One of the things I love about homeschooling is the way that opportunities can come out of inauspicious beginnings and lead to something creative that I otherwise would not have thought of. To illustrate; this morning Huwyl wanted to write a story for Daddy, but he was upset when he didn’t have the capacity to write what was in his mind. Crying and wailing ensued. So I took his writing book and asked him to dictate the story to me, I would write it out for him and he could show it to Daddy.
Initially I did this as a way of placating him and minimising the amount of wailing my morning needed to contain. But as this process unfurled I gained some useful insights into my child’s mind. As he dictated a very complete story to me, I realised that his frustration was actually completely valid. He had a vision and was unable to execute it, his capacity to imagine far outstrips his capacity to communicate and I need to give him more opportunity to be heard without being fettered by his inability to communicate in writing. In other words I need to listen more and write down what he is telling me whenever I get the chance.
Once I had written out the (surprisingly long) saga of a duck under a chair I decided to type it out in a book format. The story resembled so closely books that we had read I really wanted to make more of it. So I typed it out and created spaces on the page for illustrations, it didn’t take long and then I printed and stapled it.
Later in the day I encouraged Huwyl to begin illustrating his book. Cue another melt down. When I suggested he draw a duck under a chair he began crying ‘But I don’t know how to draw a chair!’ Ah, sweet perfectionism, how you trip us all up. I averted his panic by pointing at the several examples of chairs in the room and said “Why don’t you draw one of these chairs?” Immediately he was happier. He had a concrete example to work from which gave him a feeling of satisfaction and comfort. He did a very good rendering of our arm chair, adding colourful cushions from his imagination.
Aiming to intercept a similar meltdown regarding the duck I provided him with a book of bird illustrations turned to the duck page, he was thrilled to find a duck with a blue beak (blue!) and rendered that duck under the chair. He then added the word ‘Quack’ and I showed him how to draw a speech bubble around the word and draw a line to the duck. Huwyl thought this was hilarious and was very pleased with himself for producing such a professional looking first page.
While he was drawing I brought out the book Bird Songs that we currently have on loan from the library. This is such a fascinating book as it has not only illustrations and information about 250 common North American birds but also audio tracks for each one. So as Huwyl drew his duck, Neirin and I played him a fantastical variety of duck calls, who knew they could be so different? Some were frankly bizarre and had us all laughing!
One illustration seemed enough for Huwyl today and so off he trotted to play with his brother and Daddy. I paused for a while longer, considering both what he had produced and its significance. I considered the perfectionism my son has inherited from both his parents and his passionate temperament that delights and challenges me on a daily basis. I thought on the fact that being a homeschool family allows me to respond to his creativity and to difficulties in ways that will hopefully help and support his learning style. Further I thought about now adding this little project to my organiser for the week, aiming to have it finished by the end of the week. An on going piece of work, initiated by my child (though unknowingly) and taking in writing skills, reading skills, art, textual analysis, creative writing as well and a nature study of ducks.
Again I am grateful for the insights I received when listening to a podcast by Janet Allison who writes and lectures about parenting boys. She talked about boys often preferring factual books, that they want to learn how things work or why they do things the way they do. While I see so much of Huwyl’s temperament reflected in my own I try to remember his is a) an individual so entitled to be seen as unique and b) a different gender. I am trying to honour his love of the concrete, of the factual and I have to admit my heart bursts a little each night as I turn out his light and gently remove the Encyclopedia of History that still rests across his body, even as he is fast asleep.
I know this will not be the last time one of my children takes our learning in a new direction, in fact I am banking on them being active participants through out, and I have to admit my delight in being able to create alongside my ‘student’ not just on behalf of. I am flushed with pride at what he can achieve with just a little support from me and honestly can’t wait to see what he will come up with as we travel along this road together. I’m putting money on a lot of stories in our future.