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It is a truth universally acknowledged that education = jargon. There’s the jargon of education as profession (“differentiated curriculum,” “learning outcomes,” “Maslow’s hierarchy”), the jargon of the educated (lawyers, doctors, various academic disciplines), and of course the jargon of “giftedness” (including the word “gifted” itself).
You might think that homeschoolers, being an independent lot, would eschew this kind of thing. BUT NO; there’s jargon in homeschooling, too. Do you homeschool or unschool? Do you use Charlotte Mason? Unit studies? Are you a “radical” unschooler?
Part of what’s behind homeschooling jargon is territory marking, same as any other group: WE use THIS approach, we’re not like those crazy uptight people who use THAT approach. But I think most of it is more just an attempt to explain (to ourselves, even) what we’re doing–again, same as any other group.
I’m not setting Pseudonymous Kid down at a table for six hours a day; there’s no recess or lunch “bell”, we only have one (math) textbook, which PK has only dipped his toes into–so what are we doing? How do we ensure that PK is getting “instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools,” as the law requires in my state (even for homeschoolers)?
You might think that home educating a kid who is very bright, enjoys reading, likes building things, and never met a narrative or an argument he didn’t want to analyze and take apart would be easy: take the kid to the library, get him some books in the various required “branches of study,” and let him go. I suppose some homeschooling works that way: at least, that’s often how people seem to talk about it when you’re first getting started.
In our case, though? That is so very not how it works. SO VERY NOT.
Now, whether it doesn’t work that way because PK had a bad school experience, because we didn’t start homeschooling from the very beginning, because we’re doing homeschooling “wrong,” because PK is an anxious freak, because I’m a lazy-ass homeschooling teacher/mama, because we’re in “the deschooling phase,” or any other reason one might come up with, I can’t say. Maybe it doesn’t work that way for anyone and the people who say it does are lying. I dunno.
Here’s how it has worked this year.
- Trial-and-error. I propose something–a book, a schedule, a topic–and PK refuses it, or resists outright (directly or with that irritating passive dawdling/avoidance thing); or else he sorta kinda goes along with it a little bit but gets more and more resistant over time while I cajole or command, until finally I give up; or else it actually works. Mostly the only thing that’s actually worked is a series of video lectures on medieval history. The reason these worked is
- Observation. I pay attention to what PK is willing to do. Watching video documentaries turned out to be something he’d go along with, so I spent some money on video lectures to cover medieval history, which is what he’d be doing this year if he were in public school. He likes videos, so sometimes I show him youtube videos of, say, some scientific phenomenon. He reads a lot of stuff on cracked.com, which is actually surprisingly educational, and I’ve run across a couple pieces there about medieval history and shown those to him. He plays a lot of video games and likes to tell me ALL ABOUT THEM, so I’ve listened to his monologues and asked questions that ensure that he “provides evidence” of his various claims about why some game is great and another sucks, that he “develops his argument” by explaining more about his reasoning, and so forth. In other words, I’ve relied a lot on
- Manipulation. AKA “stealth schooling,” because no one is going to say “I manipulate my kid”–especially in unschooling circles, which are all about self-directed learning. In addition to manipulating him into turning his video game explanations into exercises in exposition and argument, I’ve subscribed to a couple of magazines (Smithsonian and Scientific American)–and the subscriptions are in MY name, so he doesn’t think I’m trying to “make” him read them. When they come I sit down and read them, occasionally saying something like “huh, this is interesting, did you know ___?” or “oh, this is a neat chart, check it out”–and within five minutes he’s taken the magazine away from me and is reading the article himself. I’ve played dumb over math so that he would figure it out for the joy of being able to tease me about my slowness. PK’s papa has explained math and science things over dinner because I was “confused about them,” and then turned to PK and asked him to figure out “for fun” what would happen if ___. I’ve wondered aloud while cooking why eggs turn white and solid when they’re heated or why dishwashing detergent helps pans be less greasy, and let him explain the chemistry behind those things to me. I’ve used walks to the grocery store and back as “P.E.,” and I’ve started proposing to PK that we “play hooky from school stuff” by driving to a nearby forest and going for a long hike–on which he’s explained to me why there’s a river at the bottom of this canyon and I’ve pointed out to him the way the plants change as we get higher into the mountains. I’ve encouraged him to practice typing by rewriting the typing exercise sentences so that they’re silly or irreverent or profane. This morning I showed him this video and then said, I wonder what other kinds of things one could use that technology for.
Basically I’ve learned that if I tell him to do something, he’s almost certainly going to resist it. But if I offer it as an alternative to “school stuff,” or post it as a question that either allows him to tell me something or else riff on a bunch of ideas, then bingo.
Of course, this means I’m basically teaching PK 24/7, since I have to take my opportunities where I find them, or create opportunities as I can. In a lot of ways it would be much, much easier to just say “read the damn textbook and do the problems on page 47.” But in other ways–ways that matter more to me–the textbook approach is much, much harder, because it requires me to nag and supervise and insist and argue and there is just no. freaking. way.
You might say PK has manipulated me into manipulating him. To which I’d say hey, whatever it takes.
Other posts on this topic:
Wenda Sherard, “Stealth Schooling: A Tale of Two Teachers.”
Building Wingspan, “Stealth Schooling.”
Cedar Life Academy, “My Experience With Stealth Schooling.”
A Voracious Mind, “Stealth Schooling.”
Mommy Bares All, “Stealth Schooling: One of the Reasons I Love to Homeschool My Kids.“
Thea Sullivan, “Stealth Schooling: Just Don’t Call it ‘Educational.'”
Chasing Hollyfeld, “The Gentle Way.”
Little Stars Learning, “Stealth Schooling–Bait, Hook, Reel, Release.”
Sprite’s Site, “Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Bloggers Group Blog Hop: Stealth Schooling.”
How to Work and Homeschool, “Simple Stealth-Schooling Strategies.”