The Difficulty With Homeschooling

This morning I had planned some lessons to do with the boys, and at breakfast, they reminded me of some things they wanted to learn, so we spent some time on the computer looking up videos to answer their questions.

My six-year-old’s question was: “What is bacteria, and how does it cause disease?”

My nine-year-old’s question was: “How do they turn trees into lumber?”

After watching a video for kids about bacteria and germs and also doing my best to explain it in easy terms, my six-year-old still wasn’t sure he understood what bacteria is or how it causes disease, but he was tired of trying to find out and didn’t want to explore the topic further. (Of course, I will at some point find a learning opportunity when I can help him understand this better. That always happens.) My nine-year-old enjoyed the videos though.

My nine-year-old also enjoyed the video about how lumber is made, but the six-year-old looked bored.

Then I had them watch a 15 minute video about the U.S. Constitution, which is in a series of videos on Amazon Prime. The nine-year-old said he liked it. The six-year-old was bored, and to tell the truth, I didn’t blame him. The video was more suited to my nine-year-old’s age, so I probably won’t make him watch these again. We’ll be going over U.S. History in many ways over the next several years.

Then I wanted to read them some books I got from the library which would hopefully show them the fun side of math. (We usually read fiction.) They were both stone-faced, sighing, and half falling asleep on the sofa while I read, so I fought the urge to get irritated and didn’t spend much time on those books. Then I told the six-year-old he could play while the nine-year-old and I worked on his science.

Unfortunately, in the science curriculum, we have finished the “experiment” (extracting DNA) in this week’s lesson, which my son enjoyed. Today we needed to finish filling out the experiment results sheet (I just required one sentence that I let him dictate to me), he needed to copy some definitions of vocabulary words (three words/one sentence each), and we were going to  go over the memory work again (verbally). (The five kingdoms, which he hasn’t been able to remember, although we’ve gone over it several times already.)

My nine-year-old (who his entire life has loved science) isn’t as attracted to science when he has to actually write something. But it’s not just science. It’s any subject that requires writing. (Sob….since that’s all subjects!)  It was a painful experience getting him to copy one sentence. It’s not that he can’t write…his handwriting is pretty good. He just hates doing it.

However, he willingly practices piano 2+ hours a day and memorizes the music fairly easy. And if you’ve been reading my blog all these years, you’ll know he’s quite an amazing kid who has accomplished many things. He’s smart and creative. But he hates writing. Obviously, this is a great argument for that whole issue of “Kids learn when they are interested in a subject. We shouldn’t make them learn things they aren’t interested in.” I am always wondering when to let go and when to push him forward.

While I want to homeschool my children so that they can spend more time on the things they are interested in, and I don’t like pointless busy work or excessive testing, I don’t think it’s wise to not cover certain areas of learning. I am not convinced that this will benefit every child once they are ready to move into the adult world. (Although, I’m sure there are examples of unschooled kids who go on to do great things because there’s always good examples in every educational option. Unfortunately, there are always bad examples too, which in my mind proves the point that every child is different, and every child needs an individualized educational path. Sometimes determining what that path is can be difficult though.)

The difficultly of homeschooling is that when I have these issues, it’s really only my husband and me who have to figure out the answer (not that we haven’t consulted with so-called “experts” on some matters). When kids go to school, you have lots of teachers and different people to ask their opinions about this or that. (This may be good or bad.) Sometimes there are extra services. You can opt out of them, if you don’t like them, but you can use them, if you want to use them.

You also have different people influencing your child. Again, this can be good or bad. Unfortunately, I think most of the influences children get in public school are not so good, but there are, of course, good influences. A child might perform better for his teacher than he would for his mother, etc. This is not a reason to not homeschool, but it is something to point out.

We usually have good homeschool days when I feel like we’ve covered a good variety of work and the boys benefitted from it. This wasn’t one of those days. That’s partly because I was trying out some new resources, and there’s nothing wrong with that…..I have to try things to see if they will work! Sometimes they don’t. But sometimes they do.

