Sometimes, seeing a picture, or reading one of my homeschool friends’ posts reminds me that I need to step back and re-assess, yet again, how I am doing things.
But first, a funny story…
Ode to Phred
My friend Bethany, a homeschool mom posted a great picture of her kids showing off their latest craft/science project on how tendons and joints work.
This immediately reminded me of Phred, the Pheasant (less) Phoot.
In any case, this brought to mind some fun times during my previous marriage, where I was stepmom to three kids, two boys and one girl. The oldest, Bill, came home from school one day with a pheasant foot in hand. “This girl in school had it,” he said by way of explanation, “her family went hunting last weekend and she brought this foot in to show everyone.”
Sort of creepy, sort of cool.
The girl had painted the pheasant(less) foot talons a garish red and Bill could make the foot open and close by pulling on the tendons sticking out.
Fascinating, although exceedingly high on my ‘creepy’ scale.
After a week or so the tendons atrophied and he could no longer manipulate it so easily, but Bill had plenty of fun with that foot. One evening I found it on my pillow…and screamed bloody murder.
Another time I went out to get some water and brushed past something hanging in the hallway. On the way back I screamed again…it was that damned pheasant foot hanging from the light. It became a game of “who can make Christine/mom scream loudest” and I was starting to lose my voice.
I sat down and wrote the following poem:
Ode to Phred
“The Pheasant(less) Phoot”
I am Phred
A pheasant(less) phoot
A phoot among
Phoots am I.
Once I was more
With a body and a
Phinely pheathered head.
I am but Phred
The pheasant(less) phoot
Talons polished in red
Boast of terribly phine deeds
By my tendons are old
Their phreedom slowly spent
My existence is plain
Here only to serve
The young ones who phind
Me amusing to observe.
The dog wants to sniph me
The cats want a bite
And the woman always screams
When she phinds me in the night.
I am Phred!
I am Pheasant(less)!
Phred the Pheasant(less) Phoot!
The Daily Grind
The last few weeks have been rather demanding and stressful. There is the Homes Tour that our house is on, our Cottage renovation, general life and work, and of course, homeschooling. Add to that my attempt to keep our costs low by planning, shopping and cooking all of our meals instead of eating out, and I need more hours in a day than the Earth currently provides.
That and patience. I need more of that too.
Couple it with a rather demanding schedule that does NOT seem to be reducing on its own, and this mama is not a happy camper.
I have been trying to find a way to have Em learn the basics without me standing there teaching her every minute of it. And she seems to be equally determined to drag me through it since she is required to endure it.
Some of our days have been…lengthy. And each morning (and throughout the day) I spend time (or in my view, waste time) child wrangling. Redirecting her to get back to learning, over and over and over.
I don’t want to spend my days nagging my child endlessly. But I also don’t want to neglect her education.
A recent TED talk, however, made me realize that while education is important, so are relationships. (Thanks to my eldest for sending that link my way.) So how do I balance the two?
It seems that I waver between providing Em a “proper” education and one that is more eclectic in nature.
Reading the Writing on the Wall
Sometimes it feels as if our attempts to homeschool are a series of failures and re-assessment. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing more harm than good.
I think it is important to ask those questions.
I talked with my eldest recently about it, as well as a brief discussion with my husband as he was heading out the door. Dave had a short week last week – on Monday and Tuesday he was at home sick. On Tuesday he felt well enough to supervise Em with homeschool, so he handled at least half of it, and I followed up with the rest. His one comment this morning was, “It seems like it was twice, even more than twice, the work she was doing back in January.”
And he was right. The studies and amount of work to do seem to drag on without end. No wonder the kiddo wakes up every morning with a different excuse.
“I don’t feel well.”
“Perhaps today could be our day off?”
“I want to help you with baking Mom!”
“Could I just read extra today?”
Dee asked, “Do you think it is time to enroll her in public school?”
And I don’t want to. Here is why:
- Time with other kids equates “fun” in Em’s mind.
