Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whose Job is it, Anyway?

I love it when blogging turns into a conversation between people with similar goals, but varied experience. I've been discussing curriculum planning both here and in various online forums. I've had a number of helpful answers to various questions, usually about what I expected: I was looking for a way to teach x, and people replied that a, b, or c worked for them. Rebecca Miller surprised me with a blog post of her own in response to one of my more general questions,  What is not working in our homeschooling?

While her post was about her family's experience, it led me to consider some related questions we're dealing with. Every year as I prepare to select the materials we will use, I look over the past year and ask, "What worked? What didn't? and Where do we go from here?" The "What worked?" is obvious; let's build on our successes. The "What didn't?" can mean a variety of things. Maybe a book just didn't live up to its reviews. Maybe it just wasn't a good fit for my child's learning style. Maybe it was just too much to try to cram into our already overstuffed schedule. But there is always the possibility that, much as I'd like to, I can't blame the book. Sometimes my kid didn't put in the effort he should have, or I didn't.

That last one has been a struggle lately. Since my older son has autism, if he isn't putting in the effort, it's up to me to figure out a way to get him to do the work. But my younger son is twelve now, and needs to start learning how to take responsibility for his own work. Yes, it's a gradual process, but he usually doesn't see a need to focus because he has no idea what should be expected of a sixth grader. If it doesn't come naturally, if he has to work at it, he thinks it's too hard, and doesn't see the point of trying.

He has a vague idea that he is ahead in some subjects and behind in others (true), but no clear idea of where he should be in any given subject. We talked about it today, and I asked if he would like a chart of what needs to be done at each grade level between where he is and high school graduation. He said he would. I typed one up this afternoon. It's only a rough outline, listing the subjects he needs to study, and which books we have used / are using / are planning to use, and is subject to revision: As I see his effort and progress, I get a clearer picture of his abilities and what I can reasonably expect of him. I plan to go over it with him tomorrow. We can check off what he's already done, and I hope it will give him a more accurate picture of what he still needs to do. Then we can look at both the knowledge he needs to acquire and the skills he needs to develop, and strategize what to do when.

But I also need to observe him carefully and evaluate when to coax, support, and lead him along and when to let him stand or fall on his own. The ultimate goal is for him to take complete responsibility for his education, labor, and vocation, but what is the best method to foster this independence, and what does it look like at any given moment? How can I best model the ethic I'm trying to teach? As he learns to work more independently, what should I be doing while he's working? Folding laundry?  Reading a worthwhile book? Building model rockets? (educational, but he'd feel I was having all the fun!) Researching curriculum? Randomly browsing the Internet?

And I, too, had found something I could do a few hours a week that brought in a little money to help stretch the family budget, and even cover the costs of some CAP activities. It was only a few hours a week, but it did cut into school time. That opportunity ended, so I'm looking for a replacement. But how to fit it in without school suffering? I'd like BB to start earning some money to pay for his activities, too, and more than I could pay him, but how best to fit it in?

Most teens like to sleep late. Conventional wisdom says they should go to bed earlier. Our boys go to bed early almost every night, and they still sleep late. I don't think many teens or preteens are getting all the sleep they need, but how much is too much? Our school day runs well into the evening. I could get them up earlier, but would they finish earlier, or just be less productive due to a lack of sleep? What is the ideal amount of sleep for these boys, and at what time? How can we find time for the physical exercise they and I need? And what subjects do I cut back on, and how much, when we need to focus in another area?

Don't be discouraged by my having more questions than answers. We are making good progress in many areas. It's balance that's difficult. And I welcome your stories of what worked well for you in a particular area, or how you keep up in one thing without falling behind somewhere else. Because with so many things that need doing, it's hard to know how much of what to do when.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know nothing of homeschooling, but I recently read an article about kids and sleep habits. What I recall is that teenagers need more sleep than adults, between 8.5 and 9.5 hours per night. So I'd say if they hit the 10 hour mark, it's ok to wake them up for school. Good luck with all your planning!

February 17, 2011 at 8:09 AM  

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