This week has been a real challenge. Clearly the removal of school discipline has led the boys to push the boundaries at home, and it is taking time and considerable effort to communicate our expectations of them. It is intensive and wearing, but it is essential to figure out how to get along together and how to work as a team to keep our home running and functional if we are to be around each other all day long. The boys rough and tumble and squabble and fight; they are disobedient and sometimes downright horrible to one another. In a school setting, behaviour is kept in check by 'carrot and stick' (reward and punishment) - extrinsic motivation. In response to my questions about why they behave so wonderfully at school for their teachers, the boys have told me, "Because we are afraid (of being naughty / of being punished)". But I do not want them to be motivated by fear, or only to behave themselves when a treat is dangled as a bribe. So we are working on intrinsic motivation, right behaviour from within. (See "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn).
Believe me, we have a long way to go and there are behaviour patterns on both their side and ours which need to be unlearned. But I am working on it! Today, the boys asked for a sticker chart on which family points could be earned for good behaviour. I resist it, but maybe small incentives are needed to help us on this journey. My eldest son asked for Awards for the Best Student! His implication is that he would, of course, be the chosen one. "Best at what?" I queried. "Best at being kind to everyone?" He frowned and looked disgruntled. Yet, that is the first lesson of our home education because if there cannot be kindnesses between brothers, kindness learned at home, then our experiment is in grave danger already.
Today, having looked at some Roman examples on the Internet, we made mosiac pictures. The boys have also been fascinated by the story of Ben Hur and have watched the video several times, particularly enjoying the chariot race. Today they needed to sign forms to open their own bank accounts in town (a more attractive prospect now we are not limited to Saturday morning opening hours). I noticed that my eldest son's writing did not flow, but had become stilted. I asked the boys whether they thought it would be a good idea to do at least a little writing and number work every day - just to keep their hand in. After all, it could be useful at some point in the future! They seemed quite keen on this, so we will see. Our eldest son says he hates reading, so I am not pushing this at the moment, but hope he will come to it in his own time. He enjoys me reading to him, which we do every day, and he has a wide vocabulary and a lively imagination, so we keep working on those things and trust that other skills will fall into place later when he is ready.
Our middle son has been enjoying playing number and punctuation games on the BBC Schools website. These are good because the child can immediately see whether his answer is right. Of his own accord the other day, he asked me for some maths problems to work on and also some words to write out to practise his hand writing. Today we chose some workbooks in Smiths, but how much we will use these remains to be seen.
We have had some visitors over recent days and this is when the boys' behaviour seems worse than ever. I wonder why. "We get too excited," they say. Well, that may be, but everyone will think, "These home educated children - You give them an inch and they take a mile!" It is not so bad when we are at home by ourselves - especially if we can get out for a walk in the morning, the afternoons seem pretty mellow, and of course, learning goes on from wake-up to bedtime.
Our youngest boy will celebrate his birthday this weekend, so I have the challenge of planning his party and making his cake with the boys around. This will be our project for the next few days, I think. Let's see whether, given the opportunity, they will rise to the occasion as party organisers! It could make my task a whole lot lighter!