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The peaceful school

“You must be so patient.”

If I have heard that once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. I must be so patient. Patient to homeschool my kids.

What is patience anyway? According to Wikipedia patience is “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.”

definitely have not always been patient.

In my daily homeschool journey, I have definitely been delayed. I have definitely been provoked. I have definitely been under strain, annoyed, and faced with difficulties. Seriously, how many times can one child drop a pencil? I have heard every excuse known to man and womankind. “My stomach hurts. I just hit my knee on the chair. I have a headache.” Visions of children “flunking” SAT tests swirl ‘round in my head.

When I have these days, I have to remind myself why forced schooling does not work well and remind myself not to re-create the very environment we are trying to escape. This can be difficult when your own educational experiences have been ingrained with a certain “look and feel.” When I first started homeschooling, I did the best I could. I started at the beginning. I bought a bunch of books and taught my four year old how to read, write and count.

I had some early clues that my son learned in different ways. Sometimes he was interested in the piles of flash cards, but mostly he wanted to spend his time building. We would often go weeks without touching “the books” and then something would catch his interest and he would sit for eight hours at a stretch just so he could have the satisfaction of reaching the end.

Still, this was not enough to make me believe that learning did not have to occur in certain ways at certain times, but there is hope for me and I am finally coming around. The biggest challenge of my life has been to let go of the idea of being “schooled.” It is a daily exercise in self-control.

My youngest has taught me a lot about how children learn differently. If he had a choice, he would never sit down. I wonder how painful it would be for him to have to sit for endless hours processing information that he may or may not find interesting.

I recently discovered a rather ingenious and fun way to keep him engaged while he studies math. It involves a small foam ball and a basketball hoop hung on the back of the door. Since he likes to move and sitting still is not his style, whenever he solves a problem correctly he gets to take one shot. If he doesn’t answer correctly he tries again, but loses the chance to shoot a basket.

For every additional correct answer he gets another shot added on–for instance, three correct answers, three shots and so on. I was astounded at how well he responded to this. The fast pace of “the game” stimulates his mind and allows him to focus on what’s in front of him. I let him decide how long he “plays” the game and encourage him to move on to something else when he is ready.

Discovering what works for different children is a little like finding a key to a lock. It takes time, and yes, even patience. I know that in a traditional classroom setting it is difficult, at best, to test all the keys. As a substitute children are often medicated for convenience sake.

I have found greater patience through allowing my children to guide their own learning, paying attention to the cues they are giving me about what makes them tick. When you eliminate conflict over “school work” you create an environment of peace. A peaceful environment is a stimulating and creative place to be.

“You must be so patient.” Patient? If not patient with our own children, then whom do we reserve our patience for?

Photo by Powerhouse Museum Collection. Ladies’ toboggan race. Circa 1900.

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