Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Letting go of my ideas

     I love the idea of Classical Homeschooling, I really do.  Every year, I read books like The Well Trained Mind, The Core, and Latin Centered Curriculum.  Every year, I try to figure out how to work our schedule to look more "classical".  Every year, I wrestle my children into something they are not, and I wrestle myself into something I am not.  I've spent a good deal of time on a certain classical homeschooling forum (ahem) that you might know about.  I love the moms there and feel that many of them are truly amazing.  However, I began realizing just how frantic and discouraged I felt reading the posts.  So many of these families fit Latin and Logic into their days.  Their children can write circles around mine.  Their 7th graders are starting Algebra I (and some of them are finishing Algebra I).  Many moms run 6-8 hour school days, and strongly suggest that 3-4 hours of school is simply inadequate, and downright negligent for any student past the 4th grade.  (Note: it is often quoted that seatwork should be 1 hour per grade level; 1st grade = 1 hour.  2nd grade = 2 hours.  And yes, 5th grade = 5 hours, and so on... Although, I think it levels out by 8th grade, lol!).  Every time I try to push my children past the 3 hour mark, it starts to get ugly.  We could probably even stretch ourselves to 4 hours, if need be, but tempers wear thin (mine especially!!).  I tried a 6 hour day last year for about 1-2 weeks; the kids were trying hard to accomodate me, but they were really burning out.  I saw less learned in a 6 hour day, than in a short 2-3 hour day.  Why?

     The kids were genuinely trying to make it work, so I know it wasn't a disobedience thing.  Yes, we do suffer from bad attitudes (me included), but that wasn't it - at least not this time around.  Perhaps we just aren't an intense, 6 hour seatwork kind of family.  In considering the wide world of things that don't work, I also need to consider the things that DO work:

     One child does really well with "strewing".  Strewing is when you pick up interesting educational materials and leave it lying around to be found.  The idea is that the child will see it and peruse it.  Seems like if I leave 10 items out, 8 of them will get picked up and absorbed by this child.  It helps if I can get a feel for what she might like, and then find those items.  Stocking the bookshelves with Usborne type history books will sometimes be found and read at bedtime.  I eventually find out which things get read by the conversations we have later:)  It would be impossible to count strewing into the seatwork daily totals, but I know that learning is happening, whether I count it or not.

     The other child is not so easy to strew.  It seems like out of the 100 items I might strew, 1 of those might be found and perused.  However, once I can find that one thing, I can generally find 2 more things that are similar to put with it.  Eventually, she loses interest, and it's back to the drawing board for me! 

     Short, bitesized lessons
    The nonstrewing child, especially, needs short, bitesized lessons.  She's a black-and-white, yes-or-no thinker.  Exploring ideas and possibilities is overwhelming to her.  I did have an a-ha moment on the above-mentioned forums when a mom mentioned history as a neverending story.  I'm beginning to understand that perhaps my kid isn't being purposefully belligerent; she truly IS overwhelmed by it all.  I think this is why she does well with her daily To-Do list (clear start-end point), and why open-ended, creative assignments go down like the Titanic.  Discussions that involve feelings, possibilities, and analysis also tank, big time. She is starting to explore her creative side this year, so I'm curious to see where this ends up.  I may experiment (once again) with the use of projects and games, to see where it leads.

     Now, how this gets us to appreciating Shakespeare, reading classic literature, or studying Latin, I don't know!  Maybe it doesn't.  Maybe we strew this a little or maybe it becomes a mandatory assignment to suffer through.  Or maybe, it doesn't end up being important in the grand scheme of things.  God made these people, and He has a plan for them.  As much as it pains me to consider, what if classic literature is NOT a part of that plan?  Will it kill their chances of success in life?

   I think the reason it bothers me so much is - classic literature tied with history was a big part of my inspiration in school.  When I look back, Biology didn't have much impact on me, but reading the Scarlet Letter, the Crucible, and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God DID impact me, greatly.  I was deeply inspired by my Honors English classes in high school.  I want that same thing for my children!  I am just beginning to realize, however, that the thing I valued may not be the thing that my children value.  They may read the same literature and be completely unaffected by it.  It may even be (gulp) a big waste of their time, like Biology was for me (or that other science class I took. I don't remember WHAT kind of science it was, I just remember it was my 12th grade year and it involved mice traveling through mazes, lol).  I'm not saying we should completely ignore these things - I do believe that exposure to different ideas is important. Having an understanding of reoccuring themes (such as Romeo and Juliet, or Pride and Prejudice) that repeat themeselves in modern movies and books is important.  Understanding where those ideas originated is important.  But for some children, it may not be the central focus of their education - it might be glanced on once, and then forgotten.   But something else will catch them and inspire them, because it is the way God made them.

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