The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. (Dorothy Parker)
When my son (now 14) was a little guy and we began homeschooling, I poured over homeschool magazines, surfed the internet for hours, joined forums and yahoo groups, and asked every homeschooler I encountered a million questions about curriculum, homeschool methodology, and schedules.
If I was going to homeschool my bright, active, curious little boy, I was going to do it up right. Money was no object. To that end, I had spent literally thousands of dollars by the time he was in the second grade.
And we were miserable. Ben was bored. I found myself with a 7 year-old who was constantly fighting me about doing school every day. And I was selling as much curriculum as I purchased, feeling like a complete failure. I watched as curiosity disappeared from his once twinkling eyes, like water being sucked down a bathtub drain.
I shared a few days ago about the day I realized that delight-directed learning was the path we should be following. While visiting Mexico in our studies, we learned about the Monarch butterfly. Suddenly, this incredible curiosity about butterflies sprang up in Ben.
Where else do butterflies live, Momma?
What other kinds are there?
Can we catch some?
Are they at the zoo?
Can we grow some?
My initial inclination was to grab a couple of books from the library so he could learn more in his free reading time and then move on to China. China was on the lesson plan. We had already fallen off our lesson plan while studying about Canada when this same curiosity sprang up about beavers. There wasn’t time for butterflies now!
But something inside of me caused me to stop for a moment and I realized that I had not seen Ben this excited about learning in quite some time. My gut told me to put the lesson plan aside and spend some time learning more about butterflies.
We read books.
We ordered caterpillars.
We visited the butterfly area of our zoo.
We made a gorgeous Blue Morpho out of construction paper, tissue paper, and glitter.
We took our butterfly net outdoors and caught butterflies and moths, and observed their differences.
We had fun! And more important than the fun (if there is something more important than that), Ben loved homeschool again. He was excited to learn. His curious sparkle was back.
Needless to say, we never made it to China. Well, not that week. We did make it there several weeks later where we had a repeat of the same excitement. We ended up spending about 4 weeks in China, after eating lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Ben asked the server how to say a few words in Chinese. When she asked if he wanted to learn Mandarin or Cantonese and he said, “both!” she grabbed another employee and they each spent time teaching him to say hello, good-bye, the numbers 1-10, and “I love you” in their dialects. The boy feasted on teriyaki chicken-on-a-stick that day, and the history and culture of China for the next month.
In fact, we ended up presenting China in our co-op’s geography fair that spring. A 9-year-old Ben sat proudly at his table and shared with children and adults alike, everything he had learned about pandas, bamboo, and the Yangtze River. Everyone was impressed when he counted to 10 in both Mandarin and Cantonese. He was in his element. I just stood back, watched, and smiled.
We have never looked back from this delight-directed approach after that year. I do have a big part in Ben’s learning. But, I do less teaching and more facilitating. I am sure to provide him with the tools and materials he needs to learn about the things that interest him. It makes it more difficult to plan, but I’m not much of a planner anyway (isn’t God amazing to have matched us up like that?). There is rarely a time we have less than 50 books checked out from the library. Most of the time, it’s closer to 100. We take lots of field trips, too, to help solidify Ben’s learning in a memorable, hands-on way.
Ben does the 3Rs in a more traditional homeschool way, meaning we use curriculum for that. And I’m not opposed to using good quality, literature-based curriculum for other subjects either. In fact, with high school quickly approaching, we will be adding more curriculum. What I have become opposed to is forcing him to study anything because a lesson guide says it’s what’s next. For us, that means curiosity is squelched and the love of learning is overtaken by boredom and dread. And who wants that for their kids?
I would also love to invite you the community inspired by this series, as we strive to inspire, encourage and empower our readers in everything homeschooling.