A co-worker of mine used to theorize that homeschoolers were intrinsically rebellious, what with their rejection of the mainstream and outside authority. (I don’t think he meant this as a bad thing.) Well, it does describe me pretty well, but it always seems to me that homeschoolers are still just as herd-minded as anyone else. The new product comes out that is the One Great Thing that is going to be perfect for everyone and I know because I tried it! And it’s been so wonderful! For the past week!
The current buzzy product happens to be workboxes, which I am sure are a great idea that will prove helpful for many people.
But they’re not all that. They are not the solution for everyone, regardless of age, temperament, and homeschooling style.
I’m not even remotely interested, for lots of reasons. I don’t want to mess with keeping up multiple boxes organized and out of reach of the toddlers; I have enough trouble with the dish cupboards. I enjoy winging it more than following plans–even if I made those plans myself. I don’t want to miss out on the chance to build a math activity on something that happened to come up at breakfast just because something else happened to be in the box.
Most significantly, I don’t want to diminish their natural zest for learning by dictating a lot of what they do during the day. A limited amount of that when they are older, perhaps, for those dull but necessary tasks like handwriting. Oh, I know workboxes are so fun and everybody’s kids just whiz through them and they finally get to do all those activities they’ve never gotten around to. It’s just like play!
That’s the worst part, in my book. I don’t want my kids having fun learning because I have it all prepackaged out in the right-sized doses for them. I want them to learn because they know how to exercise their natural curiosity in healthy ways. I want them to do activities because they choose them, because it really is enough of a challenge and relevant enough to keep them interested, not because it’s better than a worksheet.
Modern parents–even conservative homeschooling ones–exercise a lot less overt authority over their children than those of a century or so ago. There’s a lot less "must" and a lot fewer trips to the woodshed. But at least those stern Victorians let the kids go off and occupy themselves for hours at a time. School was painful but at least a relatively small part of life.
Whereas modern parents cajole and entice and make learning fun, but they seem to leave the children very little time to be, to work out things for themselves, to learn from real successes and failures in barns and empty lots.
So that’s why I’m skeptical about the claim that workboxes increase self-direction. Following someone else’s sequence of tasks is not self-direction. It’s a valuable skill, but still less valuable than being able to set goals, plan, and execute for yourself.