Monday, December 9, 2013

Zombie to Warm Body: Our Transition to Homeschooling

Last week I finally saw the movie Warm Bodies.  It was an assignment for my homeschooler—that he find and be prepared to discuss the thematic elements of the movie as it relates to Shakespeare.  

(Advanced work really—assigned to my daughter’s college class, Shakespeare in Film, but as homeschoolers, we supersede our eighth grade curriculum--often.)

In the film, the zombie teen is restored to human form.  The premise was not new to my husband nor I because we’d seen just such a change in our own son.  In the past year, our Zombie child morphed into a more self-directed teenager with greater confidence in his own talent and abilities—a phenomena nearly as incredible as that in the movie! 

It began last year when my husband and I pulled our pre-teen student out of one of our state’s best public schools.  He had become a problem.  I don’t mean at school, because over the past nine years he had finally perfected “normal studenthood.”    

He would consume copious amounts of information and produce admirable hoards of paper and his teachers were thrilled that he could finally sit still and shut up.

It was our problem.  When we recognized that our potential inventor/engineer had adapted by turning off his inventive mind to meet the expectations of a conventional education we panicked.  He had adapted a little too well and excelled at sitting still, staring blankly at the wall and uttering banal inanities.  ZOMBIE!  Dinner conversations were limited to a serving of, “I don’t know,” with a side of “Nor do I care.”  

The straw that shoved the camel through the needle’s eye was when his homeroom teacher said, “To help your son be more successful, I recommend that you come in each day after school and preview each of his six teacher’s assignments on their boards to make certain he has all the details of the work written down and then go to his locker and make sure he has all his books and papers necessary to complete the work at home. AND I DID IT!  For a week, then it dawned on me that for years I had been schooling during all of our home time and that home schooling full-time might take less time.    So, we left school with the hope that if we do this, he may “at least finish high school.”  What a dim view of his greatness.  

Instead we were granted unexpected benefits as we unwittingly set in motion five changes that modified the ZOMBIE child.  SKIP TO THE END if you are rushed to lasso answers amidst a whirlwind.    

Zombie Strategy #5  

SLEEP:  Rising at the crack of dawn to stumble to a bus that leaves one hour and fifty minutes before school starts.  Lack of sleep is the number one problem interfering with child learning, just ask any educator.   Hence the sunken dark circles and the vacuous Zombie stare.

Those wasted hours of bus time are about how long we spend completing our book-learning.  Now we have actual leisure time for his anti-zombie training, i.e., scouts, piano, robotics, tae kwan do...

Zombie Strategy  #4  

PURPOSE:     There can be nothing more difficult for a teacher than struggling to create interest in a subject with a ZOMBIE.  Until a youth can take power over their own education, forced learning remains an instrument of torture—for the child and the adult.  Then at least two hours of homework drudge were added on to the end of an already learning-deficient school day.

Right now my son splits Math Mondays between coding classes, ( and college algebra (  Many of these on-line courses offer free certification to students upon completion. 

Zombie Strategy #3
DE-STRESS:  Educators know stress inhibits learning in children.  And thus develops the callous sense of self preservation so apparent in Zombieland.

Herd learning is a schedule of strict classes on a tight schedule, of time consumed by the classmate who should be the subject of  (not a group member in) the psychology project.  After which, the teen then lumbered across campus in the seven minutes allotted.  He bypassed the locker book exchange and yet without text, still only staggered into the classroom by the skin of his teeth.  If he arrived late and slammed into a closed classroom door, he was rewarded with a half-hour long after-school detention with the same babbler from psychology class.  

We have gifted that teacher with less stress and that classmate with greater personal attention as his teacher now instructs only 149 students daily. 

Zombie Strategy #2 

CUSTOMIZATION OF EDUCATION TECHNIQUES:   Homeschooling relieves the burden of pressure when a child is not yet brain ready and prevents the schism in the parent/child relationship created by that failed expectation.

  Freed from the bounds of teaching with a text to a test, homeschooling offers classical learning in the world of Platonic (stories) and Socratic (questions) education through virtual situations, simulations and infinite questions.  Both are more effective than learning by rote repetition, lackluster lectures, and wearisome worksheets.  My rapidly morphing teen is learning how to think, not thoughtlessly consume and regurgitate.   In a workforce of ZOMBIES, his leadership skills will be invaluable.

Development or Drills?    I should own the patents to every math, science and reading skill-builder  known throughout the history of man. I had no inkling of developmental readiness because in public education, all children must progress the same--together, with none left behind—a common core.   He and I fought-taught spelling utilizing every culinary tool from soup to nuts and I promise you, Zumba’s got nothing on the athletic gyrations of a mom-bod in full-out alphabet spell.

SOCIETY:  No more school lines, a half-hour-long waiting zombie-like to shuffle into the restrooms alone (the new safety rule at school)—all part of that cool school social thing that home school deprives him of.   We don’t miss that, nor do we miss the isolation of that creepy counter-culture lunch crush.    

 We are now eligible for a myriad of home school groups that orchestrate field trips and social activities.  These occur so frequently that we find ourselves struggling to fit in content amidst the hands-on and on-site learning.  We find these groups to be diversely educated, multi-cultural, intergenerational bastions of children flourishing in alternate learning cultures; a society in which children are challenged—the antithesis of Zombie. 

Zombie Battle Strategy #1 


WINNER!  Before home school, my son and I shared an autocratic relationship wherein I pressed him mechanically to perform.

We no longer live in a Zombie (parallel) relationship; we interact in a new way and I believe it’s because he exults in the exercise of control over his own education.  We trust him to pick, choose and direct his own path—which translates into confidence as a competent adult. 

 My heart warms when strangers admire and comment as they watch the new interaction between my young teen and me, (it happened twice in a month!)


Back to the warm metaphor, I believe the zombie teen in Warm Bodies evolves due to an increased awareness of feeling—of my hope for him, and ultimately of love and self worth as he recognizes the value he offers the world.   I know that for our former Zombie, the most important change is that he knows there is an infinite world of knowledge out there and he is confident and capable of discovering his purpose in that challenge. 

If you think your child doesn’t know that, find ways to warm that body.   Zombie Attack!

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