Letting go, and letting your teens stand up


The best field trip ever!

Outings and Field Trips. Whichever way you look at it, or whatever you call it, it basically boils down to the same thing – getting out of the normal learning environment and transporting yourselves to another environment to learn the same thing in perhaps a slightly different way. Or perhaps to learn a new skill which knowledge, environment and equipment make impossible to learn in the usual environment.

What is it about a field trip that makes it an essential part of a home-schoolers learning experience?

Firstly, I think field trips can be a break from the normal humdrum and enliven the learning experience. Sitting in the same environment day after day can become boring, and a simple break to the normal routine can be a breath of fresh air.

Outings and trips can cement what has been learned in the ‘classroom’. As a kinaesthetic learner myself, I can appreciate the need to see and to experience – it adds depth and understanding to the auditory lesson.

Hands-on experience adds a further dimension to learning.

It is said that we learn:

10% of what we read

 20% of what we hear;

 30% of what we both see and hear;

 50% of what we discussed with others;

 80% of what we experience personally;

 95% of what we teach to someone else.

 —William Glasser

It helps to ‘connect the dots’ – the facts given in a lesson are no longer dry and disconnected.

Finally, we do it for the sheer pleasure of it. Often it means joining up with other home-schoolers, some social interaction, and perhaps new friends.

Outings and field trips are fun and exciting!

(Most of the time)

How many of us have spent hours organising an outing, only to have the kids show little interest, or drag their feet around a museum, mumbling about being hungry and asking when it’s time to go home for lunch?

If you’ve had one of these less-than-successful outings, here’s a novel idea …

If you have teenagers, let them organise the next outing!

My 13-year-old son and I just had the best field trip ever – and the first I knew of it was after he had organised the whole thing on his own initiative!

Our current zoology studies have led us to the study of birds, and recent discussions have included bird ringing. Always thirsty for more information, David began to research this online, and specifically as to whether this happens in our area.

Independently, he contacted the national organisation responsible for the ringing of birds, and had them put him in contact with the local bird group, whom he then also contacted by phone. He discovered that they were carrying out a ringing exercise in a local reserve this Saturday, and arranged to attend to see what it is all about.

And then he told me!

I haven’t seen him as excited about anything in a long time. For the three days leading up to the event, he literally bubbled over with enthusiasm.

I have to admit that I was less excited – perhaps it was at the prospect of getting up at 3.30am to meet at the reserve at 4.20am!

But it was awesome!

It brought our lessons to life in the most tangible way possible. Having studied the anatomy of a bird, it was all brought to life in vivid, living colour by being able to hold the bird; measure its beak, wings, tail and legs; opening the wing and studying the feathers; feeling its heartbeat; and feeling that sharp little beak nipping at our fingers.

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Reflecting on the experience, I realised that David gained far more than just learning about birds – he discovered that he has the ability to stand on his own feet in an adult world. He does not need me to organise everything for him. He took his first major step towards becoming a man, taking responsibility for his own future and the things that are important to him. He learnt that he can achieve awesome things on his own. And far from being a cutting of ties with me, it drew us closer, not only because we shared the experience, but because I was able to give him the freedom to take that step on his own.

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Tired, Frustrated and just plain “Fed Up!”


A mere five weeks into the new school year, and it seems as though the children (and Moms) are already exhausted! What’s up with this? Is it the fast pace at which we are required to live life these days, or something else?

Overloaded!

