter. Check out the adult version of the event from the library or online (book, DVD, podcast). Your appetite need not be held back by an 11 year old’s boredom with the abolition movement. You are free to read all about the Underground Railroad now—without your child coming along.
Trust me: if you become passionate about the topic, you will naturally talk about it in your children’s presence and at some point, they will find it interesting or they will have absorbed it simply by sharing oxygen and square footage with you. Perhaps as teens. Perhaps as college students home on break.
If you’re looking for a way to start a new trajectory, stealth lessons are the way to go. Set the table with the materials or stack up the books, all after the kids are in bed. Get up and begin, without a word, without explanation or mission or objective or preamble. No one wants to be told “We’re going to have fun today.” The moment they hear the words, they want to prove you wrong! So simply begin.
If the lesson today is all about homonym confusion in the editing process, resist the temptation to talk about the problem your child is having with homonyms. A surefire way to kill any interest in learning about homonyms.
Instead, what if you tried this? Before breakfast, fill a white board with homonyms (as obscure and surprising a set as you can find) and then play a game—ask everyone to make the meaning clear of each word on scratch paper with either drawings, synonyms, sentences, or definitions. Can they Google? Of course! That’s how adults learn everything!
Get back to enthusiasm, creativity. Remind yourself of that tedious classroom where you watched the tick tick tick of the clock desperately waiting for the sentence-in-your-seat to end. That will help you remember to keep it real at home—open, direct, clear, interesting—HOME.
You can do this!