Friday, October 05, 2012

"I Got My Eye On You" Homeschooling

Last year (grades 9 and 6) my kids did more independent homeschooling lessons than ever before but we were in a small rental house with an open floor plan. The only space in the house to work online was in the former dining room which I converted to an office. During the day the three of us were elbow to elbow doing work on screens when screen time was necessary.

This fall in the new bigger house we are spread out. We do not have a big office space, I have a small office space for me which is too small for the three of us. My husband has a lovely wood paneled office/library which he never uses. So as I shared in a recent post I was letting my 15 year old (grade 10) son have his laptop at a permanent location in his bedroom. I blogged last week that experiment was coming to an end. Well now we're taking a step further and getting even more radical.

My homeschool friend suggested that in order to keep my sons on task I needed to be right in the same room as them with their screens within easy view (just like schooled kids). My kids had hacked the ISP's parental control software so software was of no help in trying to keep them off certain entertainment sites during school hours and their work was simply not getting done. I resisted the idea of being trapped in my kitchen/family room all day but after thinking it over and having others suggest it to me we are giving it a try.

I had a small area up against the low window in the kitchen, and took a spare desk we own and shoved it there. This is now space for one laptop station. We can use the kitchen table and the breakfast bar as well. My older son prefers to do his work at the family room loveseat using an ottoman as a laptop desk. The arrangement is terrible ergonomics, in my opinion, but he says it's the best spot in the two rooms. Whatever.

I am writing this on day two. I really resent the fact that I must be trapped in this spot in the house so that my kids can get their work done. I do not have access to my PC here so not everything I would like to do is possible. I am already cooking and baking more. To keep myself occupied while I am not doing direct teaching I have to bring projects from other places into the room. I probably will get more book reading done now also.

We are back to the old problem though of the noise that is created when one kid talks to me and when I'm teaching them, the other kid gets angry and says the noise disturbs them. I thought we had noise cancelling headphones for the computer but they actually are not, something I discovered today. They sometimes use earbuds when doing listening work at their laptops but they still complain there is too much noise. It is a shame that we live in a big house now with three comfortable rooms like a living room (Texas is big on second floor game rooms) and each kid has a private bedroom but we have to be trapped into just one space, apparently. My kids are so inflexible that they are not open to me saying, "Let's move all our stuff to the game room for a change of atmosphere today."

I am disappointed that the trust I put into my kids to stay on task with their assignments is not enough to keep them on track. This strict supervision is so authortarian and not in line with my former attachment parenting style but everything "they" said would not happen if you raise you kids that way is happening so something has to change. I am letting go of my ideal philosophy in order to do a thing that will result in the desired result so my children can meet their goals for their future. They want to go to college so they must get a certain type and amount of college prep work done. Period.


Xa Lynn said...

A huge advantage to homeschooling is that when something doesn't work, you can change it. It doesn't thrill me that the change isn't always to the teacher's advantage/liking, though! You gave the other way a try, and it didn't work - the change is in response to your students' demonstrated needs, so I don't think it's so authoritarian. Please don't think of it as letting go of your ideal. Isn't the ideal to be attuned to your kids' needs and to meet them, even as they change and grow? You do that well!

Xa Lynn

ChristineMM said...

Xa Lynn, Thanks for the encouragement and for all the comments you regularly leave on my blog. I enjoy hearing your thoughts!

deb said...

Hi Christine,

I have been reading your posts for the last few weeks with great interest because of the parallels with our homeschool journey. We are "interest led learners" but we didn't start out that way...we were much more structured at the beginning, because I always insisted that we do "school" first and then "fun stuff". (I could write a novel about this, but probably should not on your blog!) So many a day, five o'clock rolled around and 20 minutes of easy math was still not done. (I'll skip all of that for now...maybe later we can have a cup of tea.) In our case, my son went to traditional high school starting in ninth grade, and suddenly instead of the kid who liked to collect coins, read 24/7, go to Scouts, and write Hardy Boys stories with me...I had a surly, foul mouthed stranger who said things like "If you have to do homework, you're too stupid to take the class".

So...Take Two with Child Two. One day I was doing the usual "if she doesn't learn math now she can't go to college"...and dh told me to Cease and Desist. He was a music major when he took remedial algebra at 19 in college...and found it so fascinating that he ended up with three math/math related degrees, including a Ph.D., and has done original research in mathematics. My son hated math, but is now taking it seriously because his major requires it. My older daughter refused to do math...but it now studying it because she wants to be a real college student instead of someone who audits a couple of classes every semester. My other daughter (14) is studying math because she knows what she wants to do and has figured out how to get there...and she's my only kid who defined her own structure from the beginning. The thing about learning as a logical result of life is that the timetable may vary from the "ideal"...but in our experience, it doesn't mean the child is "left behind" permanently. Both my 21 year old and my 18 year old have found mentors at college...professors who are very strong supporters/facilitators. In your place, I'd let my kids play video games, yet provide enticing offline activities for when they got sick and tired of the virtual world. (Both of my eldest spent a couple of years not interacting much with the family and my youngest seems to be going into that stage now.) From your previous posts I can see that you are not comfortable ceding so much ground, and I think that's okay. But it distresses me that you feel trapped and resentful and feeling that you have to monitor your young men as if they were in a traditional school setting. When I got to that point, I made a choice and sent my kid to school. Based on how that worked out (it didn't, really) we did a dramatic paradigm shift for the other two. Maybe it wouldn't have worked for the first...but I'm thinking it wouldn't have hurt for him to have spent a couple of years tearing an old car apart in the garage and playing video games, because a) that's what he ended up doing anyway) and b) we would have had slightly more control over which age peers he was interacting with.

Best of luck,