Boy in chair (prison)

by:  Martin Forte


Prison: a place or state of confinement (Webster Dictionary)


As we all know, the life in a prison is not exactly ideal and yet we impose these sentences on our children almost every day.   I am not referring to the traditional “go to your room” punishment frequently used when behavior is not to our expectation.

The real homeschool prison is when we subjugate our boys (and girls too) to an unbearable sentence of sitting on a 12” X 12” piece of real estate called a “chair” while listening to your lesson. During this time of confinement we have fallen to the ritual and belief that learning can only take place when the child is sitting at a table and looking you in the eye. How terribly wrong we are while we force this school at home option on our boys resulting in a negative attitude toward learning and in some cases causing the unintended consequence of a decline in the parent – child relationship.

The foundation of this scenario is the fact that most homeschool parents were not homeschooled therefore base their educational philosophy on the “sit and listen” model of the traditional classroom model.  In most cases we assume that we did OK in life and that system apparently worked.  Superficially that might seem to be satisfactory to the majority of parents, the real question should center around the concept of “Did I truly reach my full potential?”  We must also come to the realization that the educational system is not the same as it was 40 or 50 years ago.  Woodshop or Metal shop class anyone?

The underlining question becomes:  What other options do I have as a parent-teacher?  The reality is that boys, especially young boys, are not designed to be confined to a small space for more than 5 – 10 minutes. Think about it! Have you ever seen a puppy, kitten, bear cub or any other young maturing animal be still. They all learn while in motion, the child is no different. Our modern concepts of education, designed originally to produce factory workers, have totally missed the mark on this one.

The solution:  Harness the Power of Play!

Escaping the homeschool prison

Instead of prison, why not substitute play and other activities to cover the same subject matter. The activity portion of play is responsible for the development of fine motor skills, resulting in increased reading comprehension and manuscript success. Unstructured play not only enhances the child to tap into his creativity, but the ability to make choices is greatly enhanced resulting in a young adult being able to actually make decisions.  If this unstructured play involves more than one child at a time the ability to resolve conflicts and exercise leadership skills is enhanced.  Realize that unstructured play is defined as your child having total freedom to do what he wants for an hour or two except for electronic media including phones, computers, electronic notebooks and TV.

If you do have sit-down sessions it is highly recommended to have an activity box consisting of craft type materials that allow your child to keep his hands busy. The result will be an increased success in your child not only enjoying the lesson more, but also retaining more of the information. For the younger boy, allow for the opportunity to have a break after 5 – 10 minutes or walk around the room while listening to you.  The ability for a child to participate in an activity and still listen is amazing.  Do not forget, for many boys they must have their hands active or they spend most of the time trying to figure out what to do with the hands.

Another great option to enhance the interest level of children in various subjects is to participate in board games as a part of your curriculum.  At the earlier ages, games can become the primary source of learning most skills and gaining knowledge in a host of other subjects.  For the older student games become a great compliment to any books you are using.  The great benefit is that you can accelerate the time required to create a new brain synapse that is required to learn anything.  According to Dr. Purvis from Texas Christian University it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new brain synapse but through play this can be accomplished in 10-15 repetitions.  Again, do not under estimate the “power of play!”

Please take the time to browse this website for some fantastic ideas in using games to harness the “power of play!”  Be sure to read the various articles as well as go to the actual game curriculum where you will find games categorized by grade and subject.