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Jan 09 2012

Homeschooling begins

I want to be all positive and optimistic and Pollyanna about our new homeschooling adventure, but if I’ve learned anything the last few years it’s to temper all that. When I don’t the foul-smelling lumps start scanning the horizon for an air-circulation device.

At this time I shall say only that things are going remarkably well. Surprisingly well. Well enough that I am considerably spooked. That is not to say all is rainbow-farting unicorns here at the House of Chaos, but that the stress around A and his education has lowered to the point that my shoulders are no longer attempting to climb to the top of my head and signal for help.

Today is Day Four of the Great Homeschooling Adventure. And the child whose typical modus operandi around writing was to freak the freak out or flat-out refuse or fart around until someone scribed for him or all of the above has been writing with a lot less of all of that. He’s written every day (though today he’s heavy on the farting around portion of the activity), and I call that a (very minor) win.

We are still in the deschooling phase, which I.do.not.like. Not sure if you noticed, but I’m not a “hang back and relax it’ll be ok” kind of personality. I know he needs more of a hands-off approach at the moment, but it is killing me. I don’t see measurable progress! I don’t see active learning! I don’t see an interest in anything other than the PowerPoint presentation on Rube Goldberg devices that he’s working on right now that was supposed to be a journal entry and somehow has ended up becoming less writing and more multi-media! He will never learn to put thoughts into words and end up being some sort of word-mute individual who will never find success in the 2.0 world and will one day find himself living in a van down by the river!!!

I don’t do hands-off very well.

Yes, it’s very early in the process. Yes, he’s young and colleges don’t care about the elementary school years. Yes, it’s going to be ok once we get into a groove. And yes, I need to throttle that little voice in the back of my head. I am just terrified of screwing this up, or getting so fed up that we can’t continue; we have no Plan B.

This afternoon will be his favorite: ZYLAR. Zip Your Lip And Read. He read for a solid eight hours on Friday, barely stopping to eat. Maybe some Khan Academy modules. Household math as I double a recipe for dinner. And hopefully a family game after dinner.

Me? Deep breaths. More curriculum hunting. Sign up for a coop. More homeschool reading.

And still more hoping and praying that it continues to go well.

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  1. trish

    He’s doing a PowerPoint on Rube Goldberg devices? That seems … perfect! Writing with words is important, but I think storytelling with video and images is an equally important form of literacy.

    1. Jen

      He’s very strong with PowerPoint; storytelling is no problem. My concern lies with the fact that his writing ability is SO far behind where it should be. Yes, “should.” :p He needs to learn how to make a compelling argument with simply words. Drives me nuts. Kinda like my poor dad having to tutor me in math.

  2. Lisa

    Deep breath, sweetie. You just described a typical homeschooling day for many gifted homeschoolers. Did he learn something? Did he enjoy it? He read for 8 hours!? Cool! Don’t worry about the curriculum too much. It doesn’t have to look like school, and it’s probably best that it doesn’t!

    1. Jen

      I know it’s a typical homeschool day. Intellectually I KNOW that. Still can’t get that little voice to STFU. There’s so much cool stuff in this world to learn, and I worry that he won’t learn any of it. Or want to.

  3. Missy | Literal Mom

    Coop as in chicken coop? You keep going, girl! Rooting for you!

    1. Jen

      LOL! Cooperative education. Homeschool school. 😉

  4. cocobean

    Maybe you could get the writing amped up with a “fun” writing activity – ie: comic book with storyboard (synopsis under each picture) or a script for someone presenting the Rube Goldberg PP? Wouldn’t be “writing” writing, but would be expressing things he is doing visually and multi-media-ally through words and dialogue!

    1. Jen

      He’s a very visual/spatial learner, so PowerPoint presentations and the like really tap into his strengths. My concern lies in the fact that the writing with his projects is extremely week, barely sentences. While the world is moving more and more towards PP-like things, he still needs to know how to present his ideas in words.

  5. Siggi

    Sounds fabulous, but I hear you that there is just some part of your brain that Will.Not.Shut.Up. I call it the 2% problem; two percent of my brain will hold onto THE most irrationa, undermining ideas, and not let go for love, money, or chocolate.

    Just try to remind yourself that 98% is still damned good, ok? 🙂

    1. Jen

      I’m about to strangle it. The full moon is getting the blame this week.

  6. ChristineMM

    re “that was supposed to be a journal entry and somehow has ended up becoming less writing and more multi-media!”

    Um, the goal of writing is communication and IMO power point with some visuals is fantastic and fits the bill for communication!

    This is my first visit to your blog. Good luck with homeschooling! My kids have never been to school and they are in grades 9 & 6 homeschool now.

