Sunday, August 08, 2010

Summer School...

Since beginning homeschooling, I have schooled the kids year-round though a bit lighter schedule-wise in the summer. This year has been a little hectic with all the kids' performances, music camps, and a trip to Ireland to plan plus having to put in extra hours at work to make up for the days I am away.

The boys are both headed to public school this year so have summer reading they must do. I've had Dylan doing math a couple days a week so he will be fresh for the testing the school will do to place him in classes. (I've ordered Newt a couple new math texts...Art of Problem Solving Intro to Number Theory and he can do math at home since his school does block scheduling which I think is the dumbest use of high school time ever thought up and he will have no math until the second half of the school year...but that's probably a topic for a different blog post.)

Haley has been getting in a lot of extra practice time preparing for performances with Dylan and the Fleadh competition. Besides reading daily, we hadn't done much in the way of school for a few weeks. Then we began doing Tree in the Trail along with map study on the day without electricity. We've nearly finished the book. Haley began asking to do science so this past week, I started her on the PLATO Learning online biology course I had ordered off I love that website, btw. She's also asked to do math but we haven't gotten back to that yet.

Haley's a different kid in that she craves learning and seems to need it unlike the boys who'd play all summer if I allowed it. I often wonder if it's just differences in personality or if it's because of the way I started homeschooling. When the boys were young, I didn't have any experience except school so we basically did "school at home" with all the subjects every day. We sat for the mornings when they were young and "did school."

Over the years, I read more and more books on schooling, learning, and gifted children. I became more relaxed in my approach to school. By the time Haley came along, I allowed her early years to be completely child-led. I introduced her to a wide variety of topics, took her on trips to different places, and fed her needs. I provided lots of books, craft materials, math manipulatives, workbooks when she asked for them, etc... and kept everything in her reach. When she brought me something, we sat together and did it but when she wanted to play she did or we played together. Music was the only thing she did daily and even that was structured as play and for short periods throughout the day. I even kept her violin out where she could reach it and bring it to me when ready.

As Haley gets older, we continue in a more child-led fashion but I add more subjects to her arsenal and either because she still retains her love of learning and exploring or because it's in her personality or some combo of the two, she wants to learn. Often it's late at night when no one wants to hear the violin anymore but that's her internal clock.

The one thing I regret most in homeschooling is not giving the boys the opportunities I was able to give Haley. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Parents on some of the gifted forums I visit are often listing curriculums for their very young (3-4yo) children asking if they are doing too much or not enough for their brilliant children. Then they get upset when experienced homeschoolings suggest allowing "school" to be child-led because they feel their parenting style is being questioned. I wish they realized the gift they are being given and that it is in no way questioning parenting style nor is it the "they are young, let them play" answer. Child-led learning is a lot of work for a parent because the parent must provide opportunities for learning and resources...create a smorgasbord for the child to sample from. Some of the things you provide will hardly be used and with others, you'll have to be willing to find more to fill the child's need.

The funny thing about this type of learning, at least in my experience, is that Haley has always been more academically advanced than her brothers even prior to beginning any "formal" schooling. I don't think it has anything to do with actual intelligence level (statistically, siblings tend to be within 10-15 IQ points of each other). Personality and inner drive may be contributing factors but I often wonder if those formed or influenced by homeschooling style and how much??

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