Taking Charge of Their Own Education

We went to the VaHomeschoolers conference this weekend. We learned two major things. One, Fritz doesn’t like crowds. They upset him greatly and doesn’t even want to nurse if there are too many people around. Individuals talking to him are fine, but crowds of people overwhelm him. Two, it’s okay that Cameron isn’t learning to read right now and there’s no point in continuing to try to teach him.

I went to a roundtable discussion on Gifted and Difficult. You know, Ani’s not really so difficult. In fact she’s rather easy. Cameron’s probably as gifted as his sister. He’s just different from her and while her giftedness is extremely easy to quantify by doing x grade level work, his is a little harder partly because he’s not reading yet and partly because he’s just plain not interested in school like she is. He doesn’t learn the same way she does. Ian went to a session on right brained learners given by Cindy. Cameron appears to be a right brained learner.

And so we’re giving the kids more control of their own education, but in very different ways. Cameron is being allowed to pick any topic that interests him. I’ll read him books, find websites, we’ll go on field trips, whatever to learn about that topic to his satisfaction. And then he has to do a project to show something he learned. We don’t really care what the topic or project is, that is up to him. He chose airplanes for his first topic. My sister’s husband is a bomber pilot and has recently become Cameron’s idol. We were not surprised Cameron chose airplanes. We gave him some suggestions for his projects such as building models with legos or drawing or painting pictures. Cameron decided he wants to build models of airplanes with play-doh. Of course his project can be whatever he decides when the time comes that he is ready to make it and he can make more than one project if he so desires. We’ve already got plans to see if Ian’s boss will let us look at his little airplane and my parents are planning to take Cameron to the Air and Space museum in DC and to make paper airplanes and fly them and various other things. This afternoon Cameron talked to his uncle and asked about the flight suit he wears and how the planes fly and how they land. It may not look much like “regular” school and it may be vastly different from what Ani does, but it is definitely learning. It’s time to stop throwing marshmallows at his head (see the quote on Stephanie’s blog.)

As for Ani, because of what happened with her math on Friday and the fact that she is quite responsible and really into schedules right now, we are changing her school day quite a bit. Instead of me sitting at my desk and her at her desk for 3 or so hours a day about 9 every morning I will do the parts of school with her that she needs me to do with her (like Latin and spelling tests) and then she will have her list of things to do by the end of the day. We will have lunch at noon and reading time at 1 followed by quiet time, but otherwise it is up to her to get her list of minimums done. The warm-up will be changing to a creative writing prompt. We’ll see how that all goes. If it goes well after a month or so we’re going to start giving her the list with a week’s worth of stuff to do on Monday for her to have done by Friday. Eventually, in a couple or three years, I want to have her getting a month of work at a time. I do think given the way Ani is this little experiment will be a success.

We also told Ani that once she is done her work she can do special projects like Cameron. She is interested in learning about writing fantasy stories or about poets. She got excited at the prospect of writing to her favorite author, Tony Abbott, and of writing a fanfic based on the characters in his Secrets of Droon series. She also thinks reading lots of poetry and picking her favorite ones and researching the poets who wrote them and writing her own poetry.

The kids are both excited about the prospects of having school a little different. Cameron’s very glad I’m not going to make him keep trying to learn to read. He’s been so frustrated by my efforts. He does want to read but it really isn’t time yet for him. Whatever needs to click just hasn’t. Ani likes the idea of having more responsibility in her school work. And I like the idea of not sitting there for over three hours a day keeping her focused.

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