Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

The Boys of Summer

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“Nobody on the road /
nobody on the beach.”

– Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”

There’s an interstitial period at the end of summer that I always forget about until it’s on top of us. Suddenly, the lines vanish, the traffic subsides to a manageable thirty-mile-per-hour level, and the sonic content of indoor activities drops to a whisper. Pools glass over, and deck chairs are abundant.

The Boys of Summer are gone.

For intense kids like ours, it’s a double bonus. Mine wear out eventually, the din of daycare camp kids running roughshod in the museum dulling their interest, the nineteenth Nerf football that errantly dings them in the head bringing pool days to a close earlier than they otherwise might. But when the Boys of Summer have gone, they’re given this magical two-week window of free rein, and I am blessed and lucky to see it.

What games might they play in an otherwise empty pool? How long would they stay to read museum placards explaining the trilobite’s role in the Devonian? What would a day look like for them in a world that – there’s no other analogy, really – has been neutron-bombed to their benefit?

The Boys of Summer depart at precisely the right time, too. It’s been a long summer of spinning plates for me – trying to give my clients exceptional service while giving the kids a summer of adventure and fun, both while not allowing the house to fall into utter entropy. That’s involved some sleight-of-hand in places – responding to an email or two* with a hand over my phone in the museum IMAX theater, or overseeing a pool day from the second-floor gazebo that happens to sit right atop the WiFi router. (Thank God). By this point in the summer, I’m usually tired, and what’s facing me down is the fact that we’re getting started in two weeks. Am I ready? Do I have Vonnegut’s voicing and character development predilections under control for E? Do I remember where H left off in sixth-grade math, and what her challenges were? Am I really ready to swapwrite about A’s Dungeons and Dragons character for months on end?

At precisely the same time this weary level of concern arrives, I pass the Boys of Summer on the way out, and I am reminded of why I do this: the pure fire of curiosity and passion that emerges in the quiet the Boys gift as as they go. Absent the pool din, the need to queue up to look at a model of a Titan IV rocket, the path-sharing on hikes and the raw entropy of Jump Street at its rainy-day worst, I can hear them again. Their questions, their discussions, their endless love of learning why and how.

They never left. They’re still the same passionate learners I said goodbye to, at some level, when I threw the switch into full-on Summer Dad Mode at the end of May. They’ve just been submerged in the summer chaos itself, their voices the bubbly blurble of shouting underwater at a pool under clear Colorado skies.

The only MARCO I hear now is theirs, and while I might not have said it even a week ago, as I sat in construction traffic, I am, indeed, ready with a POLO of my own.

Let the fall begin.

Soon.

But first…let me enjoy this.

Because the Boys of Summer are fun, but they’re raucous and exhausting, and by mid-August, I’m not sad to see them climb into their Deadhead-stickered Cadillacs and go.

_____________________________

* Five hundred fifty-seven

Unification

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So we’ve been a bit busy, as you can probably tell from the Gap That Was April. In that month, we had one out-of-town wedding, prep for another, taxes for home and business, two kid sports starting up, and the abrupt death of our faithful dishwasher. Forgiveness? Thanks. We’ll do better over the summer.

And speaking of, we looked up to find three weeks left on our homeschooling calendar. Just a double-dozen days of fitting everything in and we’ll be into the lazy – and welcome – days of summer. As I turned the calendar over, I started looking for a theme to the year – an overarching sense of mission, or purpose, or accomplishment, that I could find anchorage in. Was there something that tied it all together?

There was. But it was different for each of them.

For A, our five-intensity flathead V-8 made flesh, it was de-institutionalization. He’s had a workshirt and a nametag on for far too long, compared to the girls, and it was starting to show in a hundred little ways. But the most heartbreaking of them was his tendency to lean back, to wait for knowledge to be inserted or dispensed or otherwise given. He’s never been a taker of knowledge, and that changed this year. Slowly. Almost imperceptibly. But it changed. He’s looking now – for information, for inspiration, for meaning. He’s leaning forward, willing to participate, willing to work for his outcomes, rather than waiting for them to be served up – and it’s been wonderful to watch. I can’t wait to see how this plays out next year.