This week, even in my group of Cubs, children who normally have a bright and sunny disposition were uptight and full of nonsense. Unusual squabbles broke out, and children dissolved into tears over silly little things. One parent of a tearful child commented that the children are tired, and so are the parents.
At home, I have had the same struggles. I feel exhausted and Little Einstein has battled to get through his schoolwork each day. We have found ourselves spending entire days in the schoolroom, whilst around us the house and garden have disintegrated into disrepair. Everything seems a mess.
I imagined this had something to do with the recent loss of our beloved old cat – Little Einstein’s best friend – which completely devastated us.
On a daily basis though, I am hearing of more and more people who feel the same way – people who have previously “had it all together.”
What to do?
  • Try to relax! I am a tick-the-boxes kind of person and those un-ticked boxes bother me. But what is more important? A schedule with all the boxes ticked, or a contented, happy child who still loves to learn? Even the most exciting, vibrant books and lessons can become a drag when they are forced into an unbending schedule. I will try to relax and enjoy our beautiful living books fully.
  • Maths! The bane of our lives. Maths lessons have continued to be an uphill struggle, even though Little Einstein’s Maths has improved dramatically since he’s been home. I have realised that the root of this is that he has never learned his Times Tables properly. So it’s back to basics! All Maths lessons have stopped, and we are concentrating only on Times Tables. We are doing this the old-fashioned way – the way we learnt – by repetitive recitation. 40+ years down the line, Times Tables are still a snap for my husband and I, so there must be merit to this method! We will combine this with interactive Maths Games such as Timez Attack.
  • Writing! Little Einstein HATES to write and will spend hours dithering over a simple writing project. Yet, he will happily write reams on subjects he enjoys, such as aeroplane and rocket design. AND illustrate it all! So I have determined to try and fit his writing assignments around those things he enjoys, and let him put what he knows on paper. Instead of daydreaming about these things when he should be working, I will let him get those ideas out of his head and onto paper.  I will also invest in a journal for him, and encourage him to jot down his thoughts and ideas on a daily basis.
  • Finally, we will try to get out at least once a week and experience life and nature – it may be a nature study outing, or something as simple as an economics lesson while doing the grocery shopping! But we will get OUT!
These are small starts, but I am hoping that they will make the difference and ease some of the frustration and pressure we have been experiencing.
What do you do when things just don’t seem to be working? When your kids are tired, frustrated and resistant?

The homeschool of life


Life has a habit of throwing curve-balls at you just when you think everything is going great, and my disappearance from these pages recently was a result of just another of those curve-balls.
Unexpectedly, my mother was hospitalised needing urgent heart surgery. As I am the only one of my siblings close by, my life was upended for a few weeks with daily visits across the city to see her in the ICU.
Thankfully, life is now returning to normal. However, our schoolwork lagged sadly behind in those few weeks.
Initially I stressed about missing lessons. Then I realised God was a step ahead of me!
When my Mom was admitted, my son and I went along to see her settled in and a sister in the ward queried him as to why he was there and not in school. He told her he was a home-schooler and I quipped “we’re doing Anatomy today!”
Imagine my surprise when I sat down to do my preparation for the week ahead and found that our anatomy lesson for that week was all about the heart!
He was able to fully understand what “Nana” was having done to her and even enlighten her somewhat! The “coincidence” made the lesson so much more real.
On a subsequent visit to the hospital, we were leaving to return home when my son noticed the 911 helicopter on the helipad with its rotors just beginning to turn.
I parked and we watched close up as it took off, blasting dust and leaves all over us. What an unexpected thrill for my boy – so much so that he requested that I make him a “Special Moments Diary”.
My “reluctant writer” wrote a beautiful story about this special moment and drew a lovely picture.

When Nana returned home and needed help to get back on her feet after the op, we packed our school into a box and went home with her for a week to the retirement village where she lives.
In-between lessons, he visited with some of the other elderly folk in the complex, helped to build a model boat and learned how to “speak-up” to a somewhat deaf gentleman.
Through all of this, I learned to relax (a little, as I tend to be a tick-the-boxes kind of person) about the schedules and know that God is gently teaching lessons that would never otherwise be learnt. Life lessons. Love lessons.
I gained an even greater appreciation for this journey of homeschooling that affords us the opportunity to learn on our own terms and not be stuck adhering to a schedule or a set of curriculum rules.

Goodbye School!


I was moved recently as I read the “My Story” account in a local magazine of a mother who, after years of watching her son become steadily more miserable at school, finally took his hand and walked out of the school gates for the last time. For the past three years, she has seen a transformation take place as she has home-schooled him. This could (almost) have been my story.

