(November 02, 2003)
Posted with Permission
Edited for clarity
We have been homeschooling for just under a year. Our children (ages 10 and 11) did not fit well into the local school system. After years of fighting with them, and a parent/teacher conference where my son's homeroom teacher announced that he would fail 5th grade because he kept forgetting his pencil we decided that enough was enough. We gave them about two months of free time and then ploughed ahead.
At first, I insisted that we duplicate school as closely as possible. I read many books on learning styles, piled the kitchen table high with catalogs and brochures about everything from office supplies to college textbooks. I rearranged rooms in the house, threw out things that I thought were too "toy like" and sat my children down on a rigid 8:15-3:10 schedule.
Well, needless to say, I can hear the experienced homeschoolers laughing right now. Almost nothing I tried at first worked, and for that matter most of it was totally unnecessary.
I found that the kids could learn more multiplication facts from sitting on the couch with some popcorn and a Schoolhouse Rock tape than they could sitting up straight in a hard chair and staring at a piece of paper. When I relaxed some, and decided that there was no possible way I could mess them up any more than the public school did, things just fell into place.
If your son really enjoys Lego Dacta and Mindstorms, you really should check out Edventures. They have online curriculum perfect for homeschoolers that center around Legos.
We have Spelling Power for spelling (which my children really enjoy) and as an additional support, I purchased a Leapfrog Spelling TurboTwist. They will play the thing for hours! (We have one for math, too.) There are various Spectrum workbooks for grammar, phonics, and word study that were a big hit. Social Studies we just sort of wing it.
My husband is into the Civil War, so I figured we'd focus on that for awhile. He also has a model train fetish, and there is much American history mixed in with that.
We get lots of books and videos from the library. Our "official" school time is now from 3:00pm to 7:00pm. I work part time (3am-7am) and my husband works 2nd shift, so the new time works very well. Some days they don't even need the entire block of time. Instead of strictly monitoring what they do and when, I make a daily list using The Homeschool Tracker program (It is a really cool program that is available free of charge). They have to start at 3:00, but they can do the stuff in whatever order they desire. I hover around to be available for questions and such, but for the most part they take care of everything on their own. If they don't get something done during the week, they work on it Sunday afternoon.
At first I thought they would never be able to motivate themselves, but that is the way they are trained in traditional school. They are treated like little bowls that are waiting patiently to be filled. Now I like to think of them as sponges, sucking up everything they touch. They learn things when we least expect it!
You were good enough to teach him to walk and talk. Sometimes we all need to lay on the floor and just pet the cat. Your son is used to being entertained and force fed information, but he will learn how to look for it, and enjoy learning again on his own.