"I HAAAAATE math!" is a phrase I'm hearing a lot right now.
We didn't do math at all this year. And I mean at all. All year. I have no good excuse. I didn't like the curriculum. I wasn't sure what I was doing. I felt unsure of myself. That's about it. But two weeks ago we climbed back up on the horse I hitched up in front of the saloon back in September, and are probably going to make up for the lost year this summer (she's old enough that she's developmentally ready for second grade math or higher; the first grade math facts, however, do need to be learned).
I simply wasn't prepared for the fight she'd put up. She's funny about it; everything just goes sloooooooooowly. She's fighting the sit-down work by dragging her feet and making everything take twice as long as it needs to. Twirling the pencil in her hair and staring off into space.
That resistance threw my whole perception of homeschooling and what we're doing with this project into turmoil. I had a Plan for next year: highly structured classical education! She was going to love it! But the last two weeks going from months of the most laissez faire of unschooling scenarios (read: she had mastered reading and I wasn't sure how to teach math, so I couldn't be bothered to do anything at all) to "We're doing math EVERY DAY!" have been a bit rough. No sea legs whatsoever, on anyone...and we need to add more subjects next year.
Overall it has felt like there is zero interest or fire in her. All she wants to do is play with her toys, pick fights with her sister, loop around on her swing. I felt that if we were going to fight, and she had come to hate learning and academic work, there was no point to keeping her home. If she was going to complain about the work and drag her feet and dumb herself down and wish she was outside on the swing, she could do that just fine in a public school.
Fortunately I had the brains to consider that what's working for some families that we know (one particular kid apparently eats packaged curricula with a spoon, loves it, zooms through and asks for more) is not necessarily what's going to work for us. I thought a bit about how we've learned in the past, and decided to turn the damn car around and head back there.
I asked the kid what she'd like to learn about, and first she said "Owls." We started collecting materials for an owl unit, and then a couple of days later I asked again what interested her, and she breathed, (shyly, for reasons unknown), "I would looooove to study more Shakespeare."
AHOY THAR, MATEY!
Shakespeare, my friends, is easily a year's worth of unit study. Worth a year, too. More, even. We'll probably do it now then come back 'round to it when she's older. Shakespeare's cultural impact has been massive. One might even say Biblical.
Oh, and would you look at that: PBS has an amazing trove of resources for educators teaching Shakespeare.
A happy sigh, this time.
She can learn new words, make art, study history, read books, sing songs, copy and recite poems, compare films, listen to operas, watch ballet, all cradled in the arms of the Bard.
We will still be doing math (EVERY DAY), as well as using a science curriculum (which she has loved in the past...my fingers are crossed), but I'm going to try to fit almost all of the skill-building she needs to do into this unit study context. I predict that in a very short while my sweet one will be back to her delightfully, unstoppably curious self. She will happily sing her own tune...but maybe not so happily follow the bouncing ball.
There is no shame in spending a month, or a summer, or a year in pursuit of deep understanding of a single subject. No shame in tying the life and works of Leonard Bernstein to Shakespeare via West Side Story, nor in adding to our vocabulary those everyday words that Shakespeare coined for his plays.
Nope. None at all.