Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Mad Scientist

My children have informed me they have a new teacher.  They refer to this person as the mad scientist.  The kids both love the mad scientist.  They keep asking for the mad scientist to come do other lessons for them but so far it just hasn’t happened.

I guess that every time the science book opens for a lesson the mad scientist appears.  She apparently has an accent and talks all crazy and fast and yells and points her finger and the kids think she is hilarious.  They all do the science lessons together and then when the lesson is complete and the book goes back on the shelf she just plain disappears.  It’s very strange, this whole mad scientist thing.  But since the kids love her who am I to complain that someone else is coming in and teaching for me, if only just for one subject.

The strangest thing is that I have never met this scientist.  Apparently I go into some sort of zen like state when she appears.  The kids say that I am the mad scientist.  I think they are crazy.  I would know if I were a mad scientist, wouldn’t I?


Monday, September 20, 2010


I started school in the middle of August.  We started out nice and strong with everything organized and lessons plans set in my Scholastic planner.   As much as I believe in the unschooling  method of  learning I have to admit that for me, the former school teacher, I like having my books and plans and teachers guides.  I mean I REALLY like it.  I could jump back into a traditional classroom today and have no problems being a good teacher.  It’s what I did and I’m pretty sure I did it well.  And I loved it.  It suites my type A personality to have everything laid out all nice and neat and a schedule to follow. 


For Gracie school became something to dread really quickly.  At the end of two weeks she was really fussing every time I said we needed to do something and then the third week she said the dreaded words:  “I hate school.” 


I’m pretty sure that my enthusiasm and planning and love of my teachers guides unfortunately ran right over Gracie’s desire to learn.  Oops.

So I stopped, cold turkey.  For the past couple weeks we have only done what she wants when she wants to.  I tossed my planner and let her choose what she wanted to do and then I just called on those teacher skills whenever she had an interest and we went for it.  We deschooled.  And we still learned a lot, it just takes a lot more spur of the moment creativity on my part to turn interests into a learning experience.  I don’t mind doing things that way sometimes but I have to admit that I am not great at making lessons in my head in 5 seconds flat.  Again, I’m pretty type A.  If I’m going to do something I want to do it well.  I want to have the resources to research and I want to have a project or whatever to help follow through on the line of thought.  I want to make sure I’m giving the correct information.  Those things take time and preparation.  I don’t like to do things half-ass.  It’s just not me!  In theory I totally get the unschool philosophy but in practice I feel like I’m constantly missing opportunity because of lack of information or creativity or both.  I know unschooling works for lots of people, I’m just not sure that we are those people.

So this week I decided we will try a new approach.  A kind of compromise.  Gracie gets some control and I get to prepare what we will do. 

Today Gracie and I sat down and decided how many times a week we should do our various subjects.  We have 4 days to do lessons in, Fridays she has Options.  She gets to pick which lessons she wants whichever day of the week she wants to do them, and she can do them in whatever order and how ever many she wants.  If we have to we will use weekends to finish the list up.  I explained to her that if she chooses to do nothing one day that’s fine, but we will have to do extra the other days then.  She understood that concept, although I have a feeling she will have to push it at least once to truly understand.  But that’s ok, she’s learning how to prioritize and accomplish things and the consequences of procrastination will probably be part of the process. 

After we decided how many times a week she will do her various subjects I quickly wrote her a chart where she can keep track of what she does every week.  It looks like this:

Math                                  1         2         3

Science                              1         2

Social Studies                     1         2

Spelling                               1         2         3

Handwriting                        1         2         3

Writing                                1

Reading                               Every Day (We read multiple times a day and James does a chapter book with the kids in the evenings.)

Spanish                                1         2

Art                                       1         2


Then, every day, she picks what she wants to do.  When it’s done she crosses it off.  Pretty simple.  Then she has control with what she wants to do every day and I know how many things to prepare for every week.  I hope this will meet both our needs.  I’m thinking I may come up with a much smaller schedule for Ian to follow with us since he participates in many of our lessons anyway.  I think he’s like his own list to cross off too.

So, do I think this will work?  Yes, for now.  That’s the glory of home school, we can do what works til it doesn’t and then switch it up.  I’d love it if this was our schedule for the rest of the year, but we’ll see. 

How do you mix things up when you hit a wall?  I’d love to hear from any of the home schoolers out there who happen by!