Sunday, October 21, 2012

Holding Back a Homeschooler- Part 1

The majority of this post was written about nine months ago in a spiral notebook by hand.  

Three days before Christmas, it dawned on me.  Hold (my son) back a year. Just do it.

Where did this idea even come from? I was cleaning my kitchen when it hit me. I don't think I was even thinking about school, our math stress, or anything related.

I was watching my three children hover around the TV, watching Blues Clues.  (My youngest) had a new interest in it.  But my older two were just as pleased to watch it. My six-year-old.  And my eight-year-old.  I was reminded how sweet- and unique- it is, that an eight-year-old boy would enjoy Blues Clues.  I smiled at them.

And that's when it came to me. Hold him back a year. Just do it.

It's not as if this came out of nowhere.  Several months before, on a day of complete frustration and panic with my homeschooling endeavor and my oldest child, I began searching the Internet for help and encouragement.  Google is my best online friend.  I think my search was for "emotionally immature child homeschooling". I knew I could turn up a plethora of information if I left off the word "homeschooling" but what I was anxious for was relief and encouragement from my home educating cohorts that this was okay, that others had experienced this in their homes as well.

I'll be honest, I got no such relief.  Everything my search turned up was the exact opposite of what I was experiencing- and the typical response you get from homeschoolers if you try to question their success.

Homeschooled children are more mature emotionally, socially, spiritually.

Academically, home educated children surpass their public-school peers.

"My home educated child finished all their course work at 16 and began taking college courses."

Over and over, this is the kind of stuff I found. It made me feel worse- yet I knew there were other homeschooling parents experiencing the opposite of these stereotypes.  But why wasn't anyone rising up and admitting it?

The most helpful articles I found were on the blog of Dr. Susan WiseBauer, author of the highly respected The Well Trained Mind and The Story of the World series (which my own children and I love).  Susan's four part article made a case for the "gap year"- a year between high school graduation and freshman year of college. A year taken purposely to gain experience and maturity before entering college.   As a professor at William and Mary, Bauer says she can always recognize the 18-year-old student from the 19-year-old- and it's a positive difference. Her own son, home educated, decided to take a gap year after looking at his high school transcript and finding it a little light.  Bauer agreed. (And can I just say that was encouragement in and of itself?  That Susan WiseBauer had a son with a "light" high school transcript.)

So while I could find nothing to help me figure out what to do with our struggles- which really do boil down to emotional immaturity- I certainly tossed the idea of holding Caleb back around in my mind- for about two seconds.

Because then all the other typical home school arguments entered my head.

Grade level doesn't matter.

He'll catch up.

What about all the work you've done?

What about your pride? (Okay, that was my own argument.)

I began praying more for my son, asking for wisdom, praying for the right tools to help both of us.  I longed to relax and simply enjoy the sweeter aspects of his immaturity- like Blues Clues, Winnie-the-Pooh, his sensitivity to others' emotions- instead of worrying about him.  I longed to let go of the pressure to get through his third grade math book so he could start his fourth grade book right on schedule next year. I just wanted to relax and enjoy our school year -period.  Snuggle up and read, let them paint, do the gentle things they enjoy.  Instead of drilling in math problems, spelling words, and handwriting practice.  I don't want to be a drill sergeant. I want to be a mom.

I recognize this pressure is mostly created by myself. But can I be honest and say the homeschool community frequently- if not purposely- creates pressure too. They get so defensive about how successful homeschooling is to convince outsiders- while alienating some of their own by creating false images.

There are honest homeschoolers out there and there is help for struggling students and parents. But I failed to turn up the help I need that day on the internet- which should have got me thinking that maybe the Lord was going to use me to be somebody else's help.

So back to three days before Christmas, when I think yes- hold him back. Just do it. Can I express the peace that washed over me? Can I tell you that this is exactly what I had prayed for- wisdom from on high!  Can I also admit that yes, it messes with my pride a little. I'm in my fifth year of home schooling. I have never slacked off, I've always gone above and beyond.  But is this really about me and my pride?

My goal isn't to get my children graduated and out of the house as soon as I can. It's to prepare them for whatever God has for them.  My goal isn't to merely give them a high school diploma at the end of their homeschooling journey- it's to give them the keys to a broad future.

My husband was completely on board with me when I discussed this with him. I can't believe how on board with it I am !  It's yet another way I see God's hand in our homeschool journey and I see how he answers prayer when we faithfully seek him.  He can give me the direction I need even as I watch my three children watching Blues Clues.

(End of handwritten words in a spiral notebook.)

Fast forward nine or ten months later.  We actually did this. We kept our son back a year.  I worried that the local school district would question me about it when I filed our paperwork, but they didn't.  I hoped that the fact that he was still in third grade would kind of fly over his head.  It has.  He asked me just this week what grade he was in and I said "third grade".  He said "When will I be in fourth grade? When I'm ten?"  I answered yes.  And breathed a prayer of thanks.

What I  have already discovered, about a quarter of the way through our school year, is that we made a very very good choice for our son.  He is flying through that same third grade math book that plagued him last year.   Everything is going much better, from English to spelling.  I am blown away by how this decision has made such a positive impact on him as student and me as his teacher and anxious, worried mom.

I plan to write more on this subject, but for now, know that we just did it.  We held him back.  But it's only served to move us forward.

O Canada! Weeks 7 &8

 This week I'm linking up with MFW Highlights at Discover Their Gifts.

