Monday, January 5, 2009

Homeschool Adjustments

On Saturday, Bill and I had our 2nd Homeschooling Offsite. We've been having general-purpose quarterly family offsites for several years now, and this summer we decided to spin off an additional dedicated quarterly offsite for homeschooling.

We farmed the kids off to my brother and walked down to Columbia City.  Over four hours of (decaf) coffee we talked about why we homeschool and how we think we best should do it.

Since our last offsite I've been brewing a crisis of faith. The large resistance Theo has mounted over the fall combined with two books I've read recently have had me deeply questioning my approach to teaching both he and his sister. For input beyond said books, I've picked the brains of many teachers I admire.  In one mind-stretching day I problem solved with both an unschooling mom and a public school teacher.

The list of concerns I dumped on Bill went something like this:
  • John Medina, in his book Brain Rules, says that the best learners are emotionally engaged in their learning.  Also that they get lots of repetition, sleep and exercise.  And stress interferes with their ability to retain and recall information learned.
  • Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, discovers that people need to log 10,000 hours -about 6-8 hours/day for 10 years - to become true experts at any given skill (playing a musical instrument or programming computers). If one of my goals is to support my kids in doing what they love, I want to make sure my notions of "schooling" don't interfere with their 10,000 hours. 
  • Theo is resistant to about half the things I try to do start with him.  Often once we start he enjoys himself and even feels proud of what he has accomplished.
  • My professional teacher friend suggested that, while I have found curriculum that are good for Theo, they are too monotone.  Meaning they always do the same things the same way.  She suggested we need to explore various "modalities." For example: instead of using pencil and paper for spelling every day, use sand in a cookie sheet or write with squeeze cheese or use our Scrabble tiles. He needs variety to engage his interest then the information can hold it.
  • Rosie spends huge amounts of her day singing and dancing.  At this point, we do very little to support those interests.

Talking things like this out with Bill is always a delight.  He does a great job of focusing on what is important and helping us work systematically down to what needs to happen today based on our stated priorities.

Here is the summary from our meeting.  Keeping in mind that these are our notes to ourselves and they make sense to me because I was there, I would love to hear what you think.

Our goals:

Ensure our children 
  • truly believe that what they want and need are important (to us).  
  • love to learn and learn what is important to them.
  • feel good about themselves.
  • have a good relationship with us.

In short, preserve and enhance our children's relationships with themselves, with us, and with learning.

Give our children the skills and information necessary to succeeded in the world.
  • form meaningful relationships with others (read and respond appropriately)
  • core academic skills:

    • reading, writing, math
    • understanding how the world works (history, religion, stereotyping and racism, philosphy, politics)
    • how to learn what they want to know

  • Help our children achieve their dreams and help them grow their talents.

Current assumption is that by the end of high school our children will have both breadth and depth to their education, but that we do not need to provide that all right now.  For the moment we are going to focus on depth of the next needed skills and what is interesting/important to them.

This quarter we will focus on:

Subject Theo Rosie
Reading lots of opportunity lessons
both: read aloud 1 hr/day (w/pRoshi device), occasional literature discussions

Math 1 lesson/day 1 lesson/day
both: 1 hr games/day

Writing both: poetry memorization
no formal handwriting this quarter

Spelling Theo: Spelling Zoo - Sara dictating words until Theo reaches independence
use a variety of modalities
Rosie: none

History H@OH
weekly review of class notes
no geography

Science no formal science this quarter

Guitar both: practice daily, weekly lessons

Programs small parts of Donna's prescribed programs
- reflexes, sound location, smells

(and really, there are no words to express my level of frustration with the formatting in Blogger.  Expect to see a post comparing Blogger to OTHER blogging software soon.)

No comments: