Wednesday, August 19, 2015

No Fidgeting? Now there's an idea!

"No whispering was permitted in school, and no fidgeting. Everyone must be perfectly still and keep his eyes fixed on his lesson. Almanzo and Miles held up their primers and tried not to swing their legs. Their legs grew so tired that they ached, dangling from the edge of the seat. Sometimes one leg would kick suddenly, before Almanzo could stop it. Then he tried to pretend that nothing had happened, but he could feel Mr. Corse looking at him." - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy, p. 8

I have always been pretty lenient about fidgeting during lesson time. To be perfectly open and honest here, my practice has always been that SA(7) could do whatever he wanted while I read aloud, as long as he could narrate afterwards. On any typical day you might have seen him lying on the floor, or playing with something with his hands, or hanging upside-down off the back of the couch while I read.

I still believe that it is often beneficial to give children the freedom to move (within limits) during their lessons. I think that among some personality types, and perhaps especially among many young boys, movement can help them think.

As I read Farmer Boy to my boys last night, I discovered a novel idea. (Novel to me, that is!) It is possible to require young boys to control their bodies and sit still, and they will rise to the challenge.

Further, it occurred to me that the fidgeting that SA(7) has been doing during lesson time has been gradually getting more distracting and disruptive, and that his narrations have sometimes been suffering for it.

And so, given that
- His lessons are short.
- His lessons are varied...he has to get up and go to the piano after he does his math, for example.
- I give him a chance to stretch or run around the house if he shows signs of fatigue.
- I believe he is capable of sitting still for the length of time his lessons last (this is an important one!)
I have decided that it is time to work on a habit of sitting still and not fidgeting during his lessons.

I gave him a short lecture today, but I really think the fact that Almanzo had to do it was more convincing to him. We worked on a specific "narration posture:" feet on the floor, back straight, no slumping or leaning, and nothing in his hands. Then we did a test narration in that posture. He did well, and I am happy he seems to be willing, himself, to create this new habit. Now will come the watchful, constant reinforcement until it becomes second nature to him. That will be the hard part, but it will be worth it, I think.

I just "know" that half of you out there are horrified that I ever allowed fidgeting, and the other half are horrified that I'm completely cutting it off now. All I can say is that I know my child, and for us it is time to work on this now.

What habits make your days run more smoothly with your children?