Monday, January 21, 2008

My latest strategy

I wanted to post about a small success we've had lately, mostly for my own sake, because if I can put some of our successes into words, it helps me to not be so focused on all the stuff that gets me down during the day (which mostly stems from my need for sense of achievement or accomplishment -- yeah, after seven and a half years, I'm still trying to let go of that).

We took about 4 weeks off of any kind of formal "schooling" around the holidays. In getting ready to ramp up again, I sat down with Ian and had one of those "what do you want/what do I want" kind of discussions. What does he want? More Legos. What do I want? A positive, cooperative attitude when it comes to tackling our (very gentle) academic agenda for the day. So ... introducing the Punch Card System! We agreed that every time Ian does an assignment, be it a bit of math or his OT-required exercises, with a cheerful attitude (meaning no groans, no eye-rolling, no comments about how it's "Not FUN," etc.) he gets a hole punched in his index card. Five punches, he gets 20 minutes (his suggestion) of computer time. Ten punches, the card becomes a Lego Buck. He gets to decide how many of those he wants to save up, depending on what set he wants.

OK, I know you may be thinking, learning should be its own reward, right? I shouldn't be dangling material stuff in front of him to get him to learn? Well, I struggled with that whole idea for a while and I finally decided, you know what? Sometimes, some of us need a little boost to get us to the point where we can be intrinsically motivated. If the thought of earning Legos get him to bite his tongue before whining about math (and I'm telling you, I work hard to make math interesting around here!), then he may find that the whining was just a bad habit, not a true reflection of his feelings, and that as he forms new habits and achieves competence, math (or writing, or stretching) may not be so bad after all. It's demoralizing to work with a reluctant student, especially when you're also trying to fend off an interrupting toddler, and I just can't do 100% child-led learning -- we need some structure to our day, and I think that's part of education -- and I think this system makes more sense in our relationship than me snapping at him or giving him the if-you-were-in-school lecture ... so. Here we go. So far, pretty good.

I'm also coming to realize that I have to just make up my mind about what I want and require of him, and just stick to it without worrying about whether he's lovin' it. I've had this long-held ideal that homeschooling will be just this constant love-to-learn-fest in which my kids ooze enthusiasm about every book and activity I present to them. Okay, then there's reality. But I struggle with it, because of my difficulty with making decisions and my tendency to second-guess myself. Resolution: Let go of some of that perfectionism, accept that some moments will be more golden than others, and don't worry that I'm somehow "messing them up" if I don't choose the "right" educational approach. It's tough, because there are so many opinions out there about how to homeschool, just as there are many opinions about how to parent. I've really been trying to bring this to the Lord more and more, asking Him to show us what our path should be and to release me from my need for approval, either from my children or from some imaginary critic who sits on my shoulder and says things that I would so easily shoot down if a friend told me she was struggling with the same.

OK, so that said, we did have a pretty good day today, partly because (here's that need for achievement!) I got a ton of stuff organized in the kids' rooms. The girls' room is still very much in progress, but I reupholstered the headboard this weekend, and moved their clothes today, among other things, so that was pretty energizing! Even on a nasty, rainy day! Oscar from next door didn't have school due to MLK Day, so the kids were all fairly occupied with Legoes and such for an unusual amount of time, and the boys even ran around for a while in the cold rain doing who-knows-what (spying on me, apparently -- o the excitement!). We read our story Bible during breakfast, we made slime with cornstarch and water, which was both "awesome" and "nasty" (pretty much synonymous, I guess), we read a couple chapters of Dr. Dolittle, we worked on our product chart -- basically a multiplication grid -- using jellybeans as manipulatives and, uh, brain fuel, we watched Blue Planet, we did chores and stretches, and other than that, it was just play, play, play all day.

1 comment:

Tracee said...

The punch card sounds awesome! I also have to motivate to get what I call "no attitude particiaption." LOL. I was thinking of trying Jenny's marble jar idea, but this punch card idea seems easier. Let me know how it goes!