I feel confident that my nine-year-old will learn how to write well, though it may take him longer than some other kids. And I’m not even sure it’s correct to say “learn how to write.” He knows how to write; he just needs more practice.

I’m not sure how we’ll get over this hurdle, but I will keep doing what I’ve always done….take it slow, try different things, occasionally take breaks, occasionally push forward. I will ask other homeschoolers and the occasional “expert” what they think, but when it comes down to it, it’ll be up to my husband and me to figure out what is best for our son. Together we will ask our son, talk to him, encourage him, probably annoy him too, and eventually, I am sure, he’ll get it. He may never love writing, but I know he’ll be able to do it.

And, yes, part of me would love to just “unschool” him in this area. Let it happen when it happens. Or not. But for various reasons, I can’t and won’t do that. But we can, at least, go slow and look for ways to make it less painful for him.

{One thing I will be doing this fall is starting him on a keyboarding program. He might like typing better than handwriting, but we’ll continue to work on handwriting too.}

12 thoughts on “The Difficulty With Homeschooling

  1. I’m confident every homeschooling mom feels this way once in a while. I have a reluctant writer, too. I would encourage you to give your 9-year old a little more time. My son was 11 when he finally started writing on his own without any coaxing or pleading from me. He started by creating his own Spanish notebook (we lived in Peru at the time) because learning Spanish interested him. He is 13 now and has learned how to take good notes for his online history class (which makes him accountable to another teacher) and he still complains about writing when he has to do it, but he does it more willingly. He definitely prefers to type when I give him an occasional essay to do. But in my experience with my son, time has made all the difference. Hope that helps!

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  2. My son is not a fan of writing either, but I feel it is important for him to do. Copy work has been great for us. His writing assignment sometimes comes from an interesting read. Creative writing is a whole other realm which we are not ready for. We will be teaching cursive when our son is older as well. I have read that the brain processes information differently when you write vs. type. I am not an expert at all, but for me typing is more passive. It could be generational though! I don’t know when we will teach typing. Best laid plans will probably change depending on each child. So glad we can go at our own pace when we homeschool.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Emily! I agree that handwriting is still important to teach. I forgot to mention that we tried calligraphy with him, and that worked well for awhile until he lost the enthusiasm for it. Still, every bit of writing practice counts!

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  3. I’m having a similar difficulty with my 8 year old. She hates writing and spelling. I actually unschooled everything until this (her second grade) year, but mid-year I stared pushing the writing. I just felt she couldn’t do it because of lack of practice. She wanted Star Wars work books so I told her we would get the first grade writing one first and if she could do that, she could pick which second grade ones she wanted to do. She DID finish it, with a lot of prodding, but writing and spelling are still an issue. I’m trying to relax and know it will come with time and a bit of prodding, but it’s hard because I also know she’s intellectually ready for more challenging things, but many require writing.

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    1. Hi Peggy! Thanks for sharing that about your daughter! My son doesn’t love spelling either, and he’ll tell me that’s partly why he doesn’t like to write. I think they can go hand in hand. So we’re working slowly on both. I liked ALL ABOUT SPELLING very much even though he didn’t love it. Good luck! Sometimes it’s a real puzzle figuring out which way to go with a child!

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  4. For the six year old’s question about bacteria, Tiny Creatures by Nicola Davies might be a good fit. https://www.amazon.com/Tiny-Creatures-Microbes-Nicola-Davies/dp/0763673153

    Thank you for writing about the difficulties as well as the joys of homeschooling. My kids are still little (3yrs and baby) so right now I do a lot of my own reading as well as supporting my three year old’s interest. I’m also drawn to but unsure of pure unschooling, and I wonder a lot about if and when we will hit a point where I don’t feel comfortable with just interest led learning.

    This may or may not be a good strategy, but I wonder how much it might help your nine year old to see that writing (especially documenting research and observations and then publishing findings) is an integral part of being a scientist. Maybe some science biographies? It’s hard to tell how much kids can appreciate “this is a pain, but it will pay off years from now” type arguments.

