Sometimes I think the hardest part of homeschooling is knowing when to change courses. I am constantly watching my children and trying to decide to push through something that is hard or to slow down and try a different approach.
My oldest has really been struggling with handwriting and math. He will close his eyes and drop his head on the table anytime he sees me get out his copywork. Math is fine until he gets to something that takes work to figure out. At that point, he starts falling on the floor or going to the bathroom a hundred times. I wonder if he is putting his head down during math and handwriting because he's bored or because he's too challenged. I wonder if I am explaining it clearly. Do I need to be harder on him or more understanding? I really don't know. But this week, I was able to gain a bit more clarity.
I have been teaching a preschool co-op class once a week and during playtime, I get some time to talk with the other moms. We're always swapping ideas, frustrations and breakthroughs and it's opening my eyes to new possibilities. One of the moms does not used a boxed curriculum and worries more about the long term goals. She gets a check list of everything she wants them to learn that school year and works backwards. But here's my favorite thing - She asks them to tell her what they want to learn about and spends a month on each topic.
I started thinking about the boxed curriculum I use. It's filled with wonderfully enriching books and I love that aspect. But the kids don't have any input and, frankly, neither do I. I'm just following my checklist and feeling mounting pressure to "get done" every day. So I decided to change my approach. I will continue to read them great books but we are going to take a unit study approach and focus on one topic each month. I decided to run this idea by the boys.
"We really get to pick!?" my oldest said. "Let's do trains! And clocks! Can we take some clocks apart and see what's inside?"
"Sure! What about you, Drew?"
"Airplanes and cars and volcanoes and tv's!" he answered.
We were off to a good start but I still had one more concern. "I've noticed you've been struggling a bit with math and handwriting. Is it too easy or too hard for you? I can't really tell," I asked my oldest.
He slumped his skinny long body down on the couch and said in a muffled voice, "I'm really bad at handwriting. I get my b's and p's and d's all mixed up and I write my s's backwards! It's so hard! And I don't know the answers for math. I think I do but then I'm wrong and it's so embarrassing. I hate getting the answers wrong."
I paused for a minute and said a silent prayer to get this right. "Could I show you something?" I asked him. I went to our school book shelf and grabbed his Kindergarten handwriting book. "See this page?" I showed him a page of ten squiggly A's. "This took you a full half hour a few months ago. Now you can do this," I said as I showed him the paragraph he had written that morning. "It's really hard work, I know. But you're doing it. You are really and truly doing it well."
"And look how bad those A's are!" he said giggling.
I learned this week that they have the answers if we only ask them. We don't have to guess and we don't have to hold firm to a tactic that isn't working. If we come to them with understanding, they will be open and honest with us. And that honesty will help to guide us.
Are there any parenting tactics that you use that seem to have "stopped working" for you? Take some time to reevaluate - Maybe even ask your kids what they think of your new ideas.