I Taught Myself...

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If you have more than one child, you know that each one is very different. If you have any siblings, you will notice the same thing-each one is very much their own person. My older sister and I have been close our whole lives. I can’t remember any fights or quarrels or hard feelings along the way—but we are very different.

One thing that stands out to me is how my sister loves to take classes. She has taken knitting, computer, small business, painting, gardening, various sewing and stained glass classes in the past few years. She loves the interaction, the instruction and the fellowship.

On the other hand, I NEVER take classes. I read books, research on line, talk to people, lay in bed at night trying to figure things out—but I never take classes. It’s not that I am anti-social, on the contrary, I love people, but I just learn better when I am not confined to a class. I can remember when I was about eight years old and I received a crochet-a-hat kit for Christmas. I read it and worked through the pictures and crocheted a very lopsided hat. When people asked where I learned to crochet, I would spout, “I taught myself.”

And that pretty much sums up how I learn things. My sister, on the other hand, takes classes and that is how she learns. Sometimes she takes what she learned in class and teaches me—like how to crochet rag rugs—but mostly we just share ideas.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was contemplating a new project—how I just “teach myself” and it got me thinking about my own children. When I started homeschooling, back in 1990 there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to homeschooling and not a lot of information available. I started out with traditional text books and began to teach my family.

A couple of years later I heard about unit studies and one year put together a full year of various unit studies so that my five children, then ages 3-14, could learn together. [This was before I heard about Sonlight.] But, what I found was that while four of my children excelled, one son just did OK. I should re-word that. One son, got distracted, did not really enjoy learning together with the family and sometimes was disruptive. He was bright and loved to learn, but he seemed to get restless and impatient.

The following year, we were back to text books and I taught that son and his older brother together. He wasn’t too happy about that either. And then it hit me… "I am slowing him down and  he is getting frustrated at the pace. He wants to teach himself." It was like a light bulb went on.

It took me long enough to figure it out, but the next year I had a new plan. Taking into consideration his learning style, I gave him an assignment pad that had a week’s worth of assignments on it. He had to keep a reading log and a writing journal about what he was learning.  Additionally, he had to create a project related to his history reading and had to meet with me a couple of times a week to be sure he was on track.  He was in 7th grade and I gave him independence in learning within the boundaries I set.

He flourished.

Through independent study and research, he grew by leaps and bounds. Weekly he set aside some time to teach his younger siblings science—which they all enjoyed. He didn’t want to sit in time-wasting lessons when he could learn so much better if he could teach himself.

It wasn’t until I was talking with another mom a few weeks ago that it occurred to me what his problem was---he was too much like me! I never even saw that. I never connected the dots till now—and it is nearly 2 decades later.

All this to say—if you have a child that is not doing well, or learning like you think they should, maybe it is the method you are using.  Maybe they need more choices or to have some degree of flexibility and independence. If I had it to do over again and understood how this child learns, I think I would have done family reading together and then dismissed him with an assignment pad to teach himself the other subjects. I know many mothers do something similar using workboxes.  It would have made it more pleasant for him, for me, and for my other children who liked a more teacher-led approach.

Which brings me back to my sister and I. We both love to learn—but I like to teach myself.

Take care,

Jill

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