Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Self-Lead Learner


I had wonderful visions of homeschooling that sometimes seem like mirages and other times materialize before my very eyes.  I wanted learning to be led by their interests. I wanted crazy projects and field trips and adventures that could only be done through the freedom that homeschooling gives you.  I wanted less of the "Do I have to?!" and more of the "Let's try this," or "Let's go here!" A few weeks ago, we had one of the miraculous moments that convinced me that I am not so crazy to do this homeschooling thing.

I had planned on reading them a story from their Greek history book and moving on to the next thing. I had an agenda.  I was in a frame of mind to check everthing off of my list if it took me all day. My oldest was feeling a bit more creative.  "If I'm a good listener to the story, can I do a project?" he asked me as I thumbed through the pages of the book.  
"What kind of project?" I asked distractedly.  
"A history project! One that has to do with the story!"
"Oh," I said, shifting gears. "That would be great.  Really great. Tell me what ideas you have afterward."

I read through this fantastic story about the Persian's second attempt at caputuring Athens, Greece. The Persians had been defeated ten years before and they were not about to lose again. They gathered over 2 million soldiers to win over Athens but they had a problem. They did not have enough ships to carry all of the men.  They set out on foot and ran into the strait of Hellespont (now called Dardanelles) and there wasn't a bridge to get the men across this mile wide obstacle. The king and general of the army, Xerxes, ordered his men to build a bridge by tying boats together, one after another, until they reached the other shore.  Over these boats he built a floor to complete the bridge.  Unfortunately for Xerxes, a storm arose and destroyed the entire bridge. He did not give up. He rebuilt the bridge and it is said to have taken seven days and seven nights of continuous walking to get all of his men across.

"I've got it!" my son said enthusiastically.  "I will figure out how to build a bridge!"
He ran out to the recycling bin/6-year-old treasure trove and got out as many soda cans as he could find.  He gathered duct tape to hold them together then filled our laundry room sink with water.
"How's the project coming, bud?" I asked him.
"Good.  I just need to fill up the sink to make sure this can will float before I build the whole thing."
I honestly hadn't even thought of that.  I would have built an entire bridge before I even made sure the thing would float.  He worked with a focus I rarely see on "school" projects for a half an hour straight.  He measured and taped and drew and tested his design until it was perfect.
"There you go! A bridge!"
And it was a great bridge.  Better than any thing I have seen on Pinterest.  
I realized in that moment that he will only take charge of his learning if I let him. If I continue to be a list checker for every subject, I will sap the creativity that can come from learning. I am reworking my methods over the next few months, experimenting and trying to figure out how to give this incredibly curious child a bit more control in his studies. I know he will astound me.

How do you give up control about how your child does something?  Are you good about focusing on the end goal?  If not, how can you challenge yourself to do so?

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