let kids watch beauty and the beast

I Homeschool to Avoid the Homework Trap

The first (and only) meeting I ever had with an upset parent was over homework. He didn’t think I assigned enough. And I taught pre-K.

why homework is harmful

 

Homework has become such an ingrained part of our education culture that we not only don’t question it, we have begun to demand it. So much so that even research suggesting homework in the elementary years has no favorable effect on academic performance while at the same time creating extra stress holds little sway for a parent concerned about their five year old’s future success. Much less on a school district obsessed with state testing.

A Vermont school decided to act on the research, however, and instituted a school-wide, no homework policy. Instead, they wanted students to eat with their families, read a book and play outside. The result?

Six months into the experiment, Trifilio says it has been a big success: Students have not fallen back academically and may be doing better, and now they have “time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”  ~The Washington Post

“Time to be creative thinkers and follow their passions.” Two of the things I think homeschooling provides children. And really, it has to do with simply having time. They have time to get bored. They have time to daydream. They have time to dig deeper into the topics which interest them.

And we do it without homework. That isn’t to say they have no independent work. But I don’t assign the kind of busywork I was assigned in school. You remember those assignments? Book reports designed to prove you had read the book, copying spelling lists 5, 10 or 15 times each and the endless number of math worksheets. And I was in elementary school back when they still thought 15 minutes a night was ideal.

What do they do instead?

They read. They love reading. The library is one of their favorite destinations. They read fiction and nonfiction and check out books on the oddest things I never would have thought they would be interested in, but they saw the book and decided to see what it was about.

They write. Three of my children are working on writing a book . . . four if you count the six year old who is filling a journal with his random letters that he calls his book.

They build. Unfortunately, they lost their fort in a series of storms and a suspected raccoon rampage, but they had a pretty nice one made from scrap they found in the barn for some time.

They garden. Each year, they’ve been allowed to plan a small container garden with flowers for the porch. This year, they are each getting their own raised bed for their own vegetable patch.

In other words, they explore. And almost every pursuit they choose has more value to who they are than any worksheet I could have designed just to keep them busy.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework

let kids watch beauty and the beast

I homeschool so they can grow

Whenever a homeschooler wins the Scripps Spelling Bee, the National Geography Bee or  the Olympic Gold Medal, the internet buzzes as we all share what homeschooling is capable of. For a brief moment, these young champions become the poster children for the homeschool movement.

i homeschool so they can grow-min

But seriously, how many spelling bee champions do you know? I was happy when my oldest stopped putting random silent e’s at the ends of words. I could just picture her up there speaking nervously into the microphone:

Gesellschaft. G-E-S-E-L-L-S-C-H-A-F-T-E. Gesellschaft.

Except she never would have gotten that far.

Far. F-A-R-E. Far.

That girl has many talents, but spelling is not one of them.

And that’s OK. Because those headlines we share only tell part of the story — the part where homeschooling doesn’t hold a child back.

But sometimes, they can be a little intimidating, too. They set a high standard. One we can’t always live up to. One we shouldn’t even try to live up to. Because true education is not about reaching the pinnacle of success in any given area. It’s about growing in every area.

The success of homeschooling is based on its ability to meet each child where he or she is at and move forward from there.

There was a time I considered having my oldest tested for learning disabilities. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it would do for her. Being homeschooled, it didn’t necessarily give her any particular advantages to carry that label. It would have opened her up to services through the school, but I knew we probably wouldn’t go that route anyway. She already had an “individualized education plan” of sorts, though it carried no legal weight. It’s just that all my plans revolved around her strengths and weaknesses.

And she grew. She learned to read by the end of second grade. She was reading ahead of grade level by fourth grade. She has never mastered spelling (S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G-E), but she has developed a love of writing and she can tell a pretty good story if someone helps her through the editing. She struggles with basic math facts. In fact, it was sitting with her and the multiplication tables for two years that encouraged me to drop my 100% mastery idea. Back then, I didn’t believe in going forward until a concept was mastered. But that day, sitting at that table, I realized that she and I would be practicing multiplication until she graduated and she’d still probably have to use a calculator.

So I gave her a calculator and we moved on. And she still struggles with math, largely because she doesn’t like it. But she got through algebra and geometry and chemistry and she confessed that geometry is kind of fun as long as she isn’t doing proofs. She works the problems. She understands the formulas. She still has to use her calculator.

And I still can’t quite believe she is graduating this year.

It is easy for me to look back on her weaknesses and feel I’ve failed her. I feel like she should be doing better in these areas, not just “average.” But what if “average” was the best she was going to accomplish in spelling and basic number operations? What if it was our choice to homeschool that allowed her to move beyond that and not be held back by weaknesses that can be overcome by a calculator and spell-check?

She leaves for farrier school in two weeks. She will be gone for two months and has been so diligent in preparing that she has surprised even me, her mother who bore and raised her. Every morning, she gets up early to work through her exercise routine to prepare her for the physical demands of the course. She got the textbook early and filled a sketchbook with diagrams of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves running through the leg of a horse. She made herself a set of flash cards and is determined to know the anatomy section of the textbook before she even arrives. She went through all her math and science books and marked how much she has to complete each day so that she can graduate on time, even with the two month interruption in her normal studies.

I told her the other day that the diligence she has shown over the last year will get her further in life than anything else she ever learned in school. That work ethic is why she already has an offer from CEF as soon as she is qualified for the position. Because in the end, skills and knowledge can be taught. Character, however, is not such an easy thing to “catch up” on.

