Saturday, December 21, 2013

Letting Go So My Child Can Learn

Homeschooling can be intimidating. I remember that it was somewhat intimidating the first time we did this, but it was first grade, and in our state kids don't have to attend school until they are eight. That took a little bit of pressure off, because I figured whatever we were doing was gravy.

But this time he's in fifth grade, and I've been a little nervous that we were behind according to my lesson plans and curriculum.

Today, I had an epiphany. I realized that I am worrying for no reason. I've thought that before, and I can't really describe why it finally sank in today, except that I read some things today that led me to that moment.

I read a post on Facebook about a radical new teaching method by a teacher in Mexico who took his students from mediocre and failing to the top students in Mexico, just by asking, "What do you want to learn?"

In that same article there was a story about a man in New Delhi who put a computer in a room with some 10-14 year-olds and they learned on their own how to operate the computer. And then he put a program on the computer about molecular biology, and said, "There's some stuff on that computer you might like to see." And he walked out, and left them alone to explore it. And they learned molecular biology.

And it clicked in my head. Sean has been doing this on his own since I allowed him to sit at a computer. Waaaayyyy back in first grade, he loved to get on Google and research snakes. That was his thing back then. He wanted to know all there was to know about snakes. He read on the computer, and he checked out all of the snake books at the library and would compare the information from each one.

He has been doing it all these years, finding what he wants to know. I don't like him spending a lot of time in front of a screen, so I discourage it. Well, not discourage, but limit. And I don't really delight in anything he's doing on the screen for fear that it will encourage him to spend even more time on the computer.

 But now I believe I have been worrying for no reason. I still don't plan to allow him to sit idly in front of a screen, but I will honor his desire to use this technology.

I also was hit with the realization that he is explicitly asking me for what he needs, and I have to give it to him. He had a great week this week, and it's because I decided to be completely hands-off with instruction this week. I started out with feeling sick on Monday, and so he was in charge of his own schooling that day. And he did it. He worked on three works, and then he did math with his math teacher that day. The next day he did his own work plan, and he worked through it to completion. One of his works was science, and he decided to research the physics of parkour online, and then he shared his findings with me.

On Wednesday he did math before going to the shooting range, and then quickly got to work when we were home again so he could get his work plan finished.

I suggested that he might want to focus on making his Christmas gifts on Thursday, because he is drawing artwork as gifts. But he also did other works as well, and worked on Friday, too.

But somewhere in the middle of the week he asked if he could just do his own work, just study what he wants to know. I said yes, but hesitantly. I said we would have to follow the basic curriculum that I have, but he could study what he wants within that curriculum. I'm always afraid. Afraid he isn't learning what he should be learning. Afraid we aren't doing enough. Afraid.

I still plan to have him follow those basic subjects, but my outlook on this is completely changed. I believe what I will do is let him go. I'll let him find what he wants to learn and see what happens.  And if he isn't learning some of the things in the curriculum, I'll address that with him and we can come up with a plan on how he can learn those things, too.

I'm excited to watch it unfold.

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