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The List

Forgive me.  I've lent out my copy of "Teach Your Own" by John Holt, so I can't run and check if that is the book where I first learned of the list.  But I think it is.  Okay, so now that you know this was not MY idea here it is:

I sat my kids down one at a time, and made a list.  For each child, I took a piece of paper and made three vertical columns.  I labelled the first column "Keep Doing", the second "Need Help" and the third "Never Again".

Then I asked the Jor Man:  "What are you doing now that you want to keep doing?"  He looked baffled.  I gave him some suggestions:  "Do you want to keep going to the Library and reading Nutmeg books?"  Yes.  "Tae-Kwon-Do?"  Maybe.  Cub Scouts?  Yes.

Second column - "What would you like to do or learn, but you need Mom or Dad's help?  Either to help you with something or to buy something you'd need for it?"  Lots of suggestions.  Chemistry sets.  Building a fort in the backyard.  Making a hot dog stand at the Lake to make money this summer.

Third column - "What are you doing now that you never want to do again?"  Math.  "Anything else?"  Cursive writing.  Word Roots.  Editor in Chief.

Now for the shocker.  I said "Okay."  Okay?  "Okay.  You never have to do any of those ever again."

He didn't believe me.  Several days later, he wanted to add to the second column.  Calligraphy.  Robotics.  "Okay."  I said.

It took two months for Jor Man to believe that I really wasn't going to MAKE him do any math ever again.  And then it happened.

I was selling the Saxon Math books on Ebay.  Jor Man saw them and got suspicious.  When I told him I was selling them, since he would never be using them again, he was amazed.  After a few minutes, he came over and asked me NOT to sell them.  "Why?"  I asked.

"Well I was thinking, " he said,  "That if I am going to be rich someday, I'd better be good at math.   And it wasn't THAT bad.  I just hated that I had to do it."

So I didn't sell it.  And it sat in his room.   When I asked him about it, he said he didn't feel like doing math.  "Well,"  I said, "really, are you EVER going to FEEL like doing it?"  "No."  He admitted.

So we negotiated.  He wanted to learn math, but wanted it to be fun.  I wanted to not spend money unless he was really going to use the curriculum.  He chose Teaching Textbooks.  I said that I expected that he would finish the curriculum, or pay me back for it, by the end of the school year.  Well, he needed some help in terms of not leaving it all to the last minute.  So we negotiated again - that he could chose to do math that day or not, but he could not play on the computer or watch a movie until he had done his math.  His math is done by 7 am these days, without my asking, with rare exception.

I am finding that the list my children made for themselves is far more vigorous than what the state recommends.  For example, Jor Man didn't want to learn cursive, but he suggested calligraphy.  His writing is neat and legible, despite never having any formal instruction in it.

Our Aquarium School and Animal Academy classes are far more interesting and at a higher level than 4th grade science would be.  Our travels teach him geography and history.  He is an avid reader, reading much higher than grade level.  He sometimes spends the day reading.  He is writing reports for his classes - and is always writing some adventure story or comic strip on his own.  I must spell words for him all day - and his spelling is getting better and better, because he knows I will say "How do you think it's spelled?"

I have personally found that leaving my children to choose what they want to learn has been far more interesting and rigorous than if I had chosen their curriculum.
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