A few weeks ago my son said something that stopped me in my tracks.
I was in the middle of introducing a new task he would be working on as part of his Nature Studies and encouraging him to think about what he could write as a narration.
He stopped me and asked:
“What is this for?”
“What do you mean?” I responded, a bit confused.
“What is this for?” he repeated. “Like, what do I get to check off my list when I’m done this?”
I chuckled and stammered. Truth is, this task wasn’t actually on his list for individual work and it suddenly dawned on me. My heart sank to my toes.
So that’s what has become the focus. What do I get to check off once I’m done? Because if I can’t check anything off my list – forget it. There’s no point in doing it.
This is not exactly what I dreamt my son would be saying at this stage of our homeschool journey (going into grade 6). This homeschool moment isn’t exactly brought to you by the vision I had of raising up self-motivated, self-learners. Nope. This kid just wants to check the list and get outta here. And I’m a huge part of why he feels that way.
But I also have to acknowledge, this is not always the case.
Today, I watched the same child motivate himself to completely repair a Super Soaker on his own accord. He assembled the tools, even taking the initiative to ask neighbors if he could borrow something he didn’t have. He took it apart, problem solved, fixed the issue and put it all back together again. It took time, focus, energy, thinking skills, and – well, there was no checklist anywhere and he certainly didn’t check off any boxes.
But he did learn.
And felt pretty good about his accomplishment when that water gun worked again.
He will read piles of books simply because he wants to read and learn. He is intelligent, well spoken, creative, funny, motivated to tackle challenges in so many different ways. Yet, stick a paper and pencil in front of him and he’s suddenly overcome with focus on that checklist.
All of a sudden, the thinking becomes: How much do I HAVE to do before I can check the box and throw the book back in the bin?
This post doesn’t come with answers.
I so wish I had the answers. I wish I could say I’ve come up with the miraculous way to make your homeschool day NOT about the checklist, but I don’t.
Even as gentle, Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers who spend most of our time reading wonderful books and enjoying the liberal arts together – the checklist can plague us. Especially when it comes to the individual stuff the kids do… reading, copywork, dictation, spelling, math, grammar, etc. Check, check, check, check. Get me outta here, check.
And I know I’m not alone in this struggle. This fight between having a list to follow and then being trapped and controlled by that list. Checklists are a HUGE part of homeschool culture. They are everywhere. Gosh, I even wrote an entire post about how we are implementing – yep, you guessed it – CHECKLISTS.
Man, I make no sense, eh? *chuckle*
But this is a very real struggle for us homeschool Moms – I mean, how do we stay on task, have a plan, accomplish things, even HAVE a checklist, and yet – not ‘do work’ to simply ‘do it’ because we need to check it off by 3pm?
How do we avoid the trap of losing our love for learning and replacing it with busy work just so we can feel like we really accomplished something because – well – we checked off a whole lot of boxes…?
And is it even possible to move forward academically and not have to just check off a single thing? (Am I starting to sound like an Unschooler? Oh my gosh… ) Or at least, if we are checking off those boxes – that it is about so much more than just ‘getting it done’.
But really, on the other hand – don’t we all have things we ‘have to do’ because, well, we just do? Isn’t this true for ‘school’ work too? Or is it?!
Am I dreaming unrealistic, lofty dreams to think my children could have the sort of education where learning takes place outside of a checkbox system where they are working only to get through the list?
I mean, really… am I just way out to lunch here?
Because I don’t want a lazy education for them. I want a rich, full, challenging education. And sometimes (or most of the time) that takes me pushing them in many areas they don’t naturally *want* to approach. But, what if there was a way to tackle those ‘subjects’ in a way that sparked their natural desire to learn? In a way that took us outside the ‘have to’ and into the ‘want to’.
My mind is full of these kinds of thoughts and questions these days as I contemplate, reflect, pray, and plan this month.
This is my prayer to The Father tonight and this year:
Lord, show me how to make our homeschool about truly embracing and enjoying the journey of learning and expressing what we learn in creative and interesting ways. Help our children to grow in their passion for self-education and help me to trust them in the journey. Fill our children, by your Spirit, with a desire to know You and a desire to grow in wisdom and understanding. Show me how to light a spark in each of their precious hearts and how to work together with their talents and abilities to achieve their full potential in their own unique ways…