So we appear to be doing about 45 minutes to an hour of more formal academic work a day. Amazingly enough, we've stuck to that schedule all week, in spite of doctor's appointments for me and an unexpected trip to Albany to retrieve the purse I left behind at one of them. For some reason, however, my plan to do "fun" math fell flat, as the kids decided they wanted Patchwork Math again. Patchwork Math is a set of two reproducible workbooks which includes drill sheets in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division disguised as quilt patterns for kids to color. I originally bought the books a few years ago, and slowly, we have been using them up. My six year old daughter loves math and has been doing it along with her big brother since she was four. Her big brother, on the other hand, often has to be dragged toward math kicking and screaming. In the past I have often wondered whether this was the right thing to do, because I did not want to give him a math phobia or any other sort of math aversion. In all our eclectic glory, we have, for the most part, leaned toward the unschooling end of the homeschooling spectrum, and math is usually the subject on which I waffle the most. When I've assigned math, I've been unsure if I'm doing the right thing; when I haven't assigned math, I've been worried I'm doing the wrong thing. But when we were sitting at the table yesterday, my son was humming (humming!) as he did his math. And then he stopped humming and he said, "This is fun!"
The sound of my head hitting the table was probably loud enough for our neighbors to hear. This is the same child who argues, complains, and whines (vociferously) whenever I mention the word "math". And today the magic did not wear off. He finished the sheet he was working on yesterday and today, as he was flipping through the book, he said, "Does this one have regrouping? I want to do one with regrouping."
I must confess that I do not understand this child. Learning to read happened in somewhat the same fashion. We required some reading instruction, coupled with the occasional long break, but we certainly did not wait for him to come to us and say, "Teach me to read." (I think I'd still be waiting.) But this spring he suddenly jumped from easy readers to a fifth or sixth grade level (at least), and now he loves to read. He also has the audacity to tell his sister, who gets easily frustrated with the whole reading process but wants desperately to be able to do it, "It just takes practice."
When I remember all the struggles, whining, complaining, etc...
But then there is something that makes me feel better. The other day we were talking about how little kids (i.e. their two year old brother) need to do things on their own so they can feel indpendent and self-confident and learn how to do those things. My son said, "Yeah, like I taught myself to read."
Thinking back on the phonics worksheets, the Bob Books, and the nightly required "read to your father" time, I was somewhat amused at that statement. But I felt pretty good about it, too. Because obviously the child now feels he can read anything, and that the ability is his completely. Therefore, our methods of instruction, encouragement, etc. must have been transparent enough that they seemed only like the boost I might give him to reach a tall branch on a tree.
I liked that feeling.
So I am wondering, because I do a lot of wondering, about certain kids and this unschooling thing. Because I have this kid whose first reaction to anything new is "No!!!" But if -- gently or not so gently -- pushed into that thing, he often realizes that he actually likes it.