For H, our 2E emotional-intensive, it was comfort. For the entirety of her educational life, I’ve wished H a year to learn when she wasn’t concerned about hiding her disability, or worrying where it was going to surface next. I’ve wished her peace and unconditional support and the time and space to find what she is truly passionate about. This year provided all of that, and more, and it was a thing of absolute beauty to watch her learn to love history, to grow to want to improve her writing meaningfully, and – perhaps most importantly – to find a place to sit with math in comfortable silence, if not friendship. H needs space to find herself, to build something up from beneath her that will provide a platform for her to grow atop. She was never going to find that in a traditional school setting. It’s warmed my heart to see her find it here with us.

For E, our host child from the Crab Nebula, it was focus. E’s been guesting in the local GT program for the past two years, leading a split existence: two hours a day with me, on intensive writing and math and passion-project work, and then over to our local GT center school for some time being nine and ten, respectively. I wouldn’t begrudge her that time, looking back on it, but she’s grown more serious about having the time to pursue her passions, free of recess lineups and heat-lamp tater tots. This year was her opportunity to stretch out, to read everything she wanted to (even if – ahem – it was under the covers by flashlight), to stargaze the Perseids and sleep in the next day and work in her robe until noon. It was the year to show us the fire. She showed it to us, and its flame is beyond comprehension.

For me, it was spacing. Hockey coaches preach it like a mantra: motion, dispersed, active, aware. I learned to read them much better this year, to understand what it was they needed at any given moment. Sometimes, that was routine – the secure safety of the knowledge that tomorrow would parallel today, that what was asked of them on Tuesday would be asked of them on Thursday, too. Sometimes, though, it was disruption: that precisely the opposite was true.

So what do we do next year? Find a new theme. New focus. New energy. New tasks and architectures and ways of working. We build on what we found, keeping the best, discarding the rest. We move forward with a sense of passion and purpose.

But first, it’s time for a break. Because passion derives from the spaces between things – and it’s time for some between.

Why Words Matter: Intellectual Diversity

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We spent some time last night reading the flurry of blog posts and comments following another recent article describing how “all children are gifted.” It seems like this is an annual Internet discussion – something we all feel the need to talk about, with many of the same pro and con points made, year after year. Interestingly, we didn’t have the same visceral response this time that many of the parents did, on both sides of the argument, in large part because we don’t have to care anymore – we homeschool, and “gifted” is really a word we associate with traditional school.  We did, however, relate to the frustration felt by many about the ignorance regarding the diversity of intelligence. Based on reading the material, we’re wondering if we don’t need to have a different conversation entirely. At the core of that conversation is a definition. What does it mean to be smart, and who defines it?

When we were growing up (and granted, we’re pretty old), being smart was considered a positive attribute. It was understood that some kids were smarter than others, and that was OK. Everyone had different strengths, and for a small percentage of kids, that strength was being smart. Sometimes, the smart kids did well in school. Other times, they did not. Just like sometimes kids made the soccer team, and sometimes, they did not. It didn’t mean those kids weren’t good at soccer, it just meant they didn’t make the team. Everyone moved on, and learned from disappointment.

Ironically, “gifted” likely came to define smart kids because it was felt to carry less emotional baggage than the word “smart.” It might have been easier to hear from the mom down the street that little Susie was “gifted and talented,” rather than the plain fact that Susie was smart. That way, when you told that same mom how your little Johnny made the Little League team, it felt more fair. In the interim, though, the word “gifted” has become just as – if not more so – emotionally charged.

