Monday, August 30, 2010

Avoiding Boredom and Obsession

So, Z is finding that the days can be long when you aren't shuffling to and from different rooms and juggling which notebooks and books go where when. Also, when you aren't doing worksheets, there is a lot more free time.

What happens with all of this time? Well, Z is definitely more engaged with the family and me in particular. Z is also a little aimless during the day. I believe that we call this "deschooling" and it is a little hard to watch. The goal, from what I gather, is to let boredom guide his choices in finding ways to learn that engage him.

We are walking a tightrope a little though. When he has too much idle time, he sometimes obsesses about weird things and I don't want that to become a habit. We are seeing more fears about random things than usual, and I don't want to give him time to consider fearing random things (usually environmental exposures) to become normal. For example, he took a sip from the fountain this morning and realized it smelled like cleaning chemicals... so, of course he freaked out that he'd been poisoned.

I am trying to help him find things to do such that he doesn't have time to obsess, but not assign random things to do. He (I believe) needs to find his own way here to learn to engage in his own learning. At least, that is my philosophy at this very second.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finding passion.

So far, Z spends a fair bit of time in my back office with the door closed. I can hear lego's and other toys back there. I can hear him talking to himself and reading. He still isn't doing much writing - but he seems to be learning a bunch (nothing specific - some wiring, some gee whiz, a little of this and that).

Writing something every day is going to be challenge. All week, he has not done that voluntarily. Nor has he put his best effort in. I don't really have currency to dangle except pride in his work.

Maybe this is the issue. One of my bigger emerging goals this year is for Z to discover passion. In karate, his instructor keeps asking me "Does he like this? He seems to be just phoning it in". But, Z claims to love karate, despite looking like he is barely there. The only place he actually seems enthusiastic is when draped over something reading, or when playing Wii or other video/computer games. But that is not really engaged in the world.

Z needs to find something that can inspire him, get him engaged with the outside world, fire him up. He needs to learn to show enthusiasm. If he loves something - people should know it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our start: Homeschool

Well, we went to my office on Sunday to set it up for him. Z set up his beanbag chair, lapdesk, notebooks, history wall chart, and other paraphernalia. He was so eager to get started, he sat right down with a notebook and started writing a story - like, actually writing... without a cattle prod up his butt. Ok, only two short sentences, but - hey!

On Monday we had the FIRST DAY OF HOMESCHOOL. I feel kind of awkward there, it is known, but not widely, that I am homeschooling Z at my office. At any rate, I took him to the library and got him into the system so that he can borrow books without me. He borrowed a science book about experiments for kids proposed by Thomas Edison. Then, he pored through the entire book through the day - discussing serial and paralell circuitry, constructing batteris out of lemons, and making candy. Then, he felt like he hadn't done any "school" so he found someone (Heron or Hero of Hellenistic Greece) and studied this mechanical/mathematical genius for awhile. We struggled over his one real "assignment" - writing - but, he got there by adding to paltry sentences to his story from the previous day. When asked what school he did, he said "none". But when asked what he learned, he talked our ears off. Interesting that he didn't equate any of his reading or discussion to "school".

Tuesday, B was home sick from school. So, I had to work from home with two boys - one sick and out-of-sorts, and one that is supposed to be homeschooling. First, I gave them pliers, wire strippers/clippers, a battery, and a lightbulb to work out some of the experiments he'd read about. They bickered and moaned (too may chiefs, not enough indians). I tried to help for awhile... I put on my black-and-white stripes for awhile and got terribly frustrated trying to simultaneously work and referee... finally, I went to J's office downstairs, shut the door, and told them only to bother me if the house was on fire or someone was bleeding. Now, it is basically bedtime and Z is finally at the table supposed to be writing, but is completely distracted by a costume catalog that came in the mail today - I shall take it in a moment if he can't get it together on his own.

So, the sum of our experiences, I was pleased to see Z engaged with real people and nonfiction for brief bits. I saw a lot more completely distracted crazy behavior today while jockeying with his brother. But, without the stress of a traditional school, I see a lot more of the Z that I have always known and loved. I have to stay patient with Z's relentless questions (if only to point out that I am busy and will look later) in that he is schooling where I work - and I really have to work. On the other hand, even putting him off, I probably give him more attention than any teacher has been able to. We are kind of "de-schooling" now - figuring out the difference between School (capital S) and learning (which is what homeschool, to me, is all about). Finally, this child clearly loves the learning part dearly. He hates writing and has to learn to start projects like that that he hates (hence, my one requirement - write something, anything, every day).

While some day it will be possible, if only the kid could voice to paper somehow - he can talk through the most amazing ideas, but is completely stymied about putting them on paper. I can relate and went through the same thing until I learned to touch-type (another goal this year for Z). One small segment of our discussion was a verbal "essay" on how the printed book is dying and how sad it is for books that are out-of-press and what electronic books may mean to changing the style of how people read and hence, perhaps, changes in the complexity or degree of challenge that we might expect in our reading in the future. How sad, my nine-year-old thinks if the type of complex, braided storylines that he so loves won't be cherished by a less-patient electronic readership. What a cool nine-year-old to worry about such things. I sure do love this kid.