It’s been awhile. But I’m still here, and I feel compelled to share a potential lie and the truth behind it. In doing so, I want to dispel the myth that all homeschooling activities go well and that all homeschooling children are happy.
Here we go . . .
This week, I decided to try something very different for our homeschool adventure–a unit study. I know, I know, you’d think at this point (9 1/2 years), I would have done this before. Believe me, I’ve tried.
But my children complained, whined, and cried. “I don’t like this.” “This isn’t fun.” “I’m bored.”
They can be hard to please. So I gave up. The years have passed–the complaining ones are older.
Since my early attempts, I’ve done considerable research about my kids’ learning styles. I’ve learned more about what makes learning easy and hard for my kids. I learned, in particular, that I have several kids who are afraid to try ANYTHING new that they don’t have direct experience with.
I decided to try again. I chose to do a unit on “bridges.” Six weeks–two days a week. Lots of hands on activities. A variety of subjects incorporated into a package. My goal was NOT to teach particular information (that will come later), my goal was to simply see IF we could do a unit study together . . . and survive.
Now for the lie–
Here’s a picture from our first day.
And here’s another picture from later in the day.
Okay, it’s not a total lie. They didn’t fake looking happy and engaged. But if I ONLY showed these pictures, you would believe the lie–which is that this bridges unit was a huge success. That I had overcome all our past difficulties.
This post would also look like most every other homeschool blog you might read–with happy, engaged children doing fun, hands-on learning activities. So I’m going to share the truth–the whole truth–the naked truth.
Here’s how it really happened:
Two days before we start the unit study: I start prepping my slow-to-warm-up children. I tell them we’re going to try something different. I tell them that even if it doesn’t “look” fun, I still want them to try. They all individually agree.
The day before we start: I remind them that tomorrow is the start of something different. They all remember.
The day we start (1 hour before school starts): Pepper (12) asks what we’re going to do. I list a few things: “watch a video about cool bridges” and “experiment with paper bridges” are among the list. Pepper says, “I don’t WANT to make paper bridges.”
I feel that familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The “I just put a ton of work into this and here we go again” feeling. I pull Pepper into the kitchen and have a heart-to-heart with her. (Tears were there, although I kept them to a minimum.) I explained how hard I had worked. I explained that I needed her to try. She said she didn’t like the way paper “crinkled” when you folded it. I told her to wear headphones or ear plugs. (I was serious.) She agreed to try. (She’s a really good kid!)
The day we start, sitting down together: I feel that I need to share the same thoughts with all my kids. I start–“I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty. But I do want you to be aware. I’ve worked really hard. I want to have fun. I need you to try, even if it looks hard. Even if it looks boring. Even ifÂ you don’t think you will like it. It’s like I’ve made a present for you. You know how you feel when you put time into making a present for someone? You want them to try and like it. They don’t always love it. But you want them to try. (They have ALL dissed each other’s presents at some point, so they all nod solemnly at this idea.)”
The feelings in the room are gentle and warm. It seems that we’re all on board.
First activity: We are going to watch a video about famous bridges from around the world. There’s a scuffle about seating. Lima Bean (10) refuses to give up his “called” seat so that everyone can see better. When I insist, he starts to cry and runs to his room. I’m dumb-founded. We haven’t even STARTED and there are already tears (that aren’t mine!).
We press on without Lima Bean. I hope that he will return.
Second activity: We’re going to explore the forces that work on bridges by modeling them with our bodies. I found the idea in this book. We’ll start by pulling on a rope, like tug of war, but trying to balance the forces so neither side falls down. Pea Pod (8) starts to complain that she doesn’t like this idea, but she still grabs the rope. Pepper doesn’t like how she’s holding it and snaps it out of her hands. Bok Choy (6) sits down and refuses to try. Now Pea Pod is crying. More tears!
I look at everyone imploring. Lima Bean has emerged from his room. I BEG them to please try.
A higher power decides to intervene. They all actually try. And they actually succeed. We try other bridge forms. And they’re actually laughing.
Third Activity: We’re going to try weight on various bridge shapes. All goes well at first.
Then Pepper counting out loud messes up Pea Pod’s counting. She’s gets frustrated and yells at Pepper. Pepper gets upset and shoves her bridge off the table. The folding gets too complicated for Lima Bean, and he asks (at least he asks!) to go back to his room because it’s too much. Bok Choy announces that he is just going to make his own bridge.
We’re done for day one. Were their some good moments? Yes. But I need over an hour of talking with someone to work through how emotional I am about how it went. I’m completely undecided as to whether or not it was worth it.
Was day two better? Stay tuned . . .