Monday, November 23, 2015

Bits & Pieces : homeschooling thoughts beyond the curriculum

I said in a previous post (about what resources we've been using for homeschooling our kindergartner) that I had some other things I wanted to share.

I'm unpacking my thoughts in bits and pieces. Nothing profound here. Just things I'm thinking and working on a lot lately.

+ As a new homeschool parent, balance is tricky. I need to keep up the house. I need to make sure the kids are getting the best possible (while also reasonable) educational experience. I need to take care of myself. I want to keep cooking awesome stuff and spending a bit of time exercising and enjoying my time with Paul.  Here's sorta how I've managed to pin it down...

+ My mornings (except Wednesday) are blocked off for my top priorities: housekeeping & homeschool.  What I have found in the past three months that works best is this sort of weaving of the two threads.  I don't have Thomas sit for hours until he is finished with schoolwork. I do it in short bursts of quality one-on-one time in between cleaning. Our morning looks something like this: We eat breakfast.  Then I clean a bit. I put away clean dishes while the boys play for a moment. Then we all sit with books and I read a couple chapters out loud (or picture books if I'm reading the crowd and the crowd is already loud at 7:30 a.m.).  Then I will get up and make my bed and clean the bathroom and start some laundry. Then I will teach Thomas a lesson. Then I will do more cleaning.  Then I will teach Thomas or the boys some more.  Then maybe snacks or cooking of some kind.  Then another school lesson or activity. This is not exact clockwork. It's just essentially housework, then homeschool, then housework, then homeschool... And on and on until lunch. It literally feels like I'm braiding two cords together. I'm hoping that makes since to someone.

+ What do we really want to teach? I'm very passionate and knowledgeable about the academic portion of education, but now I keep thinking about everything else. And here the distinction between a homeschooling parent and any other parent completely dissipates. But I have to ask myself--That's great if you know something, but what can you do? That question. Or this one--That's great if you know something, but what good is it without character? It's not either/or. We have to teach both. I'm just thinking that we get it wrong often in thinking much more of the academic portion of learning (and where we send or keep our kids to learn) than we do all the other things we should be teaching: morality, work ethic, integrity, service, and so forth.

It doesn't matter how awesome the "schooling" is, or honestly, to some degree, how mediocre, or where it is taking place.  Knowledge has little place to land and take root without that foundation of gratitude and hard work and self-awareness and empathy for others.  When I was in the public school system it was those students with that maturity and character development from their home life whom I would look at and think that when it all washed out (those ways in which we measure learning in schools), it wouldn't matter what grades those students received.  They had all the tools they would need and when they bumped up or against their needs or jobs or discovered missions as adults, they would bring forth and bring to themselves all the "knowledge" they would need specifically because of that foundation of everything else that can't be measured by tests but only fed by an abundance of intentionality, nurturing, discipline, direction and love on the part of parents.

+ I'm very grateful for this. I'm glad we are here, that we are homeschooling.  I'm blessed at this time and place in my life that the way in which I'm providing for my family is the very same thing that endlessly feeds me.  I love all things teaching and learning. I always, always have.  Teaching looks different for me now than when I was teaching teenagers (and I do miss those teenagers!), but I have so much experience and passion to pull from.  I have very practical knowledge to use as well.

I think we should all be able to enjoy that feeling of being really good at something.  I've worked so hard at becoming good at housekeeping... It's a slow and steady uphill battle for me. But to be teaching again! It literally feels like a breath of fresh air every day.  I know little tricks for when Thomas is stuck or how to take a lesson and put a spin on it.  I have oodles of content knowledge and I have sober memories when I taught more than let students learn... and so I keep that in my heart and mind as well.

+ Drawing on our why. Earlier this year, I wrote down ten reasons we wanted to homeschool. Six had nothing to do with academics.  I'm glad I took the time to do that.  Comparing our school to a brick and mortar is like comparing apples to oranges. We have different aims. I won't shy away from sharing with you that I think we (our culture at large) are getting some things very wrong with early education.

Let them play. Let them pretend they've got guns. Let them stare and dig in dirt and run around. We are taking academic disappointments in America and running those fears into the way we teach small children.  I see parents panicking about preschools and maybe this is because most of us are full time working mommies now.  But c'mon people. Where is the common sense? Have you watched a child learn? Have you led them to a clean room with books and crayons and coloring paper nearby?  Why do we insist on the ridiculous demands on small children?

Maybe it's not actually happening at the school you send your children, but it is increasingly all too common. Ridiculous PC nonsense. Fights from parents for just slivers of recess. Upped and upped pressure on kindergartners to read (even though the research has again and again and again and again shown that this is a crap approach).  Loads of homework going home this very afternoon with kids who should be going home to play and sit with mom and talk to dad over dinner and not be thinking about more math.

Whew. I could just not ever stop on this one.  Anyway, yeah. Six of our reasons (mind you--for a kindergartner only) had nothing to do with academics and I still feel just exactly like that way. This isn't to say we aren't doing some rigorous, high quality things with the academic portion. It's just that when I'm watching Thomas read to the twins or make lunch with me or build Legos or putz around the backyard, I can't help but think I'm nearly fighting for that margin in his life right now because it is one of those things I feel immensely passionate and super convicted about.

Okay, I'll stop there. Maybe more later.

Chat with me in the comments.  You know you know you know I love chatting about this stuff.

And sorry for the grammatical errors. I wrote this in a rush and Thomas is up from a nap and asking me questions about termites now.

Also, Thomas recited a wee poem. Here's the video if you're into that sort of thing.


  1. Once again, you speak my mind! The course I'm teaching right now relates to this need for play as a priority at this age! Keep up the great work!

    1. Lindsey, do you have any articles or books you reference or use in your class that touch on this subject? I would love your insight & expertise. A few books have influenced me (Last Child in the Woods, Nurtureshock & How Children Learn), but I would love to know more. I'm so fascinated by the learning process of children. I've watched something with Thomas that really interests me. We read aloud a lot of chapter books. Sometimes, he pays careful attention to what I'm reading. Other times, he needs to keep his hands busy. When I check his understanding, he almost always knows what is going on. The interesting bit, and I read about this in How Children Learn, is that in between our learning he uses play in order to own or reassemble his understanding. It's as if his play is as real as an adult working. He repeats words he just heard or replays plot events or creates a similar conflict. However, it's not the whole of what he is doing. It's just a small portion of what he is doing. I watch this and don't say anything to him because I know his mind is doing exactly what it needs to to assimilate to that new knowledge. It's so incredibly fascinating to me. Like I said, if you know of any more books on this subject or on child development in general you would recommend, I would love that. I feel like you already told me about a book or two, but on my "to read" list there isn't anything there. It's very possible I dreamt that up! :)

  2. Once again, you speak my mind! The course I'm teaching right now relates to this need for play as a priority at this age! Keep up the great work!

  3. Great thoughts, Ashley! Really like hearing your perspective as a former teacher. I've just had the experience of teaching my own kids, so I don't have anything concrete to compare it to, other than feeling like we're worlds away from the traditional school setting.

  4. If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . . that we *must believe* to get to Heaven . . .

    I list it on my website > > >

    The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

    Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
    "They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Deuteronomy 31:21 >
    "For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
    "Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."