Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fruit Flies Like a Banana

The summer is two-thirds over already. (As Groucho Marx once observed, "Times flies like an arrow, fruit flies..." Well, I already gave that one away in the title, didn't I?) And it's about this time that a young teacher's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of school. Except for those unschoolers and year-round schoolers out there, in which case, Carry on!

But I wanted to offer some support for the public school refugees, myself included, who may be wondering if they did the right thing pulling their child out of school because all he did was lay on the couch and whine. Surely things would be better if they went to school at least part of the day so someone else had to listen to the whining? Take heart, my friends. You are still on the right path.

Here's the thing: there is a concept called "deschooling". Generally it means that you need to get the schoolish thinking out of your head before you can relearn how to learn or how to teach or how to behave. The rule of thumb is that it takes one month for every year of public school to learn the difference between school and learning.

It's kind of like your kids are public school junkies. Deschooling is the withdrawal period and like drug withdrawal it can be painful for the junkie and painful to watch. Your kids lie around and whine because they are used to someone telling them what to do, what to learn and how to behave. Without that constant supervision, they don't know what to do with themselves. You can see this over summer vacation, sometimes, too. Along about August there is much whining about how bored they are. They can't think of anything to do because they're used to being told what to do, but they don't want to do anything you suggest because they resent being told what to do.

So what to do? Plug your ears with cotton balls and wait them out. Seriously. Support any reasonable request for an activity (boy, have I been playing a lot of board games lately!). Do an art or craft project by yourself in full view. Read in full view. Not "Oh hey, look what I'm doing!" manipulative, but because you genuinely want to learn something. The kids will come around.

An example: we signed up for 4H last winter as a way to get out the house, do some service learning and other enrichment kinds of things. The boys refused to sign up for any project other than archery and they refused to participate in the county fair. I thought the prize money might entice Xavier, but he was adamant. So, they didn't submit anything for the fair. Wolfie took part in the dog project training but didn't take Jack the Wonder Dog to the dog show.

I didn't push them to do anything and at this point, Wolfie is really digging on the 4H thing. He's got a number of projects he is thinking about taking next year. And this is the boy who told me last fall that "project" was a four-letter word. Coincidentally, this change in thinking happened about seven months after we started homeschooling. So even though we didn't technically deschool, he still came around. Xavier's still somewhat truculent, but then again, he's a twelve-year-old boy.

So unless your whiny student is twelve, have faith that your homeschooling decision is still the right one and your student will come around (even the 12-year-olds eventually get older). If you're getting a lot of resistance, just lay back and deschool completely for awhile. Whatever you do, don't let the kid con you into creating school at home. Homeschooling is better because it's different than school, remember? So put away the school bell and the ruler and pull out the Mentos and Diet Coke!

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