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Homeschooling Outside The Box

By Michael Sakowski

My 12 year old son is creative and intelligent. He can compose artistic and written works at a level beyond that of many his age. So why can he be so difficult to teach? When using standard curriculum, it can be like pulling teeth to get him to do anything more than the absolute minimum. He races through the lessons, obtaining grades far lower than he is capable of getting, or he easily gets distracted and drags his feet, taking hours to complete what should take minutes. Read on to see how I confronted these problems.

When I took over home schooling my then 10 year old son, I used the traditional curriculum that he had been using previously with his mother. Some of the curriculum worked fine (we still use the Saxon math series) but other traditional home school curriculum just seemed to bring out the worst in my child. He would easily get bored. He would lose focus and often get distracted. After half a year, I started searching for alternatives. When I found new materials, I included my son on the decision making process. He seemed to take a lot more ownership as a result, even though I still had the final say in what what curriculum we finally used. Some of the things we do are listed below.

We use a science encyclopedia purchased at Sam's Club for science. Why? Of all the books we looked at it was the best text in terms of explaining concepts and relating them to real world phenomena (even though it wasn't meant to be a school text). We sit down together and read several pages of this science encyclopedia on a concept. Then, I have my son write a 100 word report. He then edits the report and we work on sentence composition. At the end of the term, we print out all the articles to make a 15 page report. In addition to the reports, we do related science experiments together and some of the younger siblings join in. My son loves science!

My son and his younger brother are taught history by my retired father-in-law (who happens to have a major in history). My father-in-law makes use of his library of books and tapes and records history specials for the boys to watch. Now, my boys and I sit down together at night to watch the evening news - this I believe, is a result of their grandfather discussing current events with them. There is no comparing either of my sons' current enthusiasm for history with the drudgery of plowing through a traditional school history text the way we used to do.

In addition to completing lessons in english and grammar from a traditional school text, I encourage my son to do some creative writing. He started writing his own kids novel which he has now nearly finished. He is writing some pretty silly stuff which would not be standard fare for any of the english curricula I have seen. But he is writing. In fact he is writing a lot! In 3 months from the time he started writing this novel I have noticed a marked improvement in his writing. When my son's book is completed, I will publish it online and also have a friend that owns book binding equipment bind up some copies for our family and friends.

In summary, don't let yourself become boxed in with traditional home school curriculum. There are educational resources all around us if we look hard enough. You don't have to use a "school" text. Look on your book shelves or go to a local second-hand book store to find books that might serve as good texts. Involve your child in the decision making process. Borrow some materials from your home schooling friends and review the books with your child. Use what will work for both you and your child. Utilize any and all available resources and above all, have fun as you and your child learn!

About The Author
Michael Sakowski works full time and homeschools his son on the days he is able to work from home. He also has a website, that showcases some of the resources he uses when home schooling.

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