Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Homeschooling

I'm sitting here at the computer, licking delicious homemade German Sweet Chocolate pie filling off a spoon. The two youngest Savages are in the kitchen, spreading the remainder of the filling into a pie crust. After it has chilled, they will sprinkle it with chocolate they have grated themselves, and serve it when we have friends over later today.

They just offered me the bowl to lick. The world is indeed a happy place. It's moments like this that make me grateful to be homeschooling.

This is my ninth year as a homeschooling mom. It amuses me that after all this time I'm still having to explain what we do and why we do it. It's not easy going against the norm. And it is odd for an outsider to see kids learning this way, when it seems like they should be learning a different way - the way they would be learning in school. I recently likened it to letting them eat a turkey sub for breakfast when most people have eggs or cereal. Just because it doesn't look like the school variety of learning doesn't mean that it's any less nourishing. Sometimes it's even better.

Having said that - I'll be the first to say that homeschooling isn't for everyone - just like martial arts or tennis or skydiving or basket weaving isn't for everyone. I have plenty of friends whose kids go to school and they're very happy with that choice and I'm very happy for them. The Teen goes to High School and loves it, and I'm very happy for him. School can be a wonderful, wonderful thing for many people.

But for me, and for my younger kids - nothing beats a day like today.

Here's what a good day looks like in my universe right now.

After seeing the Teen off to school this morning, I enjoyed my morning coffee and the little boys enjoyed some extra sleep. At about 8:45, I heard the rustling of a Navy Blue Blanket Monster sneaking up behind me, waving its navy blue blanket tentacles at me in an adorably threatening manner. The Little Savage was awake.

He immediately asked if we could make crepes. After extracting from him a promise that he would clean up the kitchen afterward, I pulled out the French cookbook and looked up the recipe. He read the recipe, got out and measured all the ingredients, assembled the hand blender, mixed up the batter, and heated the pan. I helped him with the pouring and flipping, noting that he still hasn't mastered this, but that he does pretty well for a 7 year old. While I poured the last few crepes, he washed and re-assembled the hand blender and made fresh whipped cream for filling and topping. Delicious!

When we were done, he unloaded and loaded the dishwasher and washed the pan. Middle Savage stays up late reading and sleeps late in the morning, but he the smell of fresh crepes had lured him out of bed. He hugged his little brother and praised his culinary skills and the two of them took off upstairs - with the cat - to get dressed. It took them a long time, probably because getting dressed also involved building a fort on the lower bunk of Middle's bed and playing with toys and action figures in it. I stood outside the door listening to the wacky stories they were coming up with, and decided not to interrupt the brotherly bonding.

Savageman came home for lunch and we all enjoyed some time together. Our friends called to confirm hiking plans for later in the day. Middle started some laundry and spent a while working on his typing while Little and I got to work on Ancient Rome.

Little is still doing the cyberschool curriculum, and History is the best part of that. We reviewed the geography of Italy, Greece, and the Mediterranean, the Tiber (no, not the Tigris) River, and he colored the map while we heard the story of Romulus and Remus. We were having so much fun, we went on to learn about Horatius, Cincinnatus, the Roman Republic, the consuls and senators, the similarities between this style of government and our own, and the differences between it and that of Ancient Greece.

When we got to the part about how the Romans borrowed ideas from the Greeks, Middle arrived on the scene, eager to review Greek gods and goddesses and hoping to share his vast knowledge on the subject with his little brother. They spent the next 45 minutes or so reading from a book on Ancient Greece together, looking at the pictures and reading about Greek mythology. Little Savage decided to color workbook pictures of battle scenes from the Punic Wars while Middle Savage excused himself to make a chocolate pie.

I sat down to write about how much I was enjoying all of this.

Once the pie was chillin' in the fridge and the Punic War pictures were done (I was especially touched by the creepy red eyes and bloody swords - little boy art at its most gruesome...), they went outside with paint and paper and created some artistic masterpieces using a variety of painting techniques. I heard them discussing what would be cool to try, what would be appropriate names for the colors each one was mixing, making suggestions to each other, complimenting aspects of each other's work.

Soon after, our friends arrived, having finished their own book work for the day. The pie was served with style on the back patio while my friend and I swapped ideas on how to teach pre-writing and organization for paragraphs and essays. We read a sample of the Teen's high school writing and marveled at how far he had come since he struggled with this so many years ago. It was a good reminder of how they are each on their own developmental path, which needs to be respected even as we guide and encourage and find new ways to teach these skills.

When they finished their pie, we packed them up and headed for the Appalachian Trail. We hiked a good 3 miles, showed them some cool stuff, and talked about transfer of energy, photosynthesis, and decomposition, among other things. My friend and I struggled to identify different plants, and I'm sure by next time, one of us will have found a good book on the subject. We adults are constantly learning too - this way of life isn't just about nourishing the kids.

We came back, had a light dinner, heard about the Teen's day at school and soccer, and the friends took Middle with them to martial arts class, where they were putting the final touches on the big show they are performing in next weekend. I stayed behind to help the Teen prepare for the French and Honors Biology tests he has Friday. Little Savage went for a walk with his Grandma, and Savageman and I went out together for a little while before picking up Middle. I went back to studying with the Teen, Middle retired to his room to read, and Little colored more pictures from his History workbook before Savageman took him up for stories and bed.

Looking back over the day, I guess you could say that we didn't do much schoolwork. Neither of them opened a math book today, so I'll have to make that a priority tomorrow. Little didn't do any formal reading or phonics either - other than in the course of making the recipes and during History. Middle probably didn't read any of his American History today - although the refresher on the Greek and Roman governments will come in handy when we discuss the Constitutional Convention in a few weeks. Music was neglected today, and the kids are overdue for their weekly piano instruction - but they guided themselves through a great art lesson on the driveway in the sunshine and created some beautiful pieces. No one did science - unless you count the talks on how plants create matter out of air and water and sunlight, the transfer of the sun's energy through the food chain, the decomposers, the water cycle, where to find stream creatures - okay, there was a lot of science. Our active little boys (and active little girl) got their physical education in the form of that hike and their martial arts class.

Some of the other things they learned today aren't on the school-learning menu at all. The deep nurturing that happens in the context of the brother-relationship, watching and interacting with their parents throughout the day, their contributions to the running of the house - those expectations and the understanding that if one of them doesn't do his chore - the laundry, the dishwasher, whatever - the rest of the family is going to be inconvenienced, the manners and protocol involved in entertaining and sharing a meal, spending unstructured time with their friends and absorbing the caring and support and give-and-take example set by adults who are also friends. If they were in school all day, they might have still had these things after their day at school was over, but I like the fact that it's a natural part of the curriculum here.

I think they like it too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog and read this post - awesome! I am just beginning on our homeschooling journey here and what you wrote has confirmed it all the more for me. This day you described is just perfect. Perfect.