Thursday, August 7, 2014

Homeschooling the Rigid and Creating the Passionate

So we're homeschooling right now in order to determine if it will work before school starts. (This will also give us extra vacation time during the year!)

Some of my kids like my new brand of homeschooling.

Some not so much.

I believe in structure and hard work.

I believe in creativity and following your passions.

These two things seem to conflict in most school settings, so I've been trying to create an atmosphere and a system where these things go together.

When we first started talking about homeschooling, I told the kids I wanted them to do four Cs every day:

Calculate (Calculate on top of their one hour of a math program every day)

I suggested they find something they want to study and go crazy on that topic until they feel like they've squeezed all they can from it. We decided to call this their "project." On top of their music practicing and their one hour of math, they work for four hours on their project. At the end of the day, we have an interview where they demonstrate what they've learned and share what they've done.

Lucy picked WW II. Calvin picked Chimpanzees. Shaemus picked eyeglasses (really...), and Flannery picked trees.

Calvin read books about chimpanzees all week. He drew me a poster diagramming how they are related to other apes, what they eat, what plants are in their environment, etc... He made a miniature chimpanzee habitat. He made chimpanzees out of clay, and he read WHITE FANG. (If any of you know any fantastic novels out there about chimpanzees, please pass them on...) He learned and he grew and I felt like all of this was coming from someplace deep inside of him—a real, insatiable, curious part of him.


Lucy did WW II. She read novels. She read articles. She read books. She took pages and pages of notes. She made a water color about Japan's role in the war. She wrote me a very good essay about how Hitler was able to manipulate so many people and commit the atrocious crimes he did. But there was something stifled in her work, something desperate. Something very "traditional schoolish." I didn't see her really breaking out of her comfort zone to try new things. I didn't see her thinking they way I wanted her to be thinking. She worked hard, but almost too hard, and not with the joy I wanted to see.

Not a failure, but not really a success.

Flannery spent a great deal of the week telling me she read books that she did not read. She also did a great job with her math, with reading to me, with art (oh, how she loves to draw and paint), and with her ABC book she is creating about trees. But the lying thing is going to be tough to navigate.


Shaemus. Shaemus, Shaemus, Shaemus. Shaemus is at a hard age—I think eight is a hard. He wants to be good, but he is incredibly insecure. He wants to be told exactly what to do so he can do that exact thing and do it just right. He is usually my builder, my creator. Did he build anything during the week? First of all, after studying the eyeball for a day, he decided to switch to WW I. Then, after some research, he built a German submarine that partially submerged with LEGOs. That was good, but I'm not sure how creative it actually was. He read a huge variety of books about WW I, but his mind wandered. A lot. He took notes, but they were just copying down facts he read in different places. He was bored, often frustrated. Not excited about anything.

Not a success. I don't think he's going to be behind if this is how school looks for him the entire year. He's still doing more math, reading, and writing and of a much better quality than he would in school, but this is not the passion I imagined inciting in him, and I know this kid. There is a lot of passion inside of him. If I can find it, if I can tap into it, he will be incredible. Unstoppable in anything he sets his mind to.

I read the other day in an interview with the man who basically master-minded the iPhone, that he didn't think it mattered so much what you were passionate about, so long as you were capable of passion.

With that in mind, I'm re-envisioning their four hours of project time (Flannery's is just two hours long). They can study whatever they want during that time, and it does not have to be on the same topic. They can switch around as their passions drive them, but every day they need to show me real, tangible evidence that they have Created (discovered a problem and found different ways to solve it), Calculated (above and beyond their regular math time), Comprehended (read something at a high level and worked to understand it), and Communicated (they have to now write every day, and it cannot be taking notes—though the format it takes (newspaper article, essay, poster, play, short story, novel, etc...)) can vary. I've also decided I want them to find some way to Collaborate with someone else on their work throughout the day.

I have no idea how this will turn out. I have no idea if I will be able to get this rolling as I envisioned. Independence in their schooling is hugely important to me, both for them and for myself. Maybe Shaemus will never be able to be independent. Maybe he will always need rigid structure to thrive. Except is it thriving if that's the only way he can learn?

Is every child capable of living a confident, innovative, creative life full of passion and learning?

That's what I aim to find out!!!

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