Well here we are at the end of our first month of home educating our seven-year-old son. I think he has learned something. I know that I, however, have learned a LOT.
I've learned that getting cross with him doesn't get me any results whatsoever, except to increase my own, and his, stress levels. (Duh - you'd have thought I'd have learned this years ago, but no. I am a slow learner!)
I have learned that when he is enjoying an activity, he absorbs a lot of information about that activity. The opposite is also true. If James really hates the idea of something, or struggles with it, I have to weigh-up the value of actually making him do it, as it seems at such times that all potential for learning temporarily takes flight. There are some things I feel it is important to strongly encourage/bribe him to do, such as writing a daily diary. In fact, some days I don't mind if that is the only writing he actually does. I have seen some improvement in his written expression, and his handwriting, since we started this daily exercise. I view it as a valuable tool for recalling the things we've done together, and for reflection, and an opportunity for James to see that he is actually making some progress, and having lots of fun while doing so. It's something he protests against on most days, but he always seems pleased with what he has written afterwards, and when his Dad walks through the front door it's usually the first thing he shows to him. It's akin to getting James to go to bed on time - not something he really wants to do most evenings (unless he's feeling particularly sleepy), but something that we see as necessary, something that will benefit him in both the short- and long-term, and something that, generally, James seems pleased with once it's over!
I've learned that James's capacity for assimilating information is huge. When it comes to Star Wars, that is. He has read through the whole of his Star Wars annual, which recounts the stories of all six film episodes, as well as giving loads of biographical information about each of the characters. He's completed quizzes, word searches and anagrams. He can pretty much answer any question about the films and characters (although he hasn't seen Episode III - a bit too much burning if you ask me). You might think this is all a bit inappropriate, obsessional, perhaps. To me it speaks of James' potential for learning and his mind-boggling ability to understand the complex world of imaginary intergalactic warfare. Which is amazing to me when I consider that he struggles to go through the mechanisms necessary for successful teeth-cleaning of a morning.
I've been pondering the nature of James's learning style as we've embarked on this new phase of life, and in all my digging and hypothesis-positing I have uncovered a couple of possibilities (and they may be very closely linked) that I feel warrant further investigation: The first is that James may have a mild, and specifically inattentive, form of ADHD. Gasp. I know little about such things but from the bits of research I have done (initiated by an inkling of mine) I have discovered enough to justify getting an assessment appointment for James. And that is what we have done. More on that later. The other thing I have had an inkling about for some time is the idea that James may be a completely different kind of learner from me, and indeed, from most of the children that formal education systems and tests, etc, seem to cater for. I have been reading about right-brained (or 'visual-spatial') learners at Throwing Marshmallows blog (her son is a visual-spatial learner) and also by following some of the links she gives. (This person has also written an excellent post a couple of years ago about ADHD, homeschooling and the olympic swimmer Michael Phelps here. I like her blog muchly.) I think James may be a predominantly 'visual-spatial' learner. The other main type of learner is called 'auditory-sequential'. I think I am one of those, with a bit of the other thrown in, just to keep things interesting.
Now, I don't have any of the answers to my questions about James's learning style and attention 'needs' yet, but I feel like I am making some headway into understanding him better. I look forward to discovering more about him, because the more I get to know him, and try to do things in a way that suits him, the better our relationship gets.