Sunday, September 30, 2007

Too Much Structure

I think I went overboard...

I love organizing information, and was having a wonderful time with my neat, orderly plans for this year's medieval history and literature courses; I was trying to shoehorn all kinds of interesting things, like formal logic and the history of English and the history of mathematics, into the curriculum. But four weeks into the school year, it became clear that I was giving the kids too much, too fast, and I was driving them and me nuts. My son was overwhelmed with assignments and my daughter was frustrated because she couldn't spend time on the parts that interested her. And I was tired of trying to get them to finish their schoolwork.

So I jettisoned most of my carefully crafted plans and focused on my goals. I want them to read and write, to think and question, to have a sense of the major historical stories, to be able to make sense of the world around them; I want them to have time to explore subjects that interest them, to enjoy the excitement of learning new things. I want them to have time for community service, for fixing cars, for things that interest them, for friends and family. I don't want them to crank through school work without thinking about it, to race through assignments and go on to the next one, to memorize and move on.

To achieve my goals, this week, I have revamped their school assignments so that there are fewer topics and shorter assignments. I kept the structured review of mechanics - times tables, spelling, keyboarding. Reading still has to be done, but they can choose a book from a reading list and focus on it instead of racing through one book after another to stay on schedule. History will still include things I think they need to know from each topic, but will allow more time for them to study aspects they are interested in. I'm trying to craft assignments flexible enough that when my son's friend wants to improve the grounds at the Food Bank, my son can go help him without getting behind on school work. We'll see how it goes over the next month, but I think it's getting better, because my daughter is once again excited about studying history and literature, instead of frustrated.

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