Sunday, 4 July 2010

Listening to Boys

Recently, my 7-year-old son was asked to participate in a survey of Sunday school provision at our church.  I was intrigued by some of his answers, and thought they could offer insight into homeschooling as well.

His first point was that the crafts at Sunday school were too easy and sometimes the subject matter lacked challenge.  (I suspect these are the times when his behaviour deteriorates, and he gets silly or distracting.)

One solution may be to make sure he knows why he's asked to do this craft or talk about that subject.  According to a Schools Improvement Officer in an article appearing on-line at Teaching Expertise, a boy won't engage with something if he doesn't see the sense or purpose in doing it.  That's why it's important for him to "talk through and share ideas before he puts pen to paper", so he's got a good grasp of what he's aiming for and why.

I realise that I've accidentally gone through this process with my son in something like his maths.  We changed last year from Singapore Maths to ShillerMath, which means sometimes the spiral approach of the latter will introduce a concept in a simplistic way that my son has already tackled in Singapore.  He'll baulk at the lessons because they're too easy, so I let him talk through them orally until we get to new material, at which point, I'll sit alongside him as he works through the more challenging lessons.

Three things are going on at the same time: first, he's obviously doing his maths (and hopefully, learning it as well!); second, he's getting some precious one-on-one time with me, which makes him feel valued and probably helps associate learning with a pleasing relationship; and finally, he sees his progress when he marks on a grid which lessons he's completed.

Which brings me to his second point.  He told me that he thought there should be more contests and incentives in Sunday school.  Just like the grid for his maths, he wants something tangible onto which he can hang his progress at church.  Bible-reading programmes, prize-giving ceremonies, etc.

He went on to describe how he would go up to the front of the church to receive his prizes and rewards in front of everybody, which struck me as especially brave for someone who claims adamantly that he has stage fright and refuses to do anything public most of the time.

His final point about Sunday school was that he knew the teachers listened to him, but he was also aware that they didn't value his opinions and suggestions because they never seemed to take on board what he said.  I guess it's a case of hearing but not listening, if you see what I mean.

Boy, did this strike home!  It's true that "Killer" is an incessant prattler, especially when he gets his mind on a subject like the latest Lego Indiana Jones computer game, but that doesn't excuse my usual blase response.

When our children talk, we shouldn't just hear -- we should listen.

Tonight, I learned that my son craves a challenge, seeks visual or tangible incentives and rewards, and wants to be taken seriously.

What would you learn from your children about their homeschooling experience if you asked them?

Or, should I say, what have you learned from them since this post inspired you to ask them?

1 comment:

  1. hi I just found your blog! I also homeschool two boys(the youngest two of our seven children).Looks lie you have a great blog.


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