    I also think your whole family would enjoy The Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell. It’s out of print, but cheap copies can be found on Amazon. It includes some discussion of the importance of maintaining good records and logs. My Family and Other Animals, his memoir of his childhood spend collecting wildlife in 1930s Greece was my favorite of all the books I read last year.

    Hang in there! You are doing a great job!

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    1. Laura, Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. I am also grateful for your suggested resources…definitely going to look into those. They sound great.

      I find thinking about the whole “unschooling” or not issue really fascinating. As our son gets older, and we can tell he has certain ambitions…maybe he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do yet, but we can tell he’s probably going to go on into higher education, or at least has the potential to, unschooling does not seem as practical. I suppose these questions will go on for as long as parents are educating their children at home!

      Your suggestion about letting him know how much writing is an integral part of being a scientist is a great one, and we use those kinds of tactics constantly. Probably too much! In fact, I think he’s less interested in engineering now that he understands that math is a big part of it! And I see his interest in science lessening as he moves forward in piano. But I feel any of these subjects could come up again in a big way for him as he gains more knowledge and abilities. It’ll be so interesting to see what finally takes hold!

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  5. Does your son do any music notation or piano theory? It might be a good (and relevant) substitute for handwriting right now. It is just as demanding and works the same skills, but he might enjoy it more. Several of the piano competitions my son has done have had a theory component that requires kids not only to know the theory, but to write clearly and correctly (if your notes aren’t perfectly centered or flats are misplaced, the answer is wrong). He may already be doing it in his lessons, but if not, the Fundamentals of Piano Theory series (ed. Snell) is excellent and my son has enjoyed Write it Wright (by Dan Fox) Workbook and Manual and the Berklee Music Notation Guide (which is a bit easier than the Fox book)

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    1. Sarah, Thank you so much for your comment. My son has done some theory work, and I think his teacher will be requiring more from him in the future. I didn’t know that competitions could include a theory component. That’s good to know! He’s not at the competing level yet, but I think it’s fast coming. Do you keep a blog? I would love to follow along in your son’s experiences.

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  6. I relate to nearly everything you wrote here, though I’m not a homeschooling mom. Both of my children are extremely bright; they also have dyslexia, so I really get the frustration of children not wanting to write about subjects in which they’re truly interested — passionate even. Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice in this realm. Neither of my boys were significantly delayed with reading, but the writing is where they struggle. They CAN write but loathe it…and it’s a slow process. I spend large blocks of time wondering when I should push and when I should back off. I’m entertaining the idea of homeschooling once I’m confident that most of the dyslexic traits are no longer significantly hindering them. My oldest will be nine in September and will be starting third grade in August. We do a lot of interest-following in the summer months and he loves writing stories and plays, but he gets extremely frustrated because of the actual writing. In other words, he struggles getting everything that’s in his brain onto paper. I do a lot of the actual writing…but I need a way for him to do this. I’m curious about keyboarding programs you’ve researched and would love to know what you plan to use with your son. I enjoy your blog but don’t comment much, but this post moved me to do so. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment and sharing your issues. I’m glad if my post helped you in some way. I completely understand your frustration, and I wish you the best of luck. One thought that popped into my mind, if you do decide to homeschool: depending on the school district, sometimes you can still receive certain services from your local school. So if your children have someone who is working with them on the dyslexia issues, you may still be able to meet with that person once or twice a week even while you homeschool. But you’d have to talk to your school and school district.

      I have not begun researching keyboarding programs, but when I have some good information to share, I’ll definitely write about it! You are doing the right thing by taking dictation with him now. Have you read Patricia Zaballos’ blog about how children learn to write? I wish my kids were more interested in writing stories because I would do that more with them, if so, but it doesn’t seem to help when they are not interested in creating with words at all! Here is her post, in case it helps: http://patriciazaballos.com/2012/05/31/how-do-kids-really-learn-to-write-2-0 But I know at this age, it’s important to get them writing themselves too, and I struggle with that too, so I wish you luck! Let’s keep in touch and share what we learn!

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