Currently, if your children are attending school, the definition of smart is “gifted.” The words have become synonymous, to our collective detriment. Many parents spend hours working with the school and advocating on their children’s behalf to get appropriate instruction arranged. For these parents, the “gifted” program is just a starting point, because many of their children need much, much more then they are given. Unfortunately, there are other parents who feel that getting their child into the “gifted” program at school is a ticket their child’s success. In the minds of these parents, the “gifted” program will lead directly to honors classes, AP classes, top-tier colleges, and top-tier graduate schools, ultimately culminating in the parent being able to tell everyone their child is a ______ (insert name of brag-worthy profession here.) These parents, as far as we can tell, don’t seem to care if their kids are smart. They just want their kids to have a chance at what the kids in the gifted program “get.”

So that’s one issue, and we’ve seen it in practice. But there’s a second issue that’s more problematic: some parents also don’t want any one child being smarter than any other child. For them, being smart has become a negative attribute, an elitist and imaginary point of differentiation among equals. Smart kids are expected to hide the depth of their intelligence, because it might make other kids feel bad about themselves. Realistically, though, some individuals are just smarter than others, just like some individuals are more athletic/artistic/musical/creative/expressionistic than others.  We think it’s best to let these parents live in their imagined world of equality. Sooner or later, despite their parent’s insistence, their kids will figure out the truth of life – that there is always someone smarter than you.

And thank goodness for that.

Kathy notes that as an internal medicine physician, she works in a world of generally smart people. Physicians and other health professionals generally have a higher IQ than the average population. As a subset, specialist physicians have the highest IQ of all those groups. When she refers a patient for a specialist consultation, she is counting on the specialist physician being smarter and more experienced with the condition than she is. This is true of many other professions as well. When we cross a bridge in our car, we are counting on the fact that the engineer who designed the bridge was smarter than us, and knew a great deal more about bridge-building. We feel the same when we get into an airplane – we trust that the pilot is smarter than us when it comes to flying a plane. Sunday evenings, we are all thankful that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is vastly more intelligent about the Cosmos, so he can teach it to us. Frankly, we love the fact that there are many individuals in this world who are smarter than ourselves.

So we exist on a continuum of intelligence. Great. Where does that leave us? We’ve discussed that “gifted” really applies to school services, not necessarily being smart. And, we’ve discussed that there are times in life where we are all going to need people more intelligent than ourselves. So back to the original question – what does it mean to be smart, and who defines it?

The fact is, all parents think their kids are smart, and this is a wonderful part about parenting. We wouldn’t want any child growing up with a parent telling them they are not smart. As long as a parent values a child for who they are, it doesn’t matter what society says; they will feel loved, valued and smart. However, telling your child they are as smart as every other child in the world doesn’t let them accept the reality of the diversity of intelligence. Does that mean you need to tell your child their IQ? Not if you don’t want to, or if you think that information would not be helpful to them. What we tell our children are three things: we know they are smart, there are lots of people out there who are smarter than them, and we encourage them to seek out individuals who are their same level of intelligence and share their same interests, so they can feel someone understands them, and feel that they belong.

Who defines smart? Mensa, a society for people with high IQs, has one definition of smart. According to their website, to qualify for Mensa, you must have scored in the top 2% of the general population on a standardized intelligence test. They state that members come from all walks of life, and they share one trait – high intelligence.  If we use the Mensa definition, then 2% of the child population has high intelligence, and 2% of the adult population has high intelligence. If we use an alternate definition, for instance individuals who scored in the top 0.1% of the general population on a standardized intelligence test, then the definition changes. How do we know? Because we’re using an established population statistic; we’re measuring against societal norms.

By our definition above, we are both highly intelligent people, and we have highly intelligent kids. That high intelligence, however, comes with a basket of intensities that makes life with us hard and incredibly interesting. Our kids do not conform to much of what has become the societal vision of “gifted” children – quiet, studious, industrious, well-behaved children who are all “plus” and no “minus” from a human behavioral perspective. Because we homeschool, we don’t have to worry about how society, or school, labels our kids. We don’t hide the fact that we have high intelligence, and we don’t expect our kids to hide it, either. In our world, being smart is a positive attribute, and finding others at our own intelligence level – and higher! – is a wonderful part of life.

