We’ve recently had several of those days where the kids aren’t happy with any of the options I put in front of them. “Would you like to do some math?” I say. Turns out the answer is no. “How about some handwriting?” Also no. These may sound boring to the rest of you out there, but I promise these are usually two options that really get my kids excited.
Finally, I’ll insist that we do something and there will be lots of whines for the first half before everyone finally gets into it and does whatever I’ve finally settled on foisted at them. You know what works so much better? No choices.
I feel like a big meanie when I don’t give any options. One of the (many, many) reasons I opted to keep my kids out of school was that even good schools offer almost no flexibility in their days. Kids have very few real choices and opportunities to follow their interests or learning styles. When we started out in September doing a little bit of formal schooling, I began with the assumption that each kid could pick what he wanted to do (whether it was worksheets, educational games, stories, or anything else) and then we’d all just do it. By about November, after an increasing number of battles, I was completely through with this approach. The biggest problem seemed to be a complete indecisiveness that led to dissatisfaction with absolutely everything. I gave up and started just laying down the law. Today we will be practicing reading. Then we will be playing a game of Rat-a-Tat-Cat. So there!
Sometimes, like in the last couple weeks, I still slide back into seeing what mood we’re all in for the day. Occasionally this works. But more often, it just leads to a fuss. I think I still hold choice as a huge educational value, but I’m up against the reality of two kids who genuinely do better when there’s some structure. All those days that I’ve just announced what we’re going to do? Trust me, they almost always enjoyed school time. While they may have trouble gauging what they need, if I see rowdy kids, I know they need a quiet story to start them off. If I see them cheerful and ready to meet the day, I know we have an opportunity to try something new or something difficult.
I think that’s really what homeschooling is all about. They may not be ready to hold the flexibility in their hands yet. However, I can be aware of their needs and help respond to them. And when I think about it that way, it helps me feel much more enlightened and less like a bully.