Our homeschooling journey has always been hard, and full of obstacles. I don’t think there has been a year yet that hasn’t been interrupted by a major life event. The morning sickness of early pregnancy, the birth of a new baby, many toddlers and preschoolers needing my attention, health challenges and more.
Last year, it was Stephen’s in-home ABA therapy. Three or four days per week, we had therapists in our home, requiring at least my partial attention. And often my full attention. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like a failure in the education department, but this past year that changed. Not only did I feel as though we had failed to achieve our goals, I also felt as though we had lost our joy. The joy of learning.
The kids were not enjoying their lessons. I was not enjoying teaching, I was not enjoying being the taskmaster, trying to keep them on track, checking off the boxes that proved they were learning something. But it was my job. So I kept going, hating every moment of it.
We finished the school year at the end of May. Not all the planned coursework was completed, but I declared that we were done. (A teacher’s prerogative, right? After all, I NEVER remember completing a textbook when I was a kid in school.) After a few weeks where I deliberately did not think about school related things AT ALL, I began the dreaded task of pondering and planning for the upcoming school year. And I started praying.
The thought of a repeat of last year was repulsive to me. I did not think I could cope. I once again considered other educational options. Private school was immediately ruled out due to the cost. Public and charter schools have their own sets of logistical issues that made me conclude they are still a less-than-great choice for our family.
So, I’m back to square one. Homeschooling and hating it. I needed something new. Different from what I have done before. Something that works with our limitations, not against them. I continued praying for answers.
I stumbled on a book called Ignite the Fire written by a fellow mom of many (http://www.ignitethefire.com). It’s inexpensive, and it looked promising, so I bought it. I read. I looked at the “other people who purchased this also bought” section on Amazon.com. I noticed a book called Teaching From Rest. It had a lot of great reviews. I went to the author’s website to read a bit more, and learned of a giveaway (on another blog) for the book I was considering, along with some companion audio files.
I decided to wait on purchasing the book, and instead entered the drawing. I prayed that if this was something that would be beneficial, God would direct me through the outcome. Three days later I learned I had won! I read some more. And I began to sense God directing me. Answering my desperate prayer for wisdom and guidance.
About two weeks later, through a series of seemingly random circumstances, I was put in touch with another mom who teaches her kids through a method she calls “delight-directed learning”. She offered to send me her notes for classes she has taught on the Delight-Directed method of learning, and articles she has written. I gratefully accepted, and continued reading. (She gave me permission to share her materials with others — just ask, and I will email them to you.)
I felt that all of these things would not likely come together by coincidence — that it was God’s way of directing my steps.
Don and I had been talking off and on about plans for the coming school year. I had all these random thoughts and ideas for change, but I lacked a concrete plan. I was starting to feel the pressure, with the start of school just a few weeks away. Every thing we considered seemed to have some major drawback. After almost 20 years of homeschooling, I know my own and my children’s weaknesses, strengths, shortcomings and passions pretty well. I wanted to work with the strengths and passions while safeguarding against our shortcomings. Most of all, I wanted to rekindle a LOVE for learning. A JOY in learning. DELIGHT in learning. We continued to pray together for wisdom and direction.
Gradually a plan began to form. For the first time in years, I’m actually excited about starting school. I think we will have fun. It won’t be total drudgery. Last week, when we presented the new plan to the kids, they were excited too!
What is the plan, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, and then ask for your help.
After our desire to teach our children to love Jesus, and to build godly character in their lives, one of our highest priorities is to teach our kids how to teach themselves. How to figure out how they best learn. How to WANT to learn. How to search out and find information that they need and how to think logically and form conclusions based on what they learn. With this in mind we have developed a sort of checklist/guideline that our kids will use this year.
Every week or two they will choose an area to study. Some examples of areas they might choose:
- historical figure (biography/autobiography)
- period of history
- anything in our physical world
- an item (tractor, book, food, tool)
- a process (canning, printing, crochet, embalming, sharing one’s faith, flying a plane)
Sometimes the student will select their own subject, and sometimes we will select, or will allow them to select within a predetermined category.
- Read books pertaining to subject (from our own bookshelves, search library catalog online and request book, or find a Kindle book)
- Read Wikipedia article (if applicable); follow relevant links
- Select 5-20 vocabulary words (depending on grade level and subject matter)
- Define the words
- Spell the words
- Plan and do a project (build something, investigate something, take something apart, bake or cook something, create something).
- Watch video or listen to audio (Amazon Prime video, YouTube)
- Blog about what they’ve learned.
Incorporate as many of the following subjects as they can:
- Language Arts
- Foreign Language
We bought tablet computers for each kid. We have set up a semi-public blog on our family’s website. Each kid will be able to share their learning in their own section of the blog. Using speech to text, this should be doable (not too tedious and time-consuming) even for the younger ones.
We will invite friends and family to comment/critique blog posts. Correcting spelling, grammar, factual errors, etc.
Once a month we will host a giveaway drawing for those who comment with helpful feedback. “Helpful” is kind of vague, but we’re looking for something deeper than “Nice post.” Ask a question about something that wasn’t entirely clear, or point out something that you think they should have included. Gently correct grammatical and spelling errors, or suggest better wording. If you learned something, say so! Get the idea?
Our kids are welcomed and encouraged to post constructive comments on siblings’ work, which will make them also eligible for a prize.
By making this semi-public we hope to motivate them to see the point of good writing and research. We hope that they will enjoy the interaction with family and friends. We hope that by allowing them to study things that are interesting to them and guiding them through the process that their interests will broaden.
We hope that by inviting others to help critique, it will help them to not just brush it off (“mom is ALWAYS after me about something”), and will also help them to learn to take criticism. Learning to discern whether the criticism is legitimate, and to accept — and be changed by — the criticism that is valid.
So, if you are interested in following along with our kids’ blogs as they learn this year, and if you would be willing to provide feedback to them, please either comment on this post or send me email privately and I’ll get you the info you need. We would be SO grateful for the help.
Coming up soon for one kid is a science experiment to observe the difference between the bacterial growth rate of raw milk left at room temperature, vs. milk that is refrigerated.