Monday, February 23, 2009

Intimidating exuberance

I have a friend who just started homeschooling this year. She was an elementary school teacher B.C. (before children). I didn't know her when she taught, but I am guessing she was VERY good. She really knows how to get on a kid's level. She knows how to get things done. She is very smart, very creative, and she has an amazing heart for Christ. I truly look up to her.

I don't know if it was our decision to start homeschooling last year that inspired her to homeschool this year. It could have been other factors. Either way, we have been each other's cheering section. The support we give each other is relative to that I have been finding in reading many of the blogs in the Blogging Carnival.

Recently I was stumped though. B is good friends with her son the same age. We finally started last week with B going to her house to sleep over and attend AWANAS. We are hoping to make it a weekly thing since poor B is "girl trapped" (as my kids call it) during the day with two sisters! The testosterone boost of her three sons is good for him now and again! And AWANAS is right up his alley since he seems to have an innate interest in the Word of God.

My friend called and gave me an update on their day. She decided to take a "light" homeschooling schedule since B was there. I was fine with it either way... I trust her guidance. But her "light" day entailed so much! They did cross-lateral exercises (B's friend has learning disabilities as well), they did math, they did writing, the did puzzles... and that was just in the morning! I found myself feeling largely inadequate.

I have been dabbling in combining Unit Studies and a certain level of unschooling lately. I do think the three "R's" are very important but I don't take as structured an approach as my friend does. I use to. When we first started homeschooling I made it more like school at home. I felt that the children wanted it/needed it after being pulled out of public school. I thought it would help them see that we were seriously intending to learn/educate.

We had perils shortly after starting homeschooling though. Situations outside of education but directly effecting it none-the-less. I decided to scale back our plans of attack and by the end of the "school year" we were truly doing Un-schooling.

As the new school year started for this year I was ready to get back on the ball. I had figured out that complete Un-schooling was not the route I desired. Ash and her ADHD couldn't move forward in that format. But I didn't want full school-at-home either. None-the-less, we started our year as Unit Study combined with diluted school-at-home.

All was going well. The one down-side was that our schedule was so strictly drawn out that we would want to investigate a topic further but instead felt pushed forward and past exploration by a "schedule". I was beginning to suspect that another adjustment was needed.

In December we were sitting in our "circle" area. This entails a circle rug we painted together when first starting homeschool. We sit at it to have discussions that require direct focus. We sometimes use it for other purposes as needed. This particular day in December we were sharing some information in a book. B was sitting off to the side fidgeting with some other things in our vicinity. I was growing frustrated that he wasn't "paying attention" so I directed him to turn around and participate. I asked him if he had even heard what I was saying and he said, "yes", and repeated, word for word what I had just been telling his sisters!

I was stumped. I realized that day that, as I have learned in my research, Visual Spatial learners do not always have to be directly attending information in order to obtain it. I had always taken that concept for granted. But the research and advice is there for a reason! Perhaps it was about time I took it!

After our Christmas break I decided to start sampling different approaches. We are only two months post-break and I am still sampling the waters, but so far so good. Our one month space study has turned into two. Some days we just read, other days we just do science or art. Every day I require the kids to read to me and every day I issue some sort of math challenge.

I encourage them to write but I don't usually force it. However, the ways that I do incorporate writing is encouraging to them and much less of a battle. Ash chooses to write on her own anyway. I suppose that is a natural attribute of a pre-teen!

We play a lot of games and I strive to involve them in every aspect of our daytime routines as possible. If I am baking I will call them in to help and measure. If I am trying to figure something out, I call them in to observe the process and contribute in whatever way possible.

We implemented a no-t.v. policy a few weeks ago to encourage self-initiated exploration of books and projects that would otherwise go by the wayside when electronics are available. It is working well.

So my point, my conclusion? Yes, I was intimidated and overwhelmed by my friend's exuberance. But I had to quickly remind myself that, while what she is doing is wonderful, it isn't what we do and that is ok.

Each child and each family will progress in their own way and in their own time. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error. It can require changes now and again when something quits working. That is one of the beauties of homeschool though... it is what you need it to be and it can be adjusted at any time to better fit those needs. Homeschooling is as individual as the families that are blessed to be part of its discipline.

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