    1. Jen

      He can communicate very well…when he talks. And when he gets on a roll he doesn’t.shut.up. 😉 But he also needs to know how to present ideas in written form to put with those multi-media presentations he does so well. His writing has degraded quite a bit over the last few years, and it needs to improve. I know it will, but I worry that it won’t.
      And welcome! Love to have veteran homeschoolers chiming in!

  7. Ingi

    I hear you! The bad news? After a year, we are still at that point in our writing with DS. He can do it, after much cajoling, reminding, nagging. But he will much more happily do a powerpoint. Sigh. Will he ever be able to write something resembling an essay? Stay tuned.

    1. Jen

      A will write if duct-taped to a chair (I kid! Mostly.), but the quality is exceedingly poor and something on which he and I need to work. As I understand it, it’s a gifted trait to have such difficulty; they know so much about a topic that when it comes to writing about it, all the can get out is along the lines of “the universe is big.” When he takes the time to focus and slow…down…, his voice comes through and it’s wonderful. He is a good writer, he just doesn’t believe he is and therefore has zero desire to do it.

  8. Connie

    When I pulled my daughter out in 4th grade I didn’t understand the point to de-schooling, so I didn’t. Boy, do I regret it a year and a half later! Hang in there, it will pay off later as he becomes more of a partner in the schooling process rather than the need-to-be-spoonfed-but-ready-to-resist-everything student that they usually have already become from being in a classroom.

    On less than stellar days, I always remind myself that she is exploring and learning so much more than she would of been had I left her in school.

    1. Jen

      How would things have been better if you’d deschooled? I’m forcing myself to take it slow and deschool, but I’m not liking it a bit. I’ve heard a month of deschooling for every year in school, but I’ll be damned if we do this for five months! I just can’t.

  9. Robin McCormack

    His writing will improve over a period of time. Take something he is really into, hobby or something, video game and have him turn it into a story. My son is only happy writing when it’s about his favorite subject – mario or sonic the hedgehog. Let him do a private blog and write stories on it. That what my son does. My kiddo doesn’t do power point so impressed your son is creating stuff. You’ll discover when you are doing lessons, he will automatically gravitate to something that is educational.

    The sitting back and relaxing part, letting him run with the ball is difficult when you want to be in control of what he does. You can still control it, just in the background. Nudge here, push there, a suggestion, a book left out to read, a workbook that’s cool.

    Hugs and take a deep breath. You don’t have to unschool for very long. Build up a little each day or week until before you know, there you are doing a full core of stuff.

    1. Jen

      Thankyouthankyouthankyou. He and I are starting to get a better idea of how this is going to work; we’ve been working on picking curriculum (mostly math) this week. With him, if he doesn’t buy in and BUY IN BIG, it’s a struggle from the start. So his input is vital.
      I’ve backed off on the writing for now. It’ll come, and I’m not willing to push it to the death 😉 right now.

  10. Robin McCormack

    darn. I left out a word. You’ll discover when you aren’t doing lessons, he’ll naturally gravitate toward educational things.

  11. Rich

    When we pulled the plug on school, it was because the stress on our child was simply untenable.

    There’s no way we could have managed to “keep up” schoolwork after what he (we) had been through. Hammering on the same sore spots that had been making school overwhelming would only have further undermined his self-esteem and perpetuated the problems we were trying to alleviate. Deschooling meant time to allow him to rebuild his confidence and develop some of his strengths, rather than continuing to focus the microscope on his weaknesses.

    It is not sounding to me like A needs to “deschool” in all ways; from your description he has charged straight into learning things. In contrast, my understanding is that many kids
    need a substantial period of boredom before their internal motivation re-emerges.

    On the other hand, my gut says that A almost certainly needs a substantial break from some aspects of school…and they may be exactly the ones you are having the most trouble letting go of. That must be terribly frustrating for you both!

    So what number actually should be plugged into the deschooling “formula”: how many years the child was in school, or how many years the PARENT was? (All of a sudden, 5 months may not seem like that long!)

    1. Jen

      Oy, if it’s how many many years the PARENT was in school? Uh, does that count when I taught? ‘Cause 19 months is too long. Add in my husband and HIS master’s and HIS teaching, and this kid’ll never have school again! LOL!
      This week I’ve backed off a little more. I think you’re right. I think “boredom” is going to be the thing here. With A, even when bored he’s learning, so we’ll see. I cannot and will not push him like I had to when he was in school. Seeing my child have a full-on anxiety attack over a math worksheet (which he then did in 90 seconds flat after watching a Khan Academy video on the topic) is not something I’m going to easily forget. And I’m not going to do that to him. Won’t.
      As for his internal motivation? God, I hope it kicks in. I’ve been asked for years what motivates him and I have yet to come up with a good answer.

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