Homeschooling used to be fun.
But lately, it’s become something of a drudgery that mainly involves my two high school children sitting at a table in front of a computer screen for hours every day. Which means I am required to sit next to them and monitor their work. (Stop daydreaming!) It means that I am so much less available for my younger two boys, who sit in the next room and finish their boring book work, only coming in to ask questions occasionally. It means repeating the same routine day in and day out. We don’t go on field trips anymore. (There isn’t time!) We hardly get out the art supplies anymore (Math is more important!) We don’t do hikes and park play dates (There isn’t time!)
Homeschooling isn’t fun anymore.
When did this happen? When did we put away our paint brushes in favor of lighting up our laptops? When did I decide that lessons had to emanate from a metal box in my dining room for hours every day?
High school is serious business, I guess. Or so I hear. But this year (and last year) we have gotten into the habit of dreading Monday mornings, when the school cycle starts again. Log on. Watch a video teacher. Read a story. Answer questions. Type a paper comparing the motivations of two main characters. And all the while, I sit there thinking, Been there, done that. It’s like some weirdly condensed version of my own dull high school classes all over again. And believe me, once was enough.
Remember that constant refrain on the lips of your 17 year old self all those years ago?
When will I ever need to know this?
How is this relevant to real life?
I can’t wait to get out of high school and into the real world. (Where I will NEVER need geometry!)
And yet, here we are again. Dullsville 2.0.
Well, I’ve had it up to here. I’m not doing this to my kids anymore. Quenching the spark in interest that I once saw in their eyes when I told them we were going to build pyramids out of sugar cubes. Or eat like a Native American for the day. Or create ancient Egyptian costumes. Or crawl through a local WWII submarine. Or wonder at the oddities at the Natural History Museum. I don’t care about what everyone else is doing. I don’t care about standardized tests and GPAs. I want my kids to thirst for learning. I want them to be wowed by this world in which we live. I want them to find their passion and then pursue it until they’re cross-eyed. I want them to stay up until two in the morning finishing that crazy-good book they just can’t put down. I want them to job shadow. To intern. To take those art classes and guitar classes we’ve been putting off. I want them to spend time with their friends, talking about nothing important and everything that matters. I want them to trade kitchen chairs for bicycle seats. I want to go for hikes on muddy afternoons, and visit the local superhero museum. I want them to memorize lines for plays, and invent colorful compounds with chemistry sets. I want them to build their own motherboards and design their own video games. I want them to write stories and songs.
I want them to know that learning has nothing to do with textbooks compiled by educational experts and everything to do with finding out stuff.
I want Monday mornings to stop feeling like Monday mornings.
And time is short. Noah will be 16 in a couple of months. I don’t know how many more Mondays I have left with him. But while he’s here, I want him to know that I love him enough to turn off that horrid computer and give him what he craves: the freedom to learn his way, not mine, and certainly not the Department of Education’s. I want him to know that daydreaming is not a character flaw. That there is more to school than checking another lesson off his list. I want to ask him what he likes and then go to town on it. Video games? Let’s find out everything there is to know about when they were invented and who wrote the first code. Let’s see how they’re written and then see if he can create his own. World War II? He’s already half an expert on every tank from every country. So let’s spend the next year discovering everything there is to know about every major battle fought with tanks. Where they failed. Where they tipped the scales. Which country used them best. Who invented the first one. How they’ve changed over the years. Instead of cramming as many different years of historical information and ridiculously succinct summaries of the history of history, maybe Noah can become an amateur expert in just one thing. I mean, really. What history do any of us recall from our high school social studies classes? The Revolutionary War? Spent about 3 weeks on it and 11th grade. Check. Done. Move on.
There’s something wrong with us all that we are okay with the way school has been done for the past 50 years. Something wrong with trying to duplicate at home.
And I’m not doing it anymore.
There has to be a better way to teach our children without resorting to the same, tired methods that I hated 20 years ago. And I’m going to find it. I’m scared to go off the beaten path. But frankly, I’m more scared not to. I want to stop doing school and start learning life.