There are a few questions that I have come to dread. One of them is “what did you do in school today?” – hmmm. Well my daughter will often answer with “Nothing”. There are two reasons she often says this. Firstly she gets a bit irritated that people who she talks to on a weekly basis still ask her after 7 years what she does in school, because she is not is school and as she points out how can they keep forgetting she does not attend school but expect her to remember times tables. (Totally agree with her and by the way she knows her times table she just hates people thinking they need to quiz her on them.) And the second point she makes is she often says Nothing because she has not been doing school work. What she means by this is she does not consider writing a story that she enjoys, reading one of her History books or working on a timeline school work. Those are things that she enjoys, that she chooses to do with her time and she will not classify that as school work like her school-going friends classify subjects that they do not enjoy. (Again I have no problem with her logic).
But as I am sure you can imagine this does cause concern amongst some people.
The other answer that this line of questioning may get is again a very truthful answer “oh I am still working on my Anglo-Saxon history”, or my son might say “we have been looking at Insects”. The problem with this arises when they keep giving the same answer over a few weeks or even longer. The questioner then sometimes follows up with “Are you still on that topic? Isn’t it time you learnt someone new?”. And then I get FRUSTRATED.
PLEASE DO NOT RUSH MY KIDS WHEN THEY ARE LOVING A TOPIC!
Just step back, keep you “wise” words to yourself.
I have a BIG issue with this.
We have now been home educating our kids for 7 years. And I will admit in the first year possibly second year or so I had a similar attitude. I wanted to do a new topic very month. So we could cover everything and not have those dreaded gaps that you always hear about. But I no longer worry about that.
What I do care about is seeing two kids who are engaged. And I mean REALLY engaged in topics they are learning about. They are constantly seeking out new resources and learning details that blow my mind. When I was their age I would never have been able to discuss these topics like they can. Never. And what people underestimate is when the kids are engaged in a topic the learning that happens is not just in the areas that you may think. Yes both of mine are constantly reading up about areas they are interested in (so reading is covered). They both are writing stories about their topics (creative writing hug big tick here if you saw the number of pages of writing), pictures are often drawn (art), timelines created, family trees (maths needed here), hybrids created (a lot of science involved in this), habitats discussed, creature adaptations discussed – I could go on and on but I hope you get the point. And the beauty of this is I am not driving any of this learning. They are. I never ask them to write a story about the topics, they choose too, the drawings, they do that themselves, they sit and work on their projects without anyone asking because they are interested. So NO I am not rushing them onto something new.
The old me understands this need to finish a topic and move on. But the home educator me, the one who gets to see the results knows not to give in.
Last year we spent a huge amount of time lost in a Viking world of Fictional stories and Non-fiction reading. Huge amount of time. LOTS. But the amazing thing about all that was watching how the kids developed as a result. My then 7-year old’s reading ability and reading confidence rocketed. I have seen how this year he is confidently picking up books, complex books and losing himself in them without needing anyone’s assistance. And I know that is largely down to the amount of Viking reading we did last year. So all of that time of the Vikings was NOT a waste.
The Viking topic is also what started my daughter’s love for History. It sparked the interest in creating timelines, in seeing who took the power from who and were they related or was it a case of defeat. The Viking topic unlocked her biggest area of interest – History.
My son is fascinated with Reptiles, Insects (using Insects in a broad term which he would not be happy about) and Amphibians. Totally fascinated. But learning about these creatures has lead him into a massive Geography area. He has been reading up about how they adapt for different terrains and then researching those terrains – learning about mountains, rivers, areas like desert and even plotting them onto maps. From learning about these creatures we learnt about some mountains and ended up learning how the local Nepalese people’s bodies have adapted to high altitudes. Total tangent. But when you leave the kids to totally loose themselves in the topics they want to they end up on these tangents by themselves and they find it equally interesting.
When the kids find a topic they are truly interested in and they learn about it their confidence soars. Both of mine no longer just read a book and accept what the author has written about the topic nor do they accept that an adult knows more about a topic than them. In some instances they will disagree and be able to construct their argument as to why they disagree. My son recently found an error in a publication and was so confident he was correct he asked me to email the publishers. I did. And they replied agreeing with my son and informed us they will correct the publication going forward. That right there not accepting that everything you read is correct, being able to apply your knowledge and explain why you disagree. That is worth letting the kids spend ages on topics they choose.
So if you are worried we are too History or Animal Science orientated. Please don’t. We are covering a lot more than you may realise, we just cover it from angles that the kids find interesting. And along the way the kids are learning valuable lessons about driving their own learning, creating their own projects, managing time, arguing a case, being independent in their thinking.
To Clarify – for any new readers – we follow a semi-structured approach. We do Maths every day in a fairly structured manner, some English as well and then a lot of Topic work/ themed projects for “other subjects”.