Let's be clear: homeschooling is awesome/easier-than-you'd think/a gift/the best kept secret 95% of days.
The other 5% can be terribly taxing.
But that's kind of like anything, don't you think?
We actually just came off a hard spell. Right before Christmas break I would have been THRILLED to send the 9yo back to school, had he wanted it too. Oh, and trust me when I tell you, I gave him the option multiple times. It was never a homeschooling issue as much as it was a personalily conflict issue. He's so happy these days (isn't that great!?), he's acting on that new-found joy (yeah!!). He's been exerting his happiness, independence and willfulness often (uh-oh). And it's been driving me nuts. So it came to the point where I boiled over and crumbled in the face of his adolescent determination.
I told him in no uncertain terms that our sweet arrangement would be no more. The fear of returning to school temporarily paralyzed him, and I must admit, I thought this a good thing. I didn't really mean it, I just wanted him to sit alone with the thought for an hour. I wanted the fear to guide him back towards the light. And it did. He came around and apologized for being difficult, I apologized for ruining eveyone's Christmas Eve morning. ;)
But this Monday was perfect(!), and so I had to share just what a perfect day of homeschooling looks like for us.
My son typically wakes up around 8:30 in the morning. He's low energy at this point. He usually opts to sit on the couch, wrapped in his comforter and do nothing more than do a little inhale and exhale exercise. Launching him from this point has never been seamless until I realized how well he transitions from here to joy just from the simple act of being read to. We are three days into this little trick of mine and it's going so well. He loves the dynamic, and I love that I can basically read him anything I want him to hear and get away with it because at this point, he's just grateful not to have to do anything beyond listen. Monday morning we started off with Oliver Twist, Tuesday I read him two articles out of Smithsonian magazine, and this morning I read to him various things from National Geographic.
But back to Monday and Oliver Twist. I have always wanted to dive into Dickens before going to The Dickens Fair each Christmas, but never seem to pull it off. This week, we dove into the life of Dickens, learned all about his childhood of poverty and how it influenced the stories he wrote. We discussed how the man's work brought light to the horrific conditions of the English poor mid-nineteenth century, and how his popularity helped to bring about reform to English labor laws. In the context of our recent experience at The Dickens Fair, it made it all incredibly relevant and exciting to take in!
OK - so at this point we are riding high on the whole Oliver Twist experience, we've talked about Dickens in depth, and I'm feeling good about all our learning coming full circle, and the connections being made. It's about 9:30 in the morning now and we are ready to move on. The kid builds a lego kit with his little brother.
Next up, the kid did a self-directed art project. I should mention that my son was never really into creating art until we homeschooled. I have been taking him to museums and plays since day one. I have been exposing him to art and architecture at every chance possible, but when I volunteered in his public school art class, a program I happen to think is incredible, he could have cared less. I was OK with this. I was happy just to know he had an appreciation for the arts and so I didn't push him creating the art as well. Then I just happened to find an incredible program locally where an artist and naturalist teaches whoever wants to show up, how to draw things like water birds and birds of prey, mushrooms and shore birds. I asked him if he wanted to give it a shot and to my surprise, he did. I sent him with his artist grandma and DING-DING-DING-DING-DING!!! He's now into drawing. Why? Because he's gaining skills to create what is important to him. He doesn't want to create abstract art. He doesn't want to play with mixed medias. My kid wants to draw birds. And now he does. (10:30 - 11:15)
I sometimes feel my job as a homeschooling parent is half the work that it could be, not because I'm organized or sourcing out all the big stuff, but because my child is a ferocious reader. This is so huge in my book. When I need to do something and can't be with him, I tell him to read. Sometimes he picks out what he wants, sometimes I tell him what he needs to read, either way, he's taking in meaningful subject matter. If I were a little more type-A and a little less me, I'd have him write about it. But at this point, he doesn't want to write. And so I remind myself that I should just be happy my kids is a crazy reader with interests in history and science. The rest will come soon enough.
On Monday, he read The Brick Bible. I am proud to say my son is addicted to this series. I find this fascinating and all together exciting mostly because we are in no way religious. He picked out these books and reads them cover to cover, over and over and over again. My son has never stepped foot in a church but our willingness to discuss religion and spirituality have made him curious about Jesus and God. I love this as this is a part of all of us and our history in some way. I love that he can now talk about the stories of The Bible, more so than I ever could despite going to ten years of catechism. And BTW - these books are just incredible! Look on Amazon for Brick Bible and see all the other options available - Brick Shakespeare and Assassination! need a place on our bookshelves, I'm thinking!
After a bit of reading while I folded laundry, the kid and I played a game of Prof. Noggin's Civil War. I love this series of games and we have about five. He kicked my butt 11 to 7(!) and so I thought to reward him with an episode of Ken Burns' Civil War. There is so much great programing on and I am not above using tv and movies to educate my kids. In fact, it's been a great way for us to share in the learning.
KB's Civil War documentary opened up to imagery too graphic for the four-year old, so we quickly changed it to an episode of The Liberty Kids. We will get back to it again soon, perhaps when Dad is home and the younger ones are in bed.
Our day of "official learning" finished at about 1, when we headed out to run errands. Homeschooling never really ends in my mind. Once we decided to make the change, we found ourselves rising up beyond our norm and turning every experience into one that is meaningful in some way. Running errands has taken on a whole new meaning to us and I absolutely love it (95% of the time).
At the end of the day, the 9yo told me that our day together was the best day of homeschooling he'd ever had. I'd silently disagreed, personally believing that we've had many just as good as this one. But he's right, it was as good as we could ever hope for.