Saturday, December 29, 2012

The painful truth about homeschool blogs

I don't blog too often in part because I want to keep myself honest about homeschooling and our life. And you can't do that too well by blogging.
For one thing, blogging tempts us to glamorize, since we get to choose what we depict of our lives. The pretty magazine-spread of our carefully selected frames, insinuate that we are domestic goddesses...when 4 feet to the left of the frame is 5 feet of laundry pile and 15 square feet of what looks like flood debris on the floor. How can we? No one takes a picture of their worst days, and shares it. That kind of thing would be social suicide.


I'm not saying there aren't any homeschooling families out there who are managing to be June Cleaver in pearls and heels, entertaining regularly and keeping all t's crossed and i's dotted while homeschooling. There probably are. I just hope I don't ever accidentally have any of them over.

You can say blogging, and particularly Pinterest, are "aspirational" but I say, they are more like airbrushed magazines that leave us a bit unsatisfied with our own unedited,  un-Photoshopped lives. That is why I haven't blogged more: because the world doesn't need another self-aggrandizing blog by another perfect mother.


I made playdough in the microwave today as an act of desperation to keep the toddler happy and busy while I did the eldest's hair, told the middle kid to wait until I could listen (a dozen times) and then tried to get the dishwasher loaded while interceding on the toddler's attempts to throw playdough into the middle-child's hair and onto the floor. Suddenly they were hungry again. Then in the midst of cleaning up after cooking, it was afternoon and we still hadn't done the eldest's lesson, and now the toddler was finally ready for that nap he wouldn't take when it would have been most convenient for me. I made more tea. Then it was dinnertime, and time for the preparations for bedtime, which themselves take almost as long as the actual bedtime. Another day over, but dishes are just going to have to stay dirty til I get a cup of tea in me and get them done in the morning. I read "Real-Life Homeschooling" for inspiration and the sense that how our lives run is one of many flavors of ok. The eldest is making great progress at spelling and grammar, has nice cursive, and is doing fine even if we have days where nothing gets done, just like in school, where they also have those days. And life still marches on, unaware and unconcerned about prepositions. And if I do manage to get the kitchen floor actually cleaned (by actually mopping!) I'll have to take a photo and blog about it. So I can look back and recall that it actually happened.


Now for something completely unschooly...

Teaching colors, shapes, and days of the week/months of the year, to make sure kids know them, seems to be the thing when kids are little. And I have to laugh a little, looking back, at the sheer waste of time it represents (unless it's just fun to do it, in which case, that's always worthwhile).

I am just as entranced as anyone, at the colorful collection of cute bulletin board supplies and reusable calendars with change-out pockets for days, and different headers for months, at the office supply store. I even recently put up a little chalkboard in what used to be the dining room, with a wipe-clean dry-erase calendar and everything. It's so darned cute! Made me feel good, too.

But I caught myself thinking about my daughter, now 8, and her ease and facility with using calendars and planning and plotting, looking forward to special occasions and how she'd remind me several times a day, how many days away a certain holiday was. And I realize I never purposefully taught her the days of the week or months of the year. Even if no one spoons it into their heads, by 8, they will drag that information out of you, the calendar (on their own), or some other source, and beat you over the head with it! 

There is no stopping them. Once they can read for themselves, if you have calendars around the house, the plotting and planning and finding out how long til whatever, begins, whether they ever recited a drill on it or not. So it's totally ok if you completely forget to teach those things. They will still find out and make use of that information, no matter what.

Colors in particular, being taught explicitly, make me laugh, because the names of colors are as much an intrinsic part of our language (and all languages if you think about it) that a kid can't learn their own mother tongue and become a fluent speaker in it, without also somehow knowing the names of colors, even if no one thinks to teach it to them as a subject. Same with shapes. So what happens, if those things aren't deliberately taught at a certain age? Nothing. They still learn it, the same way they learn that sky is that air up there, and water is that clear stuff you drink.

So when products tout that they teach colors, or when curricula teach colors as if they are somehow learned differently from other commonly encountered descriptors in the language a child learns, I find it kind of funny. What happens if no one teaches it to them!? Are they going to go through life ignorant, calling an orange, a Yellow? Ach, if only I had taught them their colors! None of this would have happened!

At least I don't feel the slightest bit guilty, that I don't sit my younger ones in a circle on the floor and recite the colors, shapes, and days of the week with them. Kudos to those who do, particularly if they and the kids enjoy it. But how nice to know, not even lifting a finger in that direction, has absolutely no consequences, whatsoever. Ahhhhh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Balancing interests against overscheduling

Here we go again! Last year, just with ballet and soccer twice a week each, and some minor preschool for the middle child, we felt our time at home was always frantic: getting ready to go somewhere else; unpacking from being somewhere else; or getting ready for some other transition, like meals, bath/brush teeth/bedtime, and collapse. Our homelife suffered, and the kids (and I!) started craving time at home to DO NOTHING. A lengthy viral illness gave us just that, and we discovered how pleasurable it could be, even sick, to have couch time, to slow down and enjoy reading together, talking and and listening, and not rushing.

Fast forward after a carefree summer of no scheduled anything, but lots of easy, casual, hanging out with the neighbor friends, the kids swinging on rope swings in their carport under their personal pine forest, the adults grilling together, sharing a few beers, talking, and me chasing the toddler. It was heaven, as much of heaven as could be had for a summer doldrum in a gritty neighborhood.

But suddenly, my email inbox filled with opportunities. The NASA Challenger Learning Center has homeschool-only -classes, with homeschool-friendly hours (midday, midweek) and reasonable prices, for cool stuff my nearly-5-year-old and 8-year-old can both benefit from and enjoy.

Not only that, but a youth theater project an hour's drive to the south is taking enrollment...erg...maybe next year? An hour each way is too much with food allergies and a toddler.

Sp scratch that idea. But my 8-year-old's deep passion is rocks and minerals, so we went to a big annual rock and mineral show and got info on all the local clubs she might join, including one for youth, that meets one Saturday a month in the daytime. A bit of a drive, but not bad.

So, between some actual studies planned [such as Soroban Japanese Abacus, Spelling to Write and Read, and more] and her passions [rocks and minerals, art] and interests shared with her little brother [space science, nature walks, outdoor physical play], plus obvious needs to have some undirected leisure time at home, and some outdoor walks and social time, I think we are full. 
Overfull, probably.