“Gifted,” as we’ve written about before, is a burned word. We’ll never unload the emotional freight from it; it’s simply become so electrified a third rail as to be unrecoverable in the conversation. We applaud the advocates who continue to help educate the public about the diversity of intelligence, and how it affects parents every day. Frankly, though, we’re not going to spend our time trying to define the word “gifted” to everyone who asks about our children.  When those moments occur, we’ll simply state the facts: that we have children with high intelligence. We figure if anyone stays around to ask us what that means, then we can start a meaningful conversation. Until then, we’ll be exploring our world, and anxiously awaiting the next installation of Cosmos.

Tiny Green Shoots

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A homeschooling year is a great deal like writing a book: there comes a day when you realize that, barring some asteroid strike-level cataclysm, you really are going to finish it. It’s going to come to a conclusion of some type. You’re over the hump.

I’m feeling it right now. I’m a seasonal person. I tend to enjoy the living hell out of the first month of any season, accept the second with grace, and volunteer to pack its suitcase and drive it to the airport by the third. So when I see tiny green shoots emerge from beneath the snow in our garden, it dawns on me. Spring is here. Oh, it will still be a snowy horrorshow here in Colorado from time to time, but the seventies are going to make a guest appearance this week, and the shorts are going to come out of the closet.

What does it mean for us to be on final descent into the summer capping our first year of full-time homeschooling? It’s a great time to look back and think about what happened, and what didn’t.

Nobody freaked. Nobody. I was thinking someone would (Vegas odds were on me), but it just…didn’t happen. No one threw a rod that they weren’t taking part in any traditional-school stuff; we did our own versions of Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and Christmas was probably more fun for them (especially given that they each had a tiny USB-powered Christmas tree for the month of December). Nobody pitched a fit that we were doing things differently, not even our newest arrival, A.

Everyone grew. You’d hope they would, in a year, wouldn’t you? But in years past, by this point in the calendar year, there’s been trudging. There’s been grudging. There’s been I’m-not-budging. We’ve watched the lights go out by the time TCAP rolled around, watched them tilt slowly off their toes in their education and back onto their heels. The juice has been sucked from the orange. Not this year. It’s March, and they’re still designing social studies projects with the same vigor they were in October. They’re still throwing themselves into swapwriting with the same creativity and collaboration they had when we were outside, WiFi hotspot-writing under the huge tree on our greenbelt path in September. They’ve even – dare I say it – come to peace with the subjects they don’t like. Historically, by this point, those subjects were out on a plank with a cutlass in their backs.

Our definition of ‘school’ expanded. School ‘went’ a lot of different places this year – on long walks, on bike rides, on museum trips, on park afternoons. Everywhere we went, we talked, Googled, learned. School is a construct of geographic convenience: kids are gathered together in one place not because it’s the world’s greatest learning model, but because it makes sense to centralize something that’s traditionally dispensed one-to-many. Take that factor out of the equation, and what we’ve learned is that school is everywhere that curiosity exists.

Our love for each other did, too. You don’t see much of your kid in an educational setting in life until you work with them in a homeschooling environment, and I wish everyone could see what we’ve seen this year. It’s funny: there’s ‘take your child to work day,’ where we provide our kids with a window on what we do in our jobs, but there’s really not a ‘take your parent to school day.’ Sure, there’s volunteering opportunities, and parent-teacher conferences, and such – but how often do you get to see your kids at their jobs? I love what I’ve seen from them this year – they’re focused, diligent, caring, collaborative workers that want to learn, want to grow. I love them all the more for that.

It’s easy to forget, in the depths of winter, that green shoots are coming. It’s almost impossible to conceive of the true arrival of a new season until it’s upon us. We’re going to do this – and next year, we’re going to do it again, and we’ll learn new lessons next year, too.

