Sunday, July 17, 2011

When Homeschooling is Working Well, Resist the Drive to Change It!

Rose wrote: “I’m bored, in a rut, how can we spice it up?”
My advice is when you are onto a good thing and it is working well DON'T change it!
Have a close look at the concept of boredom instead and see if you can get to the bottom of it. My booklet on Motivation might give you some ideas to think about.
All too often we think we're bored but something else is going on. For instance, this morning I felt bored with life but in actual fact I've just stopped working on a huge project that has dominated my life for four years and what I am actually feeling is loss and a sense of emptiness. I have plenty of things I want to do (no end of exciting things as usual!) but I still need to get used to not doing that other thing.
My son used to say he was bored but when we examined what was really going on it was because he was waiting for the next big thing in life - usually waiting for a new computer game to come out, his next birthday, when his friend could come over again, etc. His 'boredom' was driven by his impatience. Once we identified that he found it much easier to manage. 
Sometimes I feel bored when I know I have to do something I don't want to do. So I keep putting it off and try to occupy my mind with other things but it hangs over my head - like a simmering nagging guilty feeling that won't leave me alone and won't let me enjoy the other things I am doing!
'Bored' generally really means something else. When we identify and name that something else we are empowered to change what we are doing and get on with life.
On the question of how to 'spice it up', perhaps you are not feeling fully engaged with what is already happening. School education trains us to expect something new tomorrow and is built around the idea that learning must be fun. Novelty is addictive. Novelty isn't in itself a bad thing as it drives innovation, creativity and technology but always needing to be entertained is something very new in human society. You may be experiencing a necessary symptom of deschooling - a period where your conditioning from childhood is driving you to want something new to engage you.
Instead of looking for something new outside of what you are already doing, how about going deeper? Follow the learning as far as it can go. This may require you to challenge yourself - learn new skills, take on tasks or head in directions that you might not feel comfortable with, etc.
For example, if you are following an unschooling approach and your children are being particularly self-directed in their learning at the moment you may not be as hands-on as you usually are. Get interested and involved again. Look  at what the children are doing and ask yourself if their activities could be enhanced by the provision of new materials, or perhaps a different point of view. Brainstorm some ideas with them, find new resources, take the learning further, build educational scaffolds on which they can climb. For example, when my children were playing shop (a great way of learning maths) I introduced post office shop props.
If, on the other hand, your children are learning from a particular text book and you aren't having much input at all, consider introducing some games that you can play with them that will add value to that subject. Or an excursion, or a group activity. For example, when my children were learning place value in their maths books I sat and played with multibase blocks and their Brio trainsets, building skyscrapers with different numbers of units ("now build me a building with 7922 units" - I was the 'unit bank' and they had to do all the exchanging).
Often we are bored because we are not engaged. We are not living in the moment but are thinking instead of what we've done or will do, or worse still 'should' do! Bring your attention back to now and centre yourself. Ask, 'what do I really need', rather than 'what I do I really want'.

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