I've been feeling like my kids are needing some inspiration in the form of seeing mom (or dad) struggling to learn something completely foreign, and maybe working together. And I'm feeling like everyone is needing a nudge to attempt something fresh and challenging - hence my violin post. But I have other ideas too.
Sometimes I think my kids think I was born with the skills I have or that I'm gifted (haha) in some way that they aren't. I don't know why they compare themselves to an adult, but there you have it. They need to see me struggle with something new the way they do - I think. That's not to say that I don't take on new projects, but probably not things completely foreign to me, that I might struggle with in an obvious way.
I'm also thinking of us all learning Latin together. I feel like imposing this on everyone, which is philosophically against the idea of unschooling, but it's just my gut saying that's what we need right now. Real challenge - some of us aren't challenging ourselves in any self directed pursuit, so it's time for an intervention. Some of us need a confidence boosting activity and won't chose it.
And I feel like I need to have some fresh insight into what it is to be in their shoes with their schoolwork, some of which is completely new and foreign to them.
I'm struggling with how much to push them (yes, I said the p word in an unschooling forum!) I think some of us are getting away with floundering and doing way less than we can and I've allowed it - heck, I'm guilty of it too.
I don't really know why I'm sharing all this here - maybe I'm still working it all out and I need feedback. And I'm wondering if others feel this way sometimes, and what you do when "it" happens, whatever "it" is.
What happens when unschoolers don't chose anything challenging for unhealthily long periods of time? I'm sure some of you don't have this issue, maybe it's an introvert thing, or some thing else at play.
I get what you're saying, but I was wondering if you've considered leading by example, instead of picking something to push your kids to do? IME, when my kids aren't doing much, if I pick a project of my own and start working on it (complete with struggling to learn new things), they will follow my example and either join me in my project, or get involved in something of their own. The energy I put into the house is very powerful, and this time of year, my energy is on the low side, which can lead to freak outs in January and February about nobody doing anything.
Basically, my advice would be, before you force everyone to learn Latin, first make sure this isn't a February freakout. It's a rough time of year for homeschooling, and lots of us struggle now, but changing everything in response to winter blahs doesn't usually work out well, IME. Second, pick something you're excited to learn to do, and work on it in front of your kids. Let your kids see you being passionate about your own learning. But if, after that, you feel like your kids need some more structure, add some more structure.
I feel ya on the kids comparing themselves to an adult. Must be one of the dangers of homeschooling.
Let me know how this goes. My oldest is 6 so not a ton of experience here.
You know, much though I hate to admit it, nor am I recommending it one way or the other, this is one of the few things that I think school has helped my kids with. John Holt made the point clearly in one of his books that the best "competence model" for a child is someone who is just a little bit more experienced and a little bit better at it than he or she is. Though I didn't want my kids to fall into the habit of measuring themselves against external norms rather than their own potential -- and I think the fact that they didn't enrol until in their teens helped them avoid this pitfall for the most part -- it was a tremendous relief to me to see them finally "get" the idea that other kids struggle with things too, and that this is normal. Because you know, even when I made an effort to be seen to be struggling with some of the things I was learning, I could almost always still learn faster than they could. And then there was this weird paradox, too: by struggling I was showing I was better at persisting-through-struggle than they were. I couldn't win. I think they got the message that "Mom is good at everything, but even when she's not, she doesn't mind. I, on the other hand, mind a lot!" Not what I was shooting for. Did I have to struggle, and whine about it? I'm not sure parental modelling is the magic ticket, though it probably doesn't hurt.
As I wrote in the thread chocolove linked to above, I think there's a lot of parenting finesse involved in finding the right venue, timing and expectations for kids to learn to greet challenge in healthy ways. Activities that involve some sort of group exposure and long-term commitment are often great. With extreme introverts it can be a challenge to get them interested and enthusiastic. I remember taking my ds to watch weeks of aikido classes, waiting for him to gradually get comfortable with the idea of joining in, hoping his kernel interest would germinate -- and it finally did. I will admit that he, my most challenge-averse kid, is the one to whom I have provided the most vigorous and enthusiastic scaffolding in helping him challenge himself. Almost pushing -- except only in directions he agreed he needed to be pushed.
I do think that physical challenges, particularly in the natural world, sometimes help kids who are not motivated to make longer-term commitments. We've done some outdoor adventuring with our kids and sometimes you get in a little over your head in a good way. Last summer we climbed a trail where the latter half ended up being much steeper and rougher than we expected, and then got caught in a massive deluge on the way down. My kids felt so awesome to have killed that hike! One fall we did a multi-day family canoe trip where due to inclement weather we combined the final 2-and-a-half days of paddling into one massive day. This past fall youngest dd and I went camping together in weather that for the first day was far colder and wetter than we had expected, and we had to really push our skills and our coping abilities to get through that. In overcoming those challenges there was really no choice, and the circumstances were very memorable for my kids, so the sense of accomplishment really stuck with them. It's true the persistence wasn't on the order of weeks and months, and it wasn't persistence with things intellectual, but there was a tremendous amount of sustained will-power required. You obviously have to be sensible and prepared when taking on such challenges, but under such circumstances a bit of adversity can be a positive formative experience. Just a thought.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
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