Thursday, November 11, 2010

Working Through How to Work

It occurs to me that one of the reasons homeschooling is such a challenge, at least in this household, is that Theo is so dang smart.  Not unlike the observation that gifted children avoid futility* so well with their clever minds, I see that Theo's clever little mind works at getting around doing any actual schoolwork.

To be honest, doing school work has no value to him.  And honestly, I don't expect it should as he's 9 years old and can't really hold onto the idea of doing X or Y right now so that he'll be able to reach his dreams when he's an adult.  It is way more fun to build legos. He loves to play on the computer and read comic books, and he's figured out that he can just wait until our "light" days on Friday, Saturday, Sunday to do his 4 required items and then indulge in his passions, rather than doing the full list Monday-Thursday.  And suddenly I find myself faced with a boy who has ZERO interest in working and actually a clear cut plan of how to NOT work as it serves his desires.

I'm feeling stuck.  I don't want to have escalating structures, rules or behavior charts.  What I really want is for us to sit down together in a happy peaceful way and get the work done that I've assigned. I am confident it's not too much - 3 hours of school work a day that includes the history he's passionate about, drawing lessons that make him giggle and the math he just tears through is not too much.

Probably the bit that hangs us up right now the most in our schooling time is my trying to send each of them off to doing their own thing.  As in, "Rosie and I are doing math right now, Theo please go work on your writing." While the amount of separation seems tiny to me, it looks like it is too big for either of my kids. When I send them off to work independently, Theo spends his time messing around, and Rosie hangs on me and whines.  Perhaps there is something intense to them about me engaging with their sibling and sending them "away" to the other side of the room.

My best guess right now is to really focus on the idea of coming along side - literally getting next to him and saying "this is what we're going to do now." Some combination of eliminating the separation, being the big mama and holding the work that needs to be done as a type of futility (as in this is *going* to happen now).

I'm looking for feedback.  Does this sound clear to people?  Am I getting taken for a ride and not noticing it?  How does the theory of "coming along side" to do our school work sound - and any ideas how on earth I'm going to make that happen with 2 kids at the same time?


* In Neufeld's attachment based developmental model, experiencing futility is a huge need for humans in general and our kids specifically.  Futility is the realization that life is not going to be exactly the way we want it and that we need to adapt to life.  It is in the process of adapting to what is that we grow, we make space for new ways of being/seeing the problem, and we learn that we can handle the big experiences life throws at us and still be okay.
   Experiencing futility is incredibly vulnerable and shows us our powerlessness.  I think as Americans in general we tend to avoid this vulnerability, and our children who think they need to be big and in charge of their worlds (instead of we adults being in charge) do the same thing.


Wil said...

Perhaps the issue is that the work is not hard enough? This is just a guess thinking back to my days as a homeschool student, and triggered by this recent article I read: Basically it talks about how learning can actually happen at a higher rate of speed if taught well.

I remember preferring to move quickly through lessons as well, because it always felt really, really slow. Life felt slower then compared to my life now.

Anyway try ratcheting up the intensity of the learning and see if Theo enjoys it more. And if you do, let us know how it goes! My daughter's only 2, but I am thinking about how to help my wife with homeschooling (since I at least have student practice at it.)

Sara said...

This is great feedback. I also went to a presentation by a homeschool mom on working with gifted children. She also recommended working faster. I've tried that with our math lessons, and he easily moved through 3 lessons in one day and 2 in the next, just skipping some of the review and some of the concept explanation that I knew he already understood.

I'll keep looking at ways to do this.

BrightHeart Blog said...

Another way of adding intensity might be introducing an element of physical newness. For instance, challenge him to do x in y amount of time. Or, see if he can do his work (perhaps not writing!) when he's upside down, or in bed, or under a chair.

My kids (and myself) crave a lot of stimulation and change within the larger, safe structure of routine, so this works for us. It may not be at all so for your family; just throwing it out there.

PNW Mama said...

One thing that I do with my kids when focusing on work with one is to give the others something fun to do that they WANT to do. It's very difficult to work independently on something you don't want to do. But if they get to do something with that free time that is fun or pleasant for them, then it's easier to ensure success. You could easily give Theo reading time while working with Rosie, for example.

One nuance to this, esp with my oldest, is that I let her do the things she can do without my assistance and THEN she can do the pleasure activities while I am working with the other kids.

In all fairness, the one thing that is easier about an odd number of kids is that two can play while I work with the third.