I have these great drinking cups that I got each time I purchased a large soda at the deli in my local grocery store (Publix). They are plastic with a lid which locks on so that they don’t spill. It’s great because on any given day I can have my three pet birds, my four children AND my neighbors’ five children in my living room (all at the same time). The chances of my cup being knocked over are VERY high! They are shaped, and colored like an old fashioned coca-cola glass. They say Coke or Coca-Cola all over them, just like the old glasses. They have an opening for a straw like a fast food disposable lid. Although the cup in imprinted with a notice that they are for one time use only, they are good for months, if not years of reuse with proper cleaning, care, and plenty of fresh straws.
I tell you about these cups because I drink water ALL THE TIME! I’m always thirsty. I even keep a cup of water next to my bed all night because I often wake up in the middle of the night choking on my own dry throat. It was during one of these late night coughing sessions that I noticed that I had bought the wrong straws. They didn’t flex. With a flexible straw I don’t have to get up to drink water and relieve my throat. I had a straight straw and now this whole process is just a little more difficult. And that got me thinking. How many times in my life does lack of flexibility make thinks just a little or even SOOOOO much more difficult?
With homeschooling that’s true more than almost anywhere else in life. We have ways that we like to do things. It’s true. We all find them and work comfortably with them. They problem is that when we homeschool, our students must dictate what we do, or at least how we do what we determine must be done. What I mean is that we must decide what our students need to learn, based on our goals as teachers and parents, but then their individual personalities and learning styles will dictate how we achieve those goals. There are some many ways that this flexibility shows up.
I love Math, Computers, and Science! They are my strengths. I know exactly where their place is in the importance of my children’s education… right after reading and writing! If you love the sciences you may be up in arms already with a great argument about why I’m wrong, but the truth is that if the student can’t read well, there is a definite limit to what he can learn in those subjects. If the student can’t write well, it doesn’t matter how much they know about math and science they may never get the opportunity to shine in them because they appear illiterate based on the few things they submit in writing to people. Jobs, colleges, and even friends on the internet (Everybody has so many these days!) all find out about people based on what they write in resumes, applications, admissions essays, notes, and posts. Based on this hierarchy of education, I needed to be flexible with my plans to do extra science experiments, computer programming courses, and nature walk type field trips when I realized that my students needed extra help and encouragement in writing.
I know many homeschool moms who outlaw headphone during school hours. I think this is such a good idea. The music they are listening to can be distracting. In my household, however, not using the headphones has turned out to be more distracting. Most of my children (like their mother) are challenged to stay focused on one thing for too long. We all get bored so easily. Even though we realize the need to focus and finish a subject, project, article, or blog post we find that spending more than 20 minutes on a task seems incredibly tedious. Tedium is terrible!! Because of this tendency of my children’s minds to wonder I must physically watch them while they do school. If I do not, their bodies will wonder farther than their minds. Fortunately our tiny house has a great room instead of separate dining and living rooms. The beauty of this is that we have two sofas, a coffee table, an arm chair, and one dining room table with six chairs all together in one room. There is plenty of room for everybody to have all their books, laptops, calculators, and various school supplies ready at their fingertips. The problem with this is that every time somebody asks mom for help, everybody listens to the problem and the explanation. This is where flexibility comes in. I let them use headphones. They listen to music (which I have approved) and they focus on what they are doing even while I’m explaining lessons to someone else. I frequently watch their hands and peak over their shoulders at their work and we all get our studies done.
I have graduated one homeschool student. He’s going to Stetson University now and is doing well. He was such as easy student to homeschool. Most of the time he not only didn’t need my help, he didn’t want it. He thinks it’s funny that I get so tickled when he discusses his computer science projects with me, but I have had so few opportunities over the years to help him with his studies that I’m am still greatly enjoying every chance I get. My other two sons are not quite the same way. One needs my help but will never ask for it so I must always be on the lookout for signs of trouble where I can “poke my nose in his business.” He doesn’t get upset with me for doing it, like the older one would have. He actually appreciates it. He’s just so introverted, even with me at times, that he always tries to plug through on his own. It doesn’t even seem to occur to him to ask for help. My youngest son always asks for help. He often asks for even when he doesn’t really need it. I love spending time with him so it’s a challenge for me to restrain myself from giving him all the answers. I am mastering the phrase, “Now think about that for a minute,” to encourage him to think things through instead of always asking me. This is flexibility.
We all need it. We all want others to exhibit it when they are dealing with us. Now it’s time to really exercise that flexibility!