Thursday, October 07, 2010

Homeschooling Daze

Today I heard that Little was recently discussing the fact that he is homeschooled with one of his friends at the Teen's soccer game. According to my reputable source, he said something along the lines of, "Homeschooling is great! Most of the time, I get away with doing no work at all!"


I don't really know how to feel about this.

At first, it made me angry because 1) this was his impression of what we do and why we do it (and why I gave up a potentially satisfying and lucrative career, opened myself to the scorn and ridicule of peers and family members, and opted to take responsibility for something 99% of Americans gladly outsource to less irritable individuals) and 2) I was embarrassed he was telling people that.

Immediately upon hearing this tidbit of information, I sat him down at a table for something like an hour of nothing but handwriting practice.

But when he came to me and showed me the lovely work he had done in his handwriting book, and later the perfect 3 digit addition - with regrouping, no less - and when he later sat down and read two books to me that he couldn't read a month ago - it occurred to me that, whether he thinks he's doing work or not, there's actually a lot of learning going on, both here, and when he works with Grandma at her house.

Do they spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting down to actual book learning? Absolutely. But when some real learning happens, it's pretty meaty stuff. Today we delved into Augustus Caesar and the difference between Rome under an Emperor vs. a Republic, vs. a Monarchy. We discussed why the people liked Augustus and why this period was called the Pax Romana. Later, we joined up with Middle and went over his Chemistry together, where we're learning about the structure of atoms, covalent vs. ionic bonds, and the periodic table of elements. Little might not have understood all of that, but it was a fun introduction to it for him - it will seem somewhat familiar the next time he sees it.

None of this felt like work for either of us - it was like reading a story about Rome and talking about it together, and sneaking a peek at his big brother's science book. And it was kind of cool knowing I was getting him to learn stuff without him even realizing it or thinking of it as "work."

Overall, I think his little comment turned my attention to the fact that, when you're homeschooling, quality matters more than quantity. If they can learn a concept without hours of worksheets or busywork, wonderful. If they can't learn something when presented with it the traditional way, you have the freedom to explore other ways, or even put it aside and try again when they've matured a bit. And most importantly, there's the learning that happens when they don't think they're learning.

He thinks he's pretty clever, sneaking off to make pancakes when he's supposed to be getting ready to sit down and do math, but what he doesn't see is what I do see - and that's him - reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, observing safety rules, being aware of how much heat and time is needed, pouring and flipping carefully, arranging and presenting his finished product, and (hopefully) cleaning up his mess. All of which, at this stage in his life, are pretty cool skills to be developing.

He may think he's getting away without work or learning, but I know better. ;-D

***** And the worst homeschool-work-avoidance-offender is currently getting all A's in High School, including in his Honors classes. Which is all very reassuring when I think back to the days I worried he would grow up unmotivated and illiterate.

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