It started when my son was only four and in nursery school. I was called in and told that there were some “problems” with him and that I should take him to an occupational therapist for an assessment, as amongst other things, he was unable to catch a ball. Dutifully, I complied. After a three-hour session, the OT told me that there were absolutely no concerns with his development other than a very slight case of low muscle tone which did not require any therapy. In fact, she told me, he was way ahead of where he needed to be in some respects. When I presented the report to the teacher, she shook her head in disbelief.

Some months later, I was called in again, to be told that she had now identified the problem. “It’s his eyes – he has absolutely no depth perception!” It was recommended that I take him to an opthalmologist for testing. Once again, I complied. After extensive testing, the ophthalmologist informed me that, aside from a slight farsightedness which did not require glasses, his eyesight was perfect. When I told him that the teacher was convinced that the child had no depth perception, he reacted with astonishment and insisted that I myself take an 11-point test to test depth perception. I scored 8. He then told me that my son had scored a full 11! Armed with these results, I went back to the teacher, who once again shook her head in disbelief.

The following year, when I was once again called in and told that I needed to take him to another OT for a second opinion as there  was “definitely something wrong”, I dug my heels in and refused.

Throughout Grade R, then Grade 1 and Grade 2, I listened to constant complaints from teachers: he didn’t do his work, he didn’t pay attention, he was daydreaming….

In the second half of Grade 2, I became desperate. Not only was the teacher pulling her hair (and mine) out, but my son was desperately unhappy. He was weepy, frustrated and angry. He was being bullied by other children and teased mercilessly. He would tell me how the children called him weird and made fun of him. My heart ached for him.

Finally, at the end of his Grade 2 year, the teacher insisted that, in order to promote him to Grade 3, he  would have to be assessed by an educational psychologist. Reluctantly, I made an appointment, fully convinced that I already knew the outcome and that I would be told he needed to be put on Ritalin. I was exactly right. I had also suspected that the IQ test he was given would reveal that he had a high IQ. Again, I was correct, but was stunned at just how high his IQ tested. I was told that he scored in the top 5% of human intelligence. Ritalin would help him concentrate, I was told, so that he could reach his full potential.

Having studied natural health, I was fully conversant with the side-effects of Ritalin, and politely told the psychologist that it would be a cold day in hell before I gave my son Ritalin (or Concerta, or anything remotely like it!) Her report to the school suggested that I refused to accept her diagnosis or recommendations. I did, however, agree to allow him to have therapy to “deal with the anger and frustration he was experiencing.”

At the beginning of this year, he began therapy (and Grade 3), and things went rapidly from bad to worse. Not only was he miserable at school and constantly teased and picked on by the other children and his teacher, but he became impossible to deal with at home as well.  He would shout at us and accuse us of all kinds of things.

By the end of the first term, I had had enough! I demanded to see the psychologist and informed her in no uncertain terms that her “therapy” was doing far more harm than good. She suggested that I was to blame for not agreeing to medication, and tried to insist on a consultation with a neurologist so that he could tell me that this was the only option! I told her that we were discontinuing therapy and were considering homeschooling. This would be the biggest mistake I could ever make, she told me.

On the first day of the second term, I also took my son’s hand and walked finally and firmly out of the school gates.

Admittedly, in the past few months, there have been times when I wondered whether I am indeed “of right mind”, or whether I have completely lost it, but the smile on my son’s face tells a different story. He is happy again, and walks around singing like he used to when he was smaller. His school work too has improved dramatically, as he is being constantly challenged.

Some weeks ago, he crawled into bed beside me one morning, snuggled up to me and said: “Mom, thank-you so much for home-schooling me. It’s changed my whole life!” If I had any doubts, they were completely dispelled in that moment.

This post is part of the South African Carnival of Homeschool Blogs.  To join the carnival or visit past carnivals visit the SACHS Blogs page.  We hope you enjoy browsing!