I’m glad for the tiny green shoots, though. They remind me, in no uncertain terms, that this year’s particular voyage is nearing its end, and to enjoy every moment of life and growth that the spring will bring us.

Pink and Blue

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Statistically, you won’t like this post. You won’t identify with it, won’t understand it, and won’t care for many of the points I’m going to make.

That’s OK. You can leave if you want. I’ll wait.

<drums fingers>

Fine. Still with me? You’re probably a homeschooling mom with a husband who’s not super-involved in the task of teaching your kids. He’s probably got a busy job, and you ended up taking over this responsibility. Am I right so far?

If I am, that’s because you’re the statistical norm. I’m the outlier – I’m a husband who, like his wife, works part-time and homeschools part-time. In our house, everybody fights; everybody eats. We don’t have assigned roles. That dishwasher has no gender, and neither does the checkbook, the math curriculum, the garbage cans or the household repairs that need doing. If you buy 1950s-style gender roles, that’s fine. We don’t, and neither of us takes kindly to being pigeonholed by society in responsibility sets that were starting to lose relevance when Ford was President. So when Facebook sites post sexist cartoons portraying moms as the exclusively beleaguered providers of kid-related everything, it sets my teeth on edge.

Mostly that’s due to the fact that this is happening in your experience. In your home. In your perceptual set. And it may be true for you, but it isn’t true for everyone. There’s a strong human drive to make our own experiences the common experiences, to belong to something greater than ourselves that includes and validates our own way of life. We want to feel that those things that make us laugh make others laugh, and that those things that make us cry make others cry, and that our joys and miseries are one with a greater body of such sensations. We like to paint red and white rings around the spot the arrow landed. That’s natural – but if the goal is progress, or change, and not just self-pity, it can be counterproductive.

Here’s what endlessly fascinates me about these posts: they ‘gender’ the task of educating children. It’s women’s work. I’ve posted before about how untrue this was millennia ago, how the natural state of a human family is in sharing the task of teaching children to grow into responsible adult members of society. But you’ve been taught differently. And recently. In fact, you’ve been taught so many wrong things that it’s worthwhile to talk through a checklist of them. We’ll start off easy, though; we’ll start with something you know is right – or at least something you think you know is right. We’ll start with pink…and blue.

That’s easy, right? Didn’t a hundred visuals just flash before your eyes? Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. It always has been, hasn’t it? Didn’t your own mom teach you that? She was probably born in the 40s or 50s, and even her mom might have taught her that. But maybe she didn’t; consider that, just three generations ago, these colors were completely reversed.

…a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Smithsonian Magazine)

1918. It’s taken a hundred years, a blink of an eye in human existence, to get you to agree that black is white and white is black. That’s all. A hundred years. A hundred years ago, men taught their sons, sitting behind them on tractors, palm atop palm, working a stick shift for the first time in blazing Midwestern sun. Fathers squatted in rich black earth and explained how to rotate crops, how nitrogen was fixed in plants, how to manage the seasonality and risk of farm economics. None of this would have been outsourced. To whom could it have been, anyway?

A hundred years later, you believe that education is women’s work, and so does your husband. That’s wrong. The saddest part is not that you believe it; it’s that he believes it. You believe lots of things, don’t you? So when the loan officer tells you that your home mortgage shouldn’t be more than 20% of your household earnings, did you question whether it should be much less? Did you question whether, in an era of 300,000-mile duty lives, it’s necessary to have a new car every four years? Did you question anything being pushed at you as society’s norms?

I think you did, and I think that’s how you ended up here, but maybe you stopped short. Maybe there’s more thinking to be done about whose responsibility homeschooling is, and whether it might make sense to make room for this vitally important task in your lives instead of forcing it into cracks and crannies and gaps between more societally endorsed actions.

In the end, I don’t care whether you do or not, because I don’t write this blog for you. I write it for my son, and for my daughters, and for the men and women they will marry someday. I write it to impress on them the need to question what they’re being told. I hope the lessons sink in – because I hope that, someday, they’ll see a post like this and tell their own kids, “You know what’s funny about that? Let me tell you a story about when pink used to be the color for boys.”

