Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deep School

In my former life I was a public high school literature teacher in Chicago. My mentor teacher called this time of the school year Deep School -- the time at which you can not see the beginning or end. He said it was the period that separates the average and awful teachers from the awesome teachers. The challenge is to maintain energy and high standards and to keep the material and technique interesting even though the students have heard your jokes, know your typical activities, and can predict your questions during Socratic discussion. You lose the Deep School Syndrome at the college level because of the semester course changes and I would not have dreamed that Deep School would be an issue in the home school. But, I find that I am fighting the doldrums in my own home school.

We are half way through the incredibly predictable Saxon math text, 1/2 way through modern history, and 1/2 way through Latin Primer I, etc. As I plan our week, I feel bored, as if I am just going through the motions. Unfortunately, I know that the children will follow my lead and learning will suffer. How can I reclaim the excitement of the beginning of the year? I will use some of the tricks I learned as a public school teacher and some new ideas I have learned being a homeschooling teacher/mom.
  • Save one of your best or most exciting units for this time of the year. This can be a problem for home schools because you don't teach the same classes and material year after year. You can find a book or project that fits into your yearly plan that is particularly interesting or exciting for you. We are just starting Around the World in Eighty Days for geography. I am so excited about this plan.
  • Buy some new school supplies. The smell of new notebooks is certainly motivating and a new box of crayons or colored pencils simply irresistible.
  • Take a field trip -- something out of the ordinary, yet on topic. Perhaps a play or poetry reading, a camping or canoe trip, an art exhibition, or a trip to the capitol (state or national) could boost morale.
  • Take a mini break from the routine. We did not touch the Saxon math text last week and we won't this week. Instead we concentrated on one problem area in math and used other activities to master the concept (in our case multiplication facts).
  • Start something new! If art or picture studies fell by the wayside earlier in the year, use this time to add some zip into school. We have used 2 levels and 2 tracks of Meet the Masters art study and these are perfect curriculum boosters. Each artist lesson takes a few hours to complete (picture study, technique lesson, and master work creation), but the children learn much and have fun.
  • Play games! I often forget the learning opportunities of games. Dominoes is great for addition facts. Monopoly builds money handling skills and teaches making change (Let the child be the banker). Scrabble is a wonderful spelling teacher. The possibilities are endless, because the children love spending time with their parents and the learning goes unnoticed in the pursuit of victory.
  • Let your children enter a contest. Science fairs, writing contests, history fairs, 4-H competitions, spelling bees, and invention fairs provide opportunities for your children to show the things they have learned and to learn new things.
Remember, at least 1/2 of the attitude problem comes from your own boredom. Find activities that inspire you and your students will feed off your enthusiasm. Find and maintain your own joy of learning!!


Anonymous said...

Oh, I love this post! It is a keeper. thanks for the ideas...

with Joy!
Your SIL

wisteria said...