My youngest son is 4, “Buggy” and he is in Headstart. He is such a happy child, a friendly classmate, a helpful partner, and a passionate learner. He is attentive and polite. He is a charmer. From his teachers, and everyone who meets him, I receive nothing but praise about what a “good boy” he is.
Everything is relative.
My oldest son, “Tiger” is 6. He is in his second year of Kindergarten. He is a typical boy (overly energetic, defiant, disruptive, distractible, etc) to the 10th power. From his teachers, doctors, and anyone who meets him for longer than 30 seconds it is apparent that he struggles with ADHD.
Everything is relative.
Clearly my boys are night and day, which means they both receive totally different treatment. One receives a lot of praise, the other receives more “special treatment.” This is what happens in schools and it only will get worse as they get older.
I am not a doctor, or a teacher, or a childcare expert. I am a mother. Working with a child who has ADHD can be very overwhelming, and I have the utmost sympathy for teachers because of this. However, I also considered homeschooling simply because I know that the public school environment can often restrict an individuals’ ability to learn.
When you ask a young child about their day at school, they almost always have great stories to tell you about things they learned, or things their classmates did. They had fun. As they get older, the answers get shorter and dismissive. If prodded (don’t do this to a teenager!) they may elaborate and describe their day as “hard”, or “boring.”
I don’t blame the schools for this. Everything is about curriculums and schedules and it’s just not possible for one teacher to fuel the individuality of each student. So I feel that it’s my job to do as much as I can when the kids are home to find their interests and ignite the passion for learning.
Part Time Homeschooling
In a perfect world, I’d have more time. But as a single mom who is also a self employed consultant and actively involved in the community, including a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, time is something I miss more than fitting into those old jeans.
The thought of homeschooling is appealing, but also overwhelming when you’re like me. To be blunt, I need to send my kids to school because those precious hours are needed so I can focus on work without distraction. I know I can’t be the only parent who sees themselves as a disappointment compared to the type of parent I want to be. But I digress…
So I’ve silently followed a number of groups and forums about homeschooling and un-schooling, daydreaming about a world where I could focus my attention full time on the boys. (While wearing those old jeans.) It was always an unattainable daydream that wasn’t realistic for me until a few weeks ago.
My Son Could Be a Genius!
Tiger and I were waiting in the lobby for his counseling appointment and looking through an I-Spy book. As usual I had a hard time getting him to sit still and help me find the hidden objects, because he wanted to go talk to the other people who were also waiting for an appointment. Once I let him flip the pages, he was a little more attentive and we ended up on a page that had a picture of a Rube Goldberg type machine, with blocks and marbles and balloons, etc. Halfway through finding some of the hidden objects, Tiger lost interest again.
However, I stopped him from getting up by diverting his attention to the entire picture and asked him what he thought would happen in one area of the machine, when the train hit the marble. The diversion worked, and it came with a surprise.
In a matter of minutes, Tiger traced with his finger where the contraption began and what the final action was. He identified some very complex actions that took me a little longer to guess (such as if something would move up or down.) Needless to say, I was very impressed.
The spark is not a metaphor.
Parents who home school often say that you have to “find that spark, and fuel it.” That spark is not a metaphor, by the way. When you tell a child “good job!” for something that did not feel like work, you can see that spark in their eyes.
Needless to say, I was one proud mama that day. I was also inspired to have found a natural talent-and passion-for engineering.
So I bought Mousetrap for him that night. I tried to assemble the little pieces by following the directions. It was frustrating. That is, until Tiger stepped in and assembled the whole darn thing just by looking at the picture on the box cover.
Since that day, I’ve learned so much from my son. I’ve learned that he “works” best when we parallel play. I’ve learned that K’nex will have a longer shelf life than Mousetrap because you can do more creative building and thinking out of the box. Using found items is the most challenging (and fun) way to build any kind of Rube Goldberg machine.
I’ve learned that educational books (about favorite topics) are better for story time than Dr. Seuss (once you’ve found that spark.)
The spark can happen anywhere, anytime. Keep it ignited!
Buggy is so easygoing that he enjoys learning anytime, anywhere. He’s going to do well in school, and I continue to observe and explore his favorite activities to find his biggest passion. However, I won’t be surprised if he chooses “:liberal arts” when looking at college degrees because he’s so flexible that he can go down any career path,
Tiger is a little more picky. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s just like his Mama, except I never got into Math, Science, or Social Studies in school. The only subjects that really captivated me were English and Psychology. (That’s why I’m a marketing copywriter.) There is no doubt in my mind that Tiger is going to have a hard time in school, having to sit through those un-interesting subjects. But hey, that’s a part of life.
As long as I continue to fuel his interest at home in how things work, then I know he will be just fine. Tiger could be a rocket scientist someday. Or an electrical engineer. Or an architect. Whatever path these children choose, I’ll be there to provide the fun and educational books, toys, and playtime that keeps igniting their passion for learning.
It’s really that easy!