Close your eyes and visualize the place in your home where most of whatever schooling your kids do takes place. See the lighting. Feel the temperature. Notice the distractions. Settle in, mentally, to the chair or the beanbag or the floor. Wherever your children tend to do their work.
In your mind’s eye, take in whichever resources your kids are working with to learn the material they’re studying. If you or another teacher has given them any assignments, gloss over those in your mind. What kind of assignments are they? Busywork? Something meaningful?
Put your children in that mental image you’ve created. What’s their mood like?
Are they diving into those resources and assignments enthusiastically?
Are they willingly and diligently or purposefully working through the material?
Are they whining and complaining?
Are they off in la-la land, paying no attention whatsoever to the work in front of them?
Are their arms folded in front of their bodies and their lips set stubbornly as they quietly refuse to do what’s in front of them?
Are they screaming, crying, or tantruming?
Do their eyes glaze over as they slump forward, resigned to their fate to use those resources and do those assignments?
What kind of young learners do you have in your homeschool? Notice that. Really notice it. Feel it…without making any judgments.
Now, replace your children with yourself in that mental image you created. Would you do what your kids are working on? How would you feel about it? Would you be enthusiastic? Willing and diligent? Grumpy? Daydreamy? Rebellious? Tantruming? Resigned?
Notice that. Really notice it. I challenge you to feel it…and then make some judgments. If you were honestly able to say that you’d approach that learning with gusto, congratulations. You’re on the right track. If you’re disheartened to admit that you too would be whiny, mentally checked out, or combative, you’re probably in good company.
Former educator John Holt said, “We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults are able to do for even an hour. How many of us attending, say, a lecture that doesn’t interest us can keep our minds from wandering away? Hardly any.” While he was speaking of kids in public school classrooms when he said this, all too often it can also be said of homeschooled children as well.
If that’s applying to your homeschooled children, know that it doesn’t have to. You don’t have to be asking your kids to do schoolwork that fills even you with a sense of drudgery, resentment, boredom, or despair.
The first step toward recovering your children’s love of learning is simple awareness of what they’re doing, especially if you’re tasking them to do it. You’ve just done that.
The second step involves some reflection. Think about why you felt that drudgery, resentment, boredom, or despair. Dig deep on this. Don’t settle for the easy answer. The easy answer is the one that caves to the status quo. There is a lot more to a good education than the bill of goods we’ve been sold by the Department of Education; you just have to be open to something different…
And that leads us to the third step. Take John Holt’s wisdom and flip it on its head. Instead of asking your children to do what you either cannot do or do not want to do, allow your children to learn and experience the world the way you do as an adult. Open up the freedom and flexibility to discover what interests you and fuels your passions as an adult to your children. If you do, their minds will not be wandering away anymore, and then when you repeat this exercise of awareness later on, you’ll honestly be able to say that you’d approach that learning with gusto too.