While preparing to homeschool the kids I read tons of books about homeschooling. Naturally. And most of these books spent a good deal of time waxing poetic about homeschooled children letting themselves go, losing themselves in the happy vortex of some self-chosen, intelligence-building activity. The books spoke of homeschooled children spending hours on writing projects, science projects, math projects, thoroughly engaged (almost always sprawled on the floor), actively connected to their learning.
I was beginning to think it was a myth.
We started the day with a family run on River Road with Karen and Roxie.
Nell, after some initial hesitation requiring a couple of calls back and forth to Karen ("We can't run. Nell doesn't feel well." And then, "We can run! Nell has recovered!"), had a wonderful time on her bike. And the boys sat happily enough in the stroller eating saltines and watching the birds and the boats. Both back stroller tires were completely flat, which added a hefty upper body component to the run.
Back home afterwards we settled down to work. (Note to self: a bit of exercise before learning makes for tremendously compliant children.)
I asked Nell to write captions for some of the photos from her triathlon. I thought this would get her creative juices flowing. No dice. Nell does not do creativity on demand.
My friend and homeschooling guru, Heather, told me that she once had similar problems motivating her kids to write, until she broke down and allowed them to dictate stories while she did the actual writing. Several of my homeschooling books (most particularly Marty Layne's book Learning at Home) also recommended this tactic for young writers: Become the scribe.
I tried this with Nell. "You tell me what you remember from the swim and bike and run, and I'll write it down."
Still not much. "The water was cool," etc.
"What do you want to write about Nell?"
"Okay, tell me about Chizzle."
And we were off and running. Chizzle is Nell's guinea pig. She gave me a blow by blow description of everything Chizzle was doing at that moment. And while I read it back to her, she grabbed the pencil to write a bit more.
Then Simon dictated a story about Sammy (the other pig). "Sammy peed on the floor....."
And then all three kids got involved in writing up extensive menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm not sure how that project evolved, but they spent an hour happily engaged, and I felt like I, as a homeschooling parent, had arrived.