The Next Frontier

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It gets a little closer every day. We’ve started checking the 529 balances will a little more diligence, shopping the programs and options with a little more attention to detail. It’s coming.

We are running out of high-school content runway for E.

What comes next? Not sure. She’ll probably be 13 when it’s time to go, and I can’t send a 13-year-old off to Kegstand U. There’s no shortage of good options – distance programs, hybrid programs, dual-enrollment programs – and I don’t really worry that we’ll find a setting that works for her. What I worry about more is the message I send to them regarding the future of higher education, and how they might best leverage that future to build a future of their own.

What lies ahead for college, as most of us knew it, is unclear. For-profits like Phoenix have hopelessly diluted the value of an undergraduate degree. Tuition costs have gone through the roof. The globalization of middle-class labor means that there will inevitably be fewer such jobs available for them, and more and greater differentiation of skillsets will be necessary to hold onto dependable earning power. MOOCs will change things; they’ll become proctored more closely, accredited more quickly, accepted more easily, in their lifetimes. There will be a growing difference among words like education, knowledge, wisdom and experience. 

I can’t see the future – and it’s changing fast. That makes it difficult to help them design an educational experience that’s going to work for their lives. I may not have all the right answers, but I have a pretty good feeling what I think is going to happen – and, based on that, here is what I would tell them in terms of designing the next frontier of education in their lives.

Your learning will be a lifelong process. Today, an average worker remains in a job for an average of 4.4 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that’s a figure for all current workers; the newest members of the workforce average about half that. Do the math: that means that Millennials will have 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their working lives. Jobs are increasingly becoming gigs, and gigs are multiplying and diversifying quickly while traditional job growth remains stuck in neutral. You will be learning, unlearning, relearning your entire life – so don’t walk into this process with the expectation that a single undergraduate degree is going to take you everywhere you need to go. Keep your knees bent, from an educational perspective, and keep a MOOC account open at all times.

The system is gaming you. Game it back. Here’s the core of the game: college graduates earn more over the course of their lives than non-graduates, yet college tuition is growing faster than any other product or service inflation rate in the country. Did you see what I just did there? I created inelastic demand for something with one hand and introduced supernormal price growth with the other. If you have to have it – and you’re told every day in traditional school that you do – you’ll pay anything to get it. But wait – there’s more! For the first two years of that undergraduate experience, you’re going to be shunted off to adjuncts, TAs, grad students – anyone the university can enlist to lower the cost of delivering your education. Well, there’s a trick to countering that. Do two years at a community college (don’t tell anyone, but a CC adjunct is often just as good as, or even better than, a tenure-track adjunct), transfer your credits, cut your cost (nearly) in half, and graduate with the same degree – and, probably, equivalent or even better education. 

Learning is an investment – so buy low and sell high. The next trick is to learn a core discipline and begin differentiating your own experience by bringing in perspectives and capabilities you ‘bought’ on the cheap. I’m a finance guy by undergraduate training, a marketer by first graduate training, and an anthropologist by second. I’ve since then added some capabilities – R, Hadoop, Scrum, etc. – through layers of education bought at ever-decreasing cost (R was free). If I cost-averaged those layers of education, though, I need a higher wage to make good on my investment than someone else would with the same set of skills. So buy an unassailable core discipline, like business, engineering, law, science, or language. Then start building a diversified, extended framework of skills and abilities for nothing, and go secure a job no one else can do at a cost no one else can touch.

Learn. Make. Earn. Repeat. The era of ‘hire me, I have a degree’ is coming to an end. Tests like the CLA are only going to increase in importance over the next decade, and there’s going to be a watershed day when a major company evaluates two candidates with identical CLA scores – one straight out of Traditional U, the other off the non-traditional education track – and picks the latter. Businesses don’t want credentials; they want results. That’s going to tilt the competitive playing field in favor of makers – those that are doing what potential employers want right now – rather than test-takers. So here’s my final piece of advice: learn a new skill. Make something out of it – an app, a blog, a patent, a seminar. Anything. Leverage that to increase your earning power, either at your current employer or in a business of your own. Then do it again. And keep doing it.