As each of our children get older, we are trying to water those same seeds — a strong work ethic, a good character and a love for learning — so they can continue to grow into the young men and women God designed them to be.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

let kids watch beauty and the beast

I homeschool so they can fail

Yes, I want my children to be able to fail.

fail-min

If you’ve ever watched gymnasts train, especially young gymnasts, you might have noticed the foam pit at the end of a long track. This pit is not just for safety. Sure, it ensures a soft landing so that no matter how the gymnast crashes to the ground, she is unlikely to be hurt. But it is there for another purpose as well. When they are starting out, young gymnasts will practice falling backward into the pit. It’s like a trust fall, but with no one to catch you. Because you have to lose your fear of falling backward before you can leap, twisting and turning, into the air.

I think life is the same way. To be successful, you have to be willing to fail. You have to trust that you can hop back up, dust yourself off and get back on the mat.

Embracing failure isn’t just about perserverance and pushing through the let-downs.

It isn’t just about the lessons learned through failure, which often are more valuable long term than our successes.

It is about losing the fear of failing so that we go out and try something new. Something outside our comfort zones. Something with risk attached.

The fear of failure is probably the strongest force holding people back from their potential. It’s not talent, or ambition, or ideas that stops budding entrepreneurs. It’s fear that can stop people dead in their tracks. And it’s stopped countless great businesses before they even begin. ~Business Insider

So when my children come up with crazy ideas, I try not to give them too much of my seasoned advice (even if it obviously isn’t going to work). When they fail, I tell them stories about my failures.

Like when I froze in the final round of a national speech competition and couldn’t think of one thing to say on the topic. I stood there silently for three whole minutes. And I didn’t derive any great lessons out of that. In fact, it made it impossible for me to compete in impromptu speaking the following season because I was so afraid of repeating that performance that I froze Every. Single. Time.

But you know what? My life didn’t end. Now it is just a funny story. And if you think about it, all the best stories involve our failures. When people share their failures, it makes us laugh and share our own stories. We admire success, but we connect with failure. Partly, I think, because we are afraid of it.

And I don’t want my children to be afraid of it. At least not so much that they never risk anything for their passions. I want them to step outside themselves and know that all those failures represent dreams they reached for.

So I try to create an environment like that foam pit above, where they learn to let go of some of that fear of failure so they can begin to learn to soar.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

(Image used via creative commons license. Original may be found here.)

let kids watch beauty and the beast

I Homeschool Because Every Day Is Worth It

I homeschool because every day is worth it.

reasons to homeschoolThe good ones.

The bad ones.

The in between ones.

When they cry out, “NO!” in unison because I close the read aloud and they want to know what happens next.

When I recommend a book I loved as a child and they devour it and ask for more.

The days when they are grouchy and overtired and fighting me every step of the way.

When they seem to have forgotten every thing they’ve learned.

When their eyes light up and they become inspired to read or write or learn just a little more.

When they create an intricate map of an imaginary world for a story they are writing.

When they tear apart the house, forget where the laundry goes, leave dishes wherever they happened to be.

When they fight and fuss and whine.

When one thing after another goes wrong and the day is derailed.

When I see their passion and that focused energy that means their entire mind and body is set on a single goal.

When they make me a cup of luke warm coffee that is too strong and has too much sugar, but still I drink it and enjoy if, if only for their proud smiles.

Every day is worth it because every day we are learning, laughing and loving. Every day is worth it because every day we are together.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

let kids watch beauty and the beast

I Homeschool So They Can Daydream

Not that you can’t daydream anywhere.

importance of daydreaming

It’s one of those easy-to-pack, take anywhere hobbies.

But it isn’t always the most respected. Take a few moments to gaze out a window, allowing yourself to be transported to another world, and someone will snap you back to the present.  With a

“Get your head out of the clouds,”

or a gentler

“Would you care to join us?”

or my favorite,

“Earth to Dana. Come in Dana.”

you are called back. And it’s always with a little jab, suggesting that this here is what is important and the flights of fancy off to “la la land” need to be controlled. For all our talk of embracing our inner muse, finding our creativity, thinking outside the box, reaching for our dreams and finding our inspiration, we really don’t respect the source of all this creative energy. Because we don’t respect daydreaming.

But this is where creativity is born. Where problems are worked through. Where self awareness is discovered. Where the brain finds rest.

When I see my children lying on the hill, staring at the clouds as they pass overhead, I have been known to set aside my plans at least for a little while. History can be taught any time during the day, but these moments come when they come. Since I first began homeschooling, I have sought to build a reflective homeschool, a place built on reflective learning. It only makes sense that I would encourage my children to reflect. And not interrupt when those reflections . . . those daydreams . . . come.

Daydreaming has been found to be anything but counter-productive. It may just be the hidden wellspring of creativity and learning in the guise of idleness.

~Jessica Lahey, The Atlantic

Perhaps being a bit of a dreamer myself, I knew the value of these flighs of fancy intuitively. Perhaps I just empathized with my children and wished to allow them a bit of freedom that was all too often interrupted for me. But science, also, has discovered the value of the daydream. It promotes creativity, improves memory, alleviates stress, and improves mental health.

And the more we fill our days with structured learning and structured downtime through television and other media, I worry about the effects of not allowing the mind to simply wander from thought to thought and world to world.

Children are trained to think linearly instead of imaginatively; they are taught to read slowly and carefully, and are discouraged from daydreaming. They are trained to reduce the use and capacity of their brain.

~Tony Buzan
So I let them daydream. And encourage it, even.

 

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure