Secret spy mission leads to learning
The past couple weeks, I have read a couple articles about homeschooling. In one, the homeschool room was pictured, and it was perfect. Matching rocking chairs graced the reading area, a corner was dedicated to art and everything was in its place. The second article featured a happy homeschool mom surrounded by sentence strips, calendars and enough gear to start a homeschool catalog.
I couldn't relate. I used to read such stories and worry that I wasn't doing it right, as if the classroom-at-home model is the only way. I'm over that.
Around here, the approach varies from day to day, from child to child. Figuring out what makes each child tick is a delicate dance.
I have a litany of prepared speeches for most occasions. My favorite lately goes like this: "Just because something is difficult doesn't mean you can give up; you have to keep trying." Other times, I need, "Just because this is easy, you still have to try your best so you can learn even more." Often the same kid will get both speeches, just at different times. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
Max is my emerging reader right now. Sounding out words is coming naturally to him, but he has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to sitting down and reading a book. His younger brother will sit for hours and pore over books. I wonder how long it will be before Atticus will outpace his older brother.
In the area of reading, I have to teach my boys differently. I set Max up on a bucket next to me at milking time. While I milk the cow, he reads a book to me. I have to pry books out of Atticus's hands to get him to do anything else. Time with a book, for him, is a reward.
Some days, teaching my kids to read seems easier than teaching them life skills. I have to muster all my own strength to train my children to pick up after themselves.
I have nagged, I have yelled, I have promised, bribed and threatened. What I have not done is been able to impress upon the mind of a 4-year-old boy the importance of putting his dirty laundry in the laundry room.
He nods. He says, "OK, Mom, I will," but there are so many other things that capture his attention. I know it is easier to pick things up myself, but I keep at it in the hope that someday it will all pay off. I may not see the benefit myself, but there is a little girl out there somewhere who will grow up to marry my son. I like to think she will thank me for my efforts one day.
Last week, I decided to apply my ideas about teaching children academics to the task of cleaning bedrooms. My son, I decided, just needed to be engaged in a way that spoke to his interests.
"Come here, Spy," I told him. "I need you for a super secret mission. Take this package of dirty laundry from headquarters to the drop site. Hurry before the evil aliens catch you. Only you can protect the family from the aliens."
He was out of there before he could realize he was cleaning then back again asking for a new mission.
"Stinky dirty socks! Oh, no! Go fast before the aliens smell them!" He took off again, giggling, and soon his brother was begging for a secret mission of his own.
If we keep this up, we might get that room looking like that homeschool room in the magazine.
Rose Godfrey is a homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.