Thursday, February 6, 2020

When Change Is Needed

Having a second child is likely one of the biggest growth areas I have had in life.  My first born was easy.  Not only do I know I was a tougher parent, I know he responded to it.  My second?  Well, let's just say she didn't respond the same way.  I knew that I would need to pivot, and thanks to a lovely friend and author, I read a book that helped me to see the struggles we had between us and adjust my parenting to fit her needs.  I continue to learn more and more each day about how those adjustments will keep coming.

When kindergarten started for our girl last school year, it was a HARD transition.  We had nightly melt downs and the need for naps several days a week.  Since the beginning, her attitude about school hasn't been what I expected.  I knew we would need time to adjust, but as we continued on in the year, not much changed.  Kindergarten and First grade should be the years that kids still like school because learning can be fun.  There shouldn't be complaints about it being boring or long.  As a parent, and previous teacher, it concerned me that day after day, my daughter almost dreaded going to school, and rarely had exciting things to say about what she was learning.  Even friendships were difficult, and we started seeing more emotional struggles and holes starting to surface in her learning.  I began to ask questions and learned about the changes our district had made and realized that how they were teaching in elementary school just wasn't the right fit for us anymore.

So two weeks ago, our family made what I would consider a drastic change.  We had learned about a program in our area called University Model Schooling that was structured with 2 days of traditional classroom learning and 3 days of satellite / home schooling.  After a day long visit, lots of praying, applying, and testing, we took the plunge and started the new program.

Our first few days were ROUGH.  School was great.  For once, my girl was telling me how much she liked learning.  She wasn't complaining about sitting on the carpet all day or telling me stories about friends that did something mean or inappropriate at school.  (Which is not to say those won't ever happen, but right now, they seem to be less.)  At home, we started filling in holes and working on things that had been neglected in her two short years at school.  We used manipulatives (an abacus - what, you don't have one in your living room?) to work through math facts she hadn't started memorizing yet, and my girl loved the idea that she could practice her spelling words (something she hasn't had so far) by painting.

As a previous teacher, it was hard for me to let go of the idea that everything I had learned about traditional learning wasn't true.  The world has preached that successful schooling really only looks one way - a classroom.  It looks like straight lines and students working hard in seats fitting the mold and being in the box.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly it is to think that learning can only happen in a classroom with a certified teacher.  Learning can happen literally anywhere and by anyone who knows about something you don't.  It can even be self learning through examination, which happened quite a bit when I taught because I knew that kind of learning stuck way longer than just reading or listening.

The benefit of schooling on a more flexible schedule was that we did some of our Monday work over the weekend so we could have a morning off and head to the Zoo when the weather was predicted to be beautiful.

We enjoyed lots of physical activity and certainly could have made a field trip out of it, but we just enjoyed our morning together instead, returning home to finish up school work and get ready for a new week.

So far, the change has been a bit of a roller coaster.  Seeing first hand the ways her learning has been impacted has been eye opening to me.  Of course, this means she is working harder to catch up for now, which can sometimes be overwhelming.  I am seeing though, how flexibility has been so good for us both and how she is picking up on things quickly and able to move forward to the next thing.  This model has already shown that it is a much better fit for us than our local school.  And for what it's worth, if you think it might be a better fit for your family too, don't hesitate to reach out and ask me more about it.  I am happy to tell you about our experience of learning to make ourselves a new mold.

Until next time,