My children are very similar, and very different.
I’m often accused of cloning, which I find amusing now that they are growing up – Big’s hair has darkened and her blue eyes are now brown. Small is still blond and blue eyed, but they are so very obviously brother and sister. Stick their half sibling there as well and she’s very much from the same pod too and given that she’s no blood relation to me it all gets a bit confusing.
Character wise, on first glance they are very different. But they both display a startling level of intensity. For Small that makes him incredibly self-directed, and woe betide the adult that gets in the way. He has a turn of temper that he has absolutely no control over, and while it’s better than a year ago in that he’s more likely to take it out on inanimate objects like doors instead of soft ones like ppl, the force of it still takes me aback.
Big also has a hair trigger temper. Her’s comes out verbally and in attitude though – she’s been practising teenager style strops since she was about 3. I keep assuming she’ll grow out of them, but there’s little sign of it happening yet.
When it comes to learning though, that’s when they really differ. As I’ve blogged before, I was waiting through a long deschooling period and seeing no inclination to get on with anything. If it seemed vaguely educational I would get wails and tantrums – Big has a perfectionist streak that holds her back from trying a lot of the time.
So I imposed some loose structure. A requirement for a certain number of work items each morning, to include basic skills like maths, english and then history, science, languages, whatever. And we got into that routine, and OK, we still had a lot of strops but overall life was calmer.
In the last week, things have changed. Small suddenly started wanting to substitute his interests for the third work. Then for the second work. Maths is non optional – I’m not going to get to the point we’re at with Big where the basic skills are a real struggle. So now he has a geography book, and he’s looked up a variety of countries on wikipedia, printed off maps, drawn or coloured in flags, written bits of language in, learnt about population, area, density. I didn’t know that he could read numbers into the millions, but he can, and another side track took us off into large numbers, learning what comes after million and billion (some of which he’d come across in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Space)
Yesterday, for some reason, he dived off into dinosaurs. He’s spent nearly an hour looking them up this morning, and we’ve discussed how ppl know what dinosaurs were like, and which bits we don’t know, and how we know about their behaviour. He was quite agrieved to look up one and be told that it has very unusual teeth and therefore nobody knows what it ate, as they don’t fit the standard herbivore/ carnivore/ omnivore pattern. He’s looked up various other animals as well – came bouncing into the bedroom this morning to tell me that tigers eat crocodiles and boars. And then he looked up boars 🙂
There’s a vague interest in Albert Einstein coming through, and courtesy of Tim buying a 3-in-1 tuner from Lidl this week, his guitar is now out again and he’s working through his lesson book (Progressive Guitar Method for Young Beginners: Book 1) again.
It’s fantastic to watch him taking off like this, and it’s having an unexpected side effect this time around. First of all Big got very upset that Small didn’t have to do the defined three subjects. I pointed out that really all I want to see is them learning, and I don’t particularly mind what they are learning. And if she could come up with something that she wanted to do instead of something I suggested, she was very welcome to do it too. So she stopped stropping, and went off to find her myths and legends book, and spent a gratifying amount of time writing things up in a book for herself. She even went and got her spelling log, used it to write out words she knew she had in there, and put in words she wasn’t sure of.
She’s still doing maths every day, and we’ve agreed on a short amount of handwriting practice every day too. It’s paying off – we looked back to the beginning of her english exercise book and can easily see an improvement in legibility. She’s also starting to pay more attention to how she writes the things she’s writing, so we’re getting fewer spelling mistakes that are just missing letters. She wants to get back to playing the piano too, so we need to clear away the pile of clutter currently surrounding it that’s waiting a trip to the loft for storage.
So, tell me, can you teach autonomy? Is that what is going on here? Is it still autonomy if it’s externally encouraged? Thoughts in the usual place please 🙂