- There is a strong possibility that she will be popular (she certainly is now) and well liked, but there is also a tendency towards a mob of same-age kids to isolate and bully each other. I don’t want that for her. I want her to have a strong sense of self and not have to be subjected to that crap.
- I absolutely will not support putting a child in school and then having homework sent home. If she is in school for hours and hours, she does not need to come home and have even more of her day taken up with homework. The evenings should be for family interaction, not a punishing pile of homework.
What Is Important Here?
After talking with Dee, Dave and watching the TED talk I asked myself, “What is important here?”
- Has good relationships with me, her dad, extended family and friends.
- Is allowed to learn at her own pace, discovering her interests and strengths along the way
- Learns the basics without them being crammed down her throat. I want her to understand how fun learning can be!
- Knows how to problem-solve, discover answers for herself, and be able to function independently and successfully in the outside world.
- Has future success in whatever life choices she makes – college, career, and personal life.
A Talk With Em
After I had spoken with Dave and Dee, I said to Em, “We need to restructure homeschooling again, because it isn’t working well for either of us.” And then I asked, “Tell me what you think of Time4Learning.”
She said, “I like Language Arts, but I hate everything else.”
Yep, time for a different approach to homeschooling. I know that not everything in life can be positive and fun, but even I was falling asleep during the Social Studies and Science modules!
You know how plans can be. They start out with the best of intentions. Some work, others fail miserably. However, here is what I’ve come up with. We will experiment with these and come up with the best fit as time goes by.
I am hoping that I can still focus on some of my own projects in the mornings. This would allow Em to wake up naturally and then go about completing her morning activities and homeschool work she can do on her own (French, reading, typing, cursive)
We are still homeschooling four days per week, and year-round. I’ve told Em that, during the weekdays, she is not to be on the computer watching YouTube videos, or playing Minecraft before 5 p.m. The exception to this will be her typing instruction practice.
As for the rest of the study categories…
One of the things that popped into my brain is that, with the age of reason fully upon us, perhaps I can go straight to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. That, and I remembered Dee’s studies of women’s history. It is high on my list of priorities to give her a solid understanding of the powerful roles women have had through history. To that end, we will watch historical documentaries from all eras, and read from 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History.
I’m also going to look into the Don’t Know Much About History series by Kenneth Davis. There are quite a few offshoots to his main book, and I’ve ordered them used, so we will dip into them when they arrive.
How does one improve in this category? By reading and writing, rinse and repeat. I cannot emphasize just how very important this particular section of study is to me. As a writer and an avid reader, I’m sure you can imagine it is pretty high on the list of priorities.
We will continue with our weekly spelling lists, daily reading, cursive writing 3x per week, creative writing 3x per week, a letter to a friend or family member once per week, and add in daily typing practice with the new typing program arriving on Wednesday.
Other than the science of cooking, I’m putting this on hold. She learns a lot through our gardening efforts and more. In February I will probably enroll her in LEARN Math and Science.
Sal Khan of Khan Academy recently gave a TED talk on the importance of learning a math concept to mastery. And when we hit the spot in Time4Learning where Em was supposed to transition from multiplication to simple division, I quickly realized how weak her multiplication skills were.
I am getting flash cards that cover all four areas: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We will mix them up and start her working on them. When she has them down, without any hiccups, then we will move on to something more advanced. I’m also returning to the Life of Fred books. Em liked them, a lot, and so it is Life of Fred for the win!
Em asked for more art experiences. To that end, all I can say is, the Art Room is ready and waiting for us to get busy creating art and messes!
I’ve asked Dave to head up supervising her cello practice. He has an ear for music and has really helped spark her willingness to practice more.
So far, Em can fry herself an egg, operate the microwave, and cook ramen noodles. I would like for her to branch out. So from now on, she will be helping me prepare dinner on most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And it isn’t just living skills, really. It is also math (fractions) and science (baking, chemical changes).