Questioning the status quo led us to bring our kids home to learn with us in the first place – so I’m not surprised that we’ve begun to question other educational ‘sacred cows,’ like traditional college, too. We’re going to be encountering this particular bovine a little earlier than we thought we would, but we’re taking the same approach to sacred cow interaction we always have – namely, out here on the next frontier, the grill’s hot and the beer’s cold.

Change is In the Air

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Winter, particularly once the novelty of a new year has worn off, often brings with it a dull ache of familiarity. The holidays have been and gone, and there’s a profound sense of settling back into a routine – and that, left alone, can begin to rob any homeschooling family of a sense of energy and engagement. Momentum and motivation can start to fade, and there’s a temptation to start shortening the day, plowing through the essentials with a sense of duty rather than purpose.

Our house is no different. The girls’ birthdays are in February, and we can both feel the emotional runup to their big day, and we both dread the vacuum that lies beyond it. This is our first year of full-time homeschooling, but we’ve already seen a few points in the year when it’s important to have some tricks in the bag to keep the kids pointed in the right direction. Here’s a few of our favorites.

Change the venue. Homeschooling doesn’t always have to be education at home; in fact, by definition, it’s really ‘education not confined to any particular place.’ One of our favorite new changeup days has been a combination remote-homeschooling/educational outing – swapwriting in the atrium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (our view was the image above), followed by a planetarium show and some exhibit tours, or doing math on the go at a favorite park and then taking a walk to the library to find books on our social studies topic. Our philosophy is very tech-inclusive, so really anyplace we can get a clear wifi signal for a hotspot lets us get productive work done.

Change the medium. Everyone, regardless of age, wears out on the same content being served through the same format day after week after month after year. Listening to lectures, watching videos, working on paper, and using traditional tools gets old. That’s why we’re constantly on the hunt for interesting new things to vary the content medium – whether that’s giving a subject matter expert the floor in teaching a particular concept, or swapping out a straightforward iPad calculator for something like Tydiig, or changing up the projects they do in social studies. (Moviemaking? Cooking and baking? Outdoor games? Sure.)

Change the schedule. We all love schedules – they sort out the day, make sense of the week, and let us plan ahead. But there are days that science is going to be met with sleepy stares first thing in the morning, or math is just too much to ask by one in the afternoon. Change it around. Or split a subject over two days, or even three, if it’s not taking hold in the first go-round.  Twenty minutes of math three times in a day will do most of what a solid hour’s worth will do, and it might help you hurdle something unwelcome or thorny.  Nothing’s going to break – promise! – and you’re showing your kids that you’re willing to build the day around their energies and interests once in a while.

Change your expectations. No one makes linear progress in everything from day to day. Energy levels wax and wane throughout the day, throughout the month, throughout the year. Yours do, too, by the way – so make sure your kids aren’t picking up any lack of motivation on your part by doing everything you can to keep yourself motivated and engaged. More importantly, let the energy go where it’s going to go. Keep an eye on it – but realize that your expectations make up a significant portion of how you feel the homeschooling process is going.

In our experience, the most important factor in managing motivation and engagement is a willingness to gather data by the day and act by the week, instead of reacting to each hour as it goes by. Keep a log or journal of your thoughts on each day while you’re experiencing motivation concern; if days go by and you’re not seeing any improvement, pick one of the other changes discussed above and give it a try. If none of them help, perhaps it’s time for bigger changes. Spring road trip?

This Post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum February Blog Hop on “Staying Motivated Throughout the Homeschool Year.” Check out the other posts! http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/?p=3285

Feb 2014 Blog Hop Graphic