Most homeschoolers agree, no matter what approach they take to home education, that the first year is the trying year, the year to you try everything you read or heard about, spend the most money, and spend the most amount of time researching curricula, activities, groups. You spend the year trying to engage your kids, to suss out their strengths and weaknesses, learn their learning styles, all in order to cook up a big batch of knowledge that tempts them to pick up their utensil of choice and eat.
Halfway through, and I think we’re halfway there. I’ve a pretty good grasp of the weak spots, the places where we’re solid, and the work-arounds for the days when Seamus digs in around his preferred aversions. There’s a lot of slogging, but a lot more bright spots than there were a few months ago. Two weeks ago while reading Persian myths, he looks up at me and says, “this sounds just like Noah and the Ark,” which led to discussion about the layering of stories and cultures in the Near East. He’s slowly moving through language mechanics and maths like he’s assembling a Lego kit. Our last big struggle has been writing, and writing turns up in Classical-inspired educations in quatities that can be measured in fucktons.
Getting him to engage in reading comprehension works has been tough; verbally he’s all over it, but producing written work has been a nightmare. We scaled everything back to one picture for a reading, with a caption that I transcribed. Then we moved on to lengthier narrations, then four-panel comics pages. A while ago I ordered a call-out stencil and some blank comics from Bare Books. I thought we’d use them on longer works, history projects, and for his creative writing work. This week is all short creation myths from Oceania, so I asked him to make a comic describing the story. He chose it as his first work, announced that he had LOTS of ideas, and pounced on his work after our morning walk. Then he pulled out the four-panel sheet.
“Do I have to use this?”
“Um…what’s wrong with it?”
“I was hoping I could use one of the new books. Can I?”
Did he just give himself a more complex project? “Sure! I’ll get you one.”
“How much writing do I have to do?”
“Well, you have to tell what happens.”
“I thought I’d do that with pictures and dialogue. Is that okay?”
“…Let’s try it.”
He worked for two hours on this book, using one of his drawing books to get things to look the way he wanted them to look, asking for help without melting down and demanding I draw it for him. And when he was done, there was a Micronesian creation myth comic on our kitchen table. It is soundly seven year-old work, but he took control of a project, planned out what he wanted to do, and executed it. During the process he acknowledged that he could use some help in doing something better, and reached for a resource that helped him do it. It was like he grew up a few years between breakfast and lunch.
Maybe he’ll do it again tomorrow.