I have been reflecting lately on how we are homeschooling, or maybe a better way of putting it is that I have been reflecting on how homeschooling is going for my son, my 7th grader.
Back when he was five and we made the final decision that we weren’t going to enroll him in Kindergarten at the local school, I never imagined what it would be like to homeschool 7th grade — that mid-point between beginning his home education and finishing the education he would have at home. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I would be “teaching” in the sense of demonstrating or lecturing. While I do that sometimes, I am rather surprised that I don’t have to “teach” or “demonstrate” or “lecture” to him much at all. This has been one of the biggest surprises I have had on this journey.
I am more of a facilitator. I am a curriculum searcher, reviewer and sometimes writer. My goal is always to find or create something that I know my son will enjoy, and if not enjoy, at least he’ll be able to get something out of it and make progress on his academic goals. I take his opinion seriously when I pick out his curriculum, and I have dropped a few things that he didn’t like.
Right now my son is mostly teaching himself. That is, he sits down and reads and does the work. Sometimes we read together, and we discuss things, but mostly, he teaches himself with the curriculum I pick out for him.
When I think about it, that is amazing. I mean, what’s a better way to learn? He can learn at his own pace, and more importantly, he has to understand the material in order to move forward. Now I understand why homeschoolers in general seem to be excelling at standardized tests, and top universities welcome them to apply.
This year he made a comment that he’s enjoying his lessons more than in years past — everything except the writing assignments and the Word Roots workbook. That made me feel great because I know I’m on the right track, and hey, he’s not a language arts kind of guy. But he seems to like the literature unit I put together for him, and his writing skills are improving tremendously. More importantly, he sees the value in working on these skills, so he’s willing to do the work.
I’m not surprised he likes his lessons better this year. I like them more this year. He has gotten passed the drudgery of the basics! He’s a strong reader, strong in math, and now stuff is getting interesting. But I don’t think it would have gotten interesting, if we weren’t homeschooling. When I was in the 7th grade, I didn’t think learning was interesting. I was more consumed with the kids around me, and I was filled with anxiety because I wasn’t “popular.” As long as I got decent grades, did I really need to learn the material well? Sadly, I didn’t think so… I didn’t even think about it. This is what school administrators don’t understand. Students can always get by and get an okay grade even if they aren’t mastering the material. (And I don’t mean by cheating, though, sadly, that is one option some kids take.) This is okay to them because they don’t see the big picture. They don’t see why they should learn what is being taught.
At home, my son doesn’t have to deal with the angst of an artificial setting where he and his peers are stuck in a room together all day with no freedom whatsoever, so instead he has had a chance to figure out what interests him, and this has led him to make plans for the future, which motivates him tremendously. Since he’s home with us, listening and doing things we find interesting — like watching documentaries — he has gotten a chance to see the interesting things in life. He started to realize that his lessons are interesting: science, history, different people and cultures, music, literature and even math. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this is what excites me about life. There is so much to learn and experience and try. There isn’t time to worry about being popular. I’m glad my son isn’t waiting until he’s an adult to figure that out. (But note: I’m not saying that school is a waste of time. I think some kids really benefit from their school experience. I’m just saying that my particular school experience wasn’t a good fit for me.)
Here we are at the mid-point in the year that is the mid-point of my son’s homeschool education, and I feel very happy with how everything is going. Will I feel this way tomorrow or next year? Or in five years? I don’t know. But so far, so good.