Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
It was the conversation I never dreamed we’d have:
“I don’t think we’re doing enough. School has gotten really easy.”
“Yeah, you said we’d be doing more this year, but we aren’t. Can’t we learn some more things?”
It was the kind of complaining that’s music to a mama’s ears. Both kids lamenting that they’re not learning enough? Both kids actually asking to do more school?
After I picked myself up off the floor, I asked some clarifying questions, to understand what exactly they were wanting. At twelve and ten-years-old, they are mostly independent in their studies, and over the past couple years I’ve slowly decluttered our curriculum, simmering it down to the basic essentials.
I saw so much good coming from having more space, I was hesitant to add anything back in.
But now they were begging me for more. Wasn’t this exactly what I’d hoped for? Wasn’t this the whole point? Don’t they say that cultivating (or recovering) a love of learning was the whole point of these middle-years?
This was it. My confirmation that a love of learning was growing, and that now, now that they were asking for it, I could effectively add more work into their days.
I sat down with paper and asked them each in turn:
Ok, you’re already doing the basics, so what subjects would you like to add? What do you want to learn?
Each child answered differently. Heidi was eager to learn a second language, take a Creative Writing course, read more books from our booklists, write book reports, and start a monthly book club with her friends.
I had to chuckle. I’ve never required my kids to write book reports, favoring discussion instead. But this girl loves to write, so written reports appeal to her. Great!
We signed up for an online Spanish course, and I pulled down the Creative Writing materials I had purchased ahead for Dutch (who isn’t interested–ha!). She took the initiative of inviting, organizing and hosting the first gathering of her book club and the girls had a blast.
My son’s request was short and sweet, related to his obsession with all things Creation Science: He wanted to buy a high school Biology textbook and critique it, considering claims, writing notes in the margin, and finding any areas of inaccuracy, when compared with a Creationist perspective.
This had never occurred to me, but I thought it was a great idea. Undoubtedly he’d learn some more biology, gain experience comparing varying perspectives, sharpen his reasoning, and learn how to articulate his views.
We also purchased The Truth Project DVD series so we could go through them together and discuss different aspects of a biblical worldview.
Clearly, my two children’s requests could not have been more different. And certainly, it would be a disaster to try to force both kids to fit into the same educational mold.
Dutch can easily advance into adult-level materials in his area of interest. Heidi is doing a week’s worth of writing lessons each day because she enjoys it so much.
My point is this: If we overcrowd our curriculum we don’t have the time, space, and mental energy to add in what our children love.
I believe that, in general, we want people to want more of what we offer, not less.
Every public speaker knows that the key is leaving people wanting more, not looking at their watches wondering when you’ll finally be done.
The same, I believe, is true with education. At this stage, I want to whet my children’s appetites for knowledge, learning, acquiring skills, and then leave them wanting more.
Create a hunger, then let them feast at will.
We might be surprised to find our children begging for more.
How do you add this type of “fun” learning into your homeschool?
If you found this post helpful, subscribe via email here to receive Jamie’s FREE ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom!
Anna of Stuffedveggies
I love the idea of a book club! I suspect DD would love that, too : ) Thanks for a great idea!
Your kids’ response is precisely what I am not getting from my 13-year-old. I have learned a valuable lesson today, thank you
I’d love to know what you consider the “basics”. We don’t do a whole lot of formal schooling but I am curious to know what others consider the basics. Thank you:)
Hi Chris, Yeah–I’m often sort of wondering the same thing. I consider the 3 R’s as the academic basics. For us, that means the daily “must do” items are math and language arts. We use a language curriculum that includes (in small amounts) spelling, writing, grammar, reading comprehension, but it’s done all in one so they aren’t separated out as individual subjects. Because of that it really only feels like 2 “must do” things each day. The kids read a lot on their own, we read aloud, discuss, learn about history and science, etc. in more informal ways, in more of a “living life” way. How about you? What do your basics look like?
Kari Patterson’s latest post: Schadenfreude
Can I ask which language arts is it specifically?
We use Total Language Plus. I don’t use every part of it but overall we’ve really liked it.
What do you do for Math? That is one I have been hesitant to make a ‘must do’ because I fear it makes math haters out of so many kids, and I have never seen workbooks or texts that teach what I see as relevant to kids, so it seems like work for work’s sake. Life of Fred has funny stories, but my kids (not having done any forced math sheets) still would prefer to skip the questions and see them as an interruption to the story. 🙁 How have you found your kids interest in math? Dutch seems like the type that might get joy just from figuring out the answer and seeing that he can do it.
Hi Cindy! Yeah, great question–math has always been our biggest challenge. Neither of my kids LOVE math, but we do use Life of Fred and they LOVE Fred! They are happy to do the questions/work because they still see it as better than the alternative (workbooks). I do supplement it with “two-minute drills” which are just quick run throughs of math facts (multiplication, division, etc.) since LoF doesn’t do much by way of drills. What I love about LoF is, as you said, the connection to real-life applications. Because both my kids are more literary than numbers-driven, LoF is a huge blessing for us. And they appreciate the humor!
Kari Patterson’s latest post: Give your kids a hunger to learn more…
Dutch & Heidi’s Dad would like to do more home projects and chores. Can you help him make a list? 😉
Did you do just the basics all along, or did you begin that more as they got older? Why did you decide that? I saw in your other answer what your basics are.
Hi Elizabeth, as I look back at their littler years, I wish I would have simplified a bit more. I did reading, writing, math, spelling, plus history and a bit of science, with workbooks, etc. and I think it was just a bit much for their young age. I wish I would have relaxed a bit more on the “electives” and just focused more on the 3 R’s. It was 2 years ago that I felt like we were losing our “love of learning” so I scaled way back, changed MY attitude, and it’s been so much better!
Could you expand more on leaving space but more importantly could you speak more on inspiring this love and desire? What did you do in your mom? What skills did they develop to be able to learn so much on their own? My kids just want to play mostly. They do need skills and motivation to do this type of learning you describe.
Would love to know the list of books Heidi’s book club is doing. I can see a couple from the photo but could you share the ones they chose please? Thanks! 🙂
So each girl brought 2-3 books with them as proposed books, and then the girls voted on which one they’d start with (They’re doing Matilda now), with the clause that the moms had to approve each book they read. 🙂 It was fun to see the variety. A few of the titles were: Freckles, Ten Girls Who Changed the World, Land of Stories, Because of Winn-Dixie, David Livingstone biography, The Magician’s Nephew, Ballet Shoes.
Kari Patterson’s latest post: Give your kids a hunger to learn more…
I have searched for a writing curriculum that my 11 year old daughter would like that also would not be overwhelming to me—which Creative Writing did you choose? Thanks!
We are starting home school next year with my 12 year old daughter. As far as simplifying the curriculum what areas did you have your kids doing before they started asking for more? I want my daughter to love learning and to start looking for opportunities to learn about things that are of interest to her.