Saturday, 21 January 2012

Time to pause and rethink

Just as I thought we were on the roll in our little homeschool with plans, schedules, etc, something else has been brewing in the background....  My son has shown me, yet again, that he is a child who is still growing and evolving.  The comfortable application of a very structured, mum-led approach of Classical homeschooling that I thought we have finally settled into for the past 18 months now shows signs that it needs to be reconsidered and/or tweaked to better meet Tiger's evolving learning needs.

The rigour and structure of the Classical approach appeal to me, and Tiger was happy for me to take the lead most of the time so we had a good time while picking up many interesting knowledge such as learning all about the ancient world, and learning Latin.  While I was not entirely sure whether Tiger could keep up with the rigour of this approach, he has shown me that he is capable of achieving more than the standard when required.  While we follow the structure very closely, I am not an unreasonable mum, so I have let Tiger spend more time on topics that captured his imagination, such as everything-about-ancient Rome.

Year 2 started off well, but by last December Tiger started to show signs of "underachieving" (for lack of a better word) -- easily distracted, having to move constantly during lesson time, unable to listen, moody, just doing the minimum required at any time, unmotivated... generally very unpleasant to be around. Having read many scare stories about boys being underachievers in mainstream schools, I thought I was witnessing a nightmare unfolding before my eyes.

For example, recently he wrote the following note to me just before our usual Latin lesson:

Being in one of my pushy-mum moments, I read the note, left it on the table and said to Tiger, "We'll talk about this after the lesson."  I thought that maybe Tiger was feeling the pressure of not being able to understand the lesson.  To my surprise, he got through it quickly and perfectly!

Tiger wanted to put ten stars, but we stopped at six.
Tiger was all smiles when he saw his score, and could not wait to show the paper to his dad when he got home.  I pointed out that he would not have experienced the joy of his success had we given up without trying.  I only said this because I know what Tiger is like.  His ability to achieve coupled with (what I perceive to be) his unwillingness to try or work hard are what I find annoying yet distressing.

After talking with Tortoise about the challenges I have been facing in our homeschool, and searching for answers on the internet, I came across a post from Suji, who had had to rethink her homeschooling strategy a few years ago, following an evolved learning need of her son.  Suji's post made me look deeper into the concept of a divergent learner, as Tiger seems to be showing many of the traits described.  I already know that Tiger is more of a visual-spatial learner so have tailored his learning materials to suit this particular style, but obviously now I need to learn about this new learning style of his and adapt to it.

Interestingly, having read a little about how divergent learners learn versus how convergent learners learn, it is clear that Tiger and I are polar opposites in how we learn, which explains why it has been so difficult for me to understand why he struggles with things that are extremely straightforward and logical to me.  Luckily for Tiger, his dad (Tortoise) is largely a divergent learner so at least he has been receiving sympathy and understanding from that camp!

A very convergent-learning mother having the job of homeschooling her increasingly divergent-learning son.  This is going to be very interesting.

At this point, I am still doing my research and absorbing the new information that I have found so we have changed neither our curriculum nor approach.  Intuitively, I think the solution has less to do with changing specific learning materials but more to do with how we use them.  However, now I can at least empathise with Tiger's struggles, and make adjustments as I learn more about this new phenomenon.

At times like this I fantasise about how blissful and easy my life would be if I had a more easy-going child who just follows whatever directives I give him.... But wait!  That will actually make my role no more than that of an assembly line worker putting together a pre-specified output.

That's certainly not how I'd like our homeschool to be.  It'll be a worse nightmare than having to respond to the continuous natural development of my child.  I'd much prefer to think of our homeschool as an art studio where the working process isn't always tidy and predictable, and we don't always know when we'll have to make changes in our process.  However, in an art studio we have the possibility of creating a beautifully unique piece of art, whereas in an assembly line all we'll end up with is a mass produced, standardised product with very little indivdual personality left.

Having said this, I'm still in the process of figuring all this out.  I'm waiting for this particular book to arrive in the post soon.  It may shed some light on the matter.  My son certainly keeps me on my toes and makes my life very interesting!


  1. LOL, trust you to think of an art studio analogy (wink!).

    To be honest, I never got around to reading the book. I waited for ages for it from the library and in the meanwhile, more overwhelming things happened to us at the time, so I decided less info is better and to just work with the child in front of me, sans all the labels and additional, overwhelming info to digest.

    A book that DID help me very much was one by Miraca Gross. It was about a study she conducted on a bunch of kids in Australia. That book shed a lot of light on our situation. I still plan to read about the Edison trait eventually.

    The most difficult thing for me has been to balance the constant push and pull between us. It's like a tug of war between two people who love each other so much but are such polar opposites in learning style. Worried mom on one end, completely non-sequential child on the was hard. But I have come to realize that at least for the kiddo, laughter is always the best medicine. If I can make him laugh, we always end up finding a solution that works, at least for a little while, until it's time for me to start getting creative again.

    Spot-on observation! It's not the curriculum. It's how you use it. Time and time again, I've found that less is more. Simple is best. And nothing helps more than giving him and yourself tons of time to understand each other.

    Take care. Something tells me it'll all work out to be fine!

  2. Thank you, Suji, for your support and encouragement! Your advice on laughter is really useful since Tiger responds to it in the same way as kiddo does.

    I'll use the books as pointers to see whether I can find any useful suggestions from them (thanks for suggesting the Miraca Gross book). Again, it's about flexibly applying the principles in the books to our own situations, otherwise it'll become yet another textbook-style, one-size-fits-all usage! :-)

  3. There is some very good food for thought here. I've put your book on my Amazon wish list, as well as another one. Very interesting stuff. For sure, kids are good for keeping the brain limber - it has to, just to keep up!

    I also wanted to tell you that the Classical Homeschooling Carnival is finally up, including your post.


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