I was talking with Alex Rider last night and he said he just doesn’t have the same motivation that he had when he was younger to get his work done. He can remember how he used to just sit down and “knock it all out” when he was younger, but now he just can’t do that. Even with the consequence of no computer gaming time, he said it doesn’t matter. He says that spark just isn’t there and he just doesn’t care as much anymore. When the computer is pulled away from him, he just wanders around the house, kind of bored but not caring, and eventually usually sits down to read a book. But he said he doesn’t care if that happens. I told him that some of that is probably his age – he’s 12 and has hit puberty – and part of it might be the kinds of work we have done (literature-history-centered curriculum.) I was glad that he was able to share with me that he felt this way and that he could see that about himself as compared to his younger self. We already had plans to change things up in our homeschool after struggling to get the boys to work consistently this year, so I can only hope that this helps him get his spark back.
Just because we are using a curriculum that has worked for a year-and-a-half, doesn’t mean that it will continue to work for everyone. As the boys grow, they change, and what works from one year to the next can, and usually does, change. So, we are going to try dropping our current core curriculum, Trail Guide to Learning, which I loved for its simplicity and ease of use for me. I thought they liked the reading of living books for history instead of more dry history teaching methods, but they said they didn’t like it because it makes all of their school too history-focused and that all of their literature was history-based. Unlike so many other homeschooling families out there, our family is decidedly not as interested in history as in science – at least for the 3 guys in the family! (I am very good at, and have always enjoyed, math and the sciences as well, but I am also enjoying re-learning history.) So we are finishing up our current unit tomorrow and starting something new on Thursday. We are going to try using the Intellego Unit Studies as our core and see how it goes. I let the boys pick what they wanted to start with (a science core about animals, of course), but told them that we would alternate between the science-focused and the history-focused units (about a month at a time.) And that the first 2 history-focused units I will still be choosing because I still have the goal of giving them a good foundation in this country’s formation and Constitutional government before letting them loose to choose their interests.
These unit studies are not the traditional, literature-focused, lapbook- or notebook-focused studies. Instead, they are based on the multiple intelligences of how children learn, utilizing the Internet to their advantage, providing pictures, videos, animations, games, as well as textual learning online combined with the addition of books your family chooses to enhance the unit. They encourage the children to choose the types of activities that most appeal to them (encouraging exploration of all 8 intelligences) to integrate/reinforce their learning. They also encourage following their interests sparked by the unit study, and choosing which topics they desire more in-depth study of instead of being told which topics are more important. The boys and I have talked about this for about a week-and-a-half, and they are quite excited to try this, partly because it means they don’t have to do the other curriculum! LOL! But, they are loving the idea of having more choice and they loved the looks of the studies with their full-color images and more modern learning style of using the Internet’s vast resources (I bought a 5-pack of them through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op and they are delivered as PDF files on CD instead of printed manuals. Allows for much more interactivity with the Internet links to click right in the file!)
They are also loving that they will now choose, from my approved list of literature, their own literature books! So now they don’t have to read history all the time. They know that they can choose any Newbery book and that it will automatically be approved. And they know that many of the Newbery books we have read in the past were very good, so they aren’t complaining about that at all. (My list encompasses much more than just Newbery books and is an ever-growing work in progress, but that is a good starting point for them and something with which they are familiar.)
As for language arts, they will continue this month working on writing their novels as part of the Young Writers NaNoWriMo. They have been so excited to write what they want to write and are progressing nicely this month! Another clue to me – integrate more creative writing in our homeschool! The more they get used to writing every day, even creative writing, the easier it will be to teach them the academic writing skills they will need later on. We will continue to discuss writing and grammar skills in our read-aloud time in the evenings. When NaNoWriMo is over (the end of November,) we will spend some time learning about revision, and then, editing. When all of that is done, I plan to integrate their writing practice into their unit study, having them apply different skills that we are learning in the evening to their writing for that week. And it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be that hard to have them write “stories” about their unit study topics which would make it more interesting for them and still show me that they are integrating their learning through writing. Writing doesn’t have to be boring!
The unit studies incorporate vocabulary study as well, so I told them that we can drop Megawords for those days that they do unit study vocabulary. We have a formula for equating pages in the Megawords workbooks with vocabulary study in their units. I will probably still pursue roots and stems study in the evenings as well, just not right away.
I really hope that this idea works – at least for the most of this year. It all sounds good on paper, both to me and to them, but only time will tell how well they actually take to these particular programs. What is has really done for me, the researching and discussing of alternatives to our way of doing homeschool, is free up my concept that they have to study specific science topics determined as “must know” topics, or choose to study the same field of science for an entire year, or for history, that they have to cover everything in a curriculum right now, or even in a chronological fashion. I figure as long as I have them continue using a timeline and/or Book of Centuries, and discuss with them their choices for what they want to study in history, they will not only cover what is important to them over time but also be able to make the connections between the different time periods they study. I had felt like I wanted to do this before, but because the boys are not yet mature enough to pursue studying of topics on their own without a structure of some kind, I didn’t think we could do anything like this until high school. Now I feel like I have a framework and structure that I know they can follow while I am gone during the day, but will perhaps train them to do this kind of thing on their own when they are older. And I think I have made it through another stage of letting go of “gap worry”.
If this major change-up in our schooling doesn’t breathe some life back into my son’s (or sons’) motivation, which it might not considering his (their) age, I don’t know if there is much else I can do to help him (them) find that motivation. If he doesn’t have much important to him right now, not even what used to be considered most important, then what kind of “carrot” can I dangle in front of him to make it worth his while?!
I’m off to check out a book from the library: “Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men” by Leonard Sax…