The past two weeks we spent "in" Canada.

The more I learn about Canada, the more I want to go there!  What a beautiful country of diverse landscape it is.  Being Mainers, we're very close to our northern neighbors, although it used to be much easier to get over the border for a visit.

Some fun extras we did in the past two weeks included watching the first part of The Anne of Green Gables saga.  It is one of my all time favorites, but the kids' attention fizzled out once we put tape two in (yes, I still have it on VHS).  We also watched the 1966 version of Paddle-to-the-Sea (found on youtube).  We read the book last year and we all loved it.  I read Owls in the Family aloud and we all thoroughly enjoyed this book as well.  It's one that will stick in our memories, I think. I love the power of literature! We learned more about prairies, owls, ornithology, chinooks, and Canada and in a more memorable way than a textbook could ever tell us!

We spent a few days homeschooling during a visit to Nana and Pop-Pop.  I found it really easy to pack of our MFW curriculum and get everything done even though we were away.    Back home again, we did the Inuit Soap Carving craft from Global Art.  The kids really enjoyed this and did a great job.
 Brown Eyed Girl made a tulip.  Mister made a crescent moon.

We also had High Tea, as many still do in British Columbia.  It was a Tupperware/Fisher Price style High Tea, though we did have savories, tiny sandwiches, and scones.

B-E-G enjoyed the tea, Mister and Petite just dipped their food in theirs.

Who can resist tiny peanut butter sandwiches with a dollop of jam on top?

Exploring Countries and Cultures has a really fun Geography game included in the student sheets and teacher supplement.  We use chocolate chips or Cheerios as game markers. The goal is to draw a country card and place a marker on the map in the correct place.  Each country has a number.  You then turn the card over to see if you chose the correct place as  indicated by the number.  I learned all of the North and Central American countries and the kids have learned most of them.

One of my favorite parts of our visits to other countries is the celebration we have as we get ready to depart.  We had a great Canadian feast complete with baked fish, scalloped potatoes, and a maple pudding cake.  Everything was delicious.

We also finished our first missionary biography about Cameron Townsend.  I learned to do some condensing and eliminating of dates and redundant names to make it easier for the kids to listen to and we were all blessed.  Townsend is the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators and the book  really showed us the importance of all people having the Bible in their native language.

Next week we take off for Brazil.  Carnival here we come!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weeks 5 and 6- Mexico!

This week I'm linking up with My Father's World Highlights!

Our school year seems to be flying by. Okay, I realize it's only the end of our 6th week, but I truly look forward to each new day of school.  Studying a country for two weeks is a lot of fun and just enough time to follow some rabbit trails and not get bored.  We are loving My Father's World!

The past two weeks we spent in Mexico.  The kids got the first stamp in their passport as we crossed the border.  ( The passport is part of MFW- a really great idea).  Mexico is dear to our hearts because we sponsor a child from Compassion International from this country.  We write letters to Samuel and we have seen him grow and see the darkness in his eyes turn to light over the past few years of receiving pictures!

Pinatas are a Mexican tradition, particularly for Cinco de Mayo.  We had never made one from scratch, but we gave it a try.  Brown Eyed Girl made hers using a cereal box and Mister did the tradition balloon. I was very skeptical that the balloon pinata would work.  Paper mache is very messy!  I'm surprised Mister, who is a neat freak, was as intent to do this project as he was.

Surprise, surprise, the paper mache balloon held together and we hung it to dry.  It was soooo heavy!

In the meantime, we continue with our regular studies as well.  Mister is using Spelling Power this year and I think it is going pretty well. I like the philosophy behind it, I tweak it a little, and I have found myself surprised by what Mister can spell.  One of Spelling Power's methods is to do spelling activities that involve the five senses. Here, Mister writes misspelled words with fingerpaints.  He didn't complain :)

Once the pinatas were dry, painting began.  Brown Eyed Girl made hers a Mexican flag, and Mister's is going to be a globe. But I confess it's not finished yet.

  Petite is planking on the counter while painting.  Look how grown up she is getting!  She joins us in a lot of activities and has lots of things she can do to stay busy nearby.  She loves her school box, especially the markers. She can easily spend an hour coloring with those- and not just coloring books. Herself too.

Tissue paper flowers are popular at Mexican holidays, so we made a bunch. After I learned how to do it, which took forever.  I am so not crafty!  Once we got the hang of it, we made them in all sizes, made headbands, hung them from the curtain rods, and the kids decorated the staircase with them for our Mexican fiesta!

One thing that is making this year so great is that the cousins are doing the exact same things in school as we are! Almost daily, my kids ask if C & M are doing the same thing, and C & M ask the same of Auntie Jen.  This seems to be motivating to all of us!

We did the classic blindfolding and spinning the pinata whacker the number of years of their age, then went to doing it without the blindfold.  I took a while, the string broke (as I figured it would) and we ended up putting it on a stake, but eventually we got the pinata open and the goodies inside came out.

Later that night we had our fiesta, with homemade tortillas (more like gorditas, no tortilla press for me), lots of fillings, and guacamole, salsa, cheese dips!  We made Mexican wedding cookies for dessert as well as my version of churros.  Mariachi music was playing via the Internet.  When Josh offered up the prayer for the meal, we all chimed in with an  OLE! instead of an Amen.  Unit studies are too much fun!