A little self assessment – good for the homeschool.

Here I am!

Yes, I fell off the face of the planet for a little while. We, and by we I really mean I, were in a bit of a sophomore slump with homeschooling. There might have been a few parent/child relationship issues and there might have been some illness issues. But let’s just say that life creeped up on me and the last thing I had the energy for was putting myself “out there.”  I suppose the fact that I’m writing this now means I’m starting to rebound a bit.

So…homeschooling sophomore slump. I’ve no idea if there really is such a thing but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there is. Just about everything we tried last year worked so we kept it up, but somewhere along the way school became a struggle, too much like work.  There were daily arguments: “Mom, do I HAVE to do that?” and even, my worst nightmare: “MOM, I HATE SCHOOL!” Uh-oh, clearly it was time to face the music and figure out what needs to change.

I’ve begun to realize that I have been taking too much responsibility for EJ’s education and have not let him become responsible for himself. We do too much together. I ask him to do too little, and often the wrong things, by himself. The flip side is that I have to look at what my expectations are and try not to fit too much in each day. I don’t think I’m too far off the mark, but sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through things. I’ve noticed I have a tendency to talk too much. I say what comes to my mind often over-complicating a topic. I suspect that having EJ do more on his own will help solve both issues although undoubtedly it will bring up others. As I start planning for next year I’m trying out some small changes now to see if they feel like the right direction. So far there has been improvement so I’m optimistic.

Mr. Hamp recently asked me if I thought there might be a time we would put the boys back in school. He is on board with homeschooling 100% but he saw how frustrated we all were on one particular day. I have to consider this question thoughtfully and honestly with myself.  Certainly I could and would, if I had to, but truthfully my philosophy about education has changed to the point that I simply can’t see us ever going back to a traditional type education. It’s pretty obvious to me that I’m in this for the long run, so I need to constantly stay on my toes and remember my first rule of homeschooling:

“Be flexible and if it ain’t working, find a new way!”

I’m wondering about other homeschoolers? Maybe this never happens to you, but it seems unlikely. I imagine that everyone one of us has our difficult periods where homeschooling just doesn’t seem to be working. So how do you refresh and reset when you realize that you’ve lost your way?

Wordless Wednesday: Faker Sharker

This is what happens when a child listens to Frere Jacque on Poisson Rouge and tries to figure out the words himself. Obviously we don’t sing together enough here.

Poetry Monday: Marianne Moore

We generally read or memorize one poem each week and spend a few moments learning about the poet’s life. I try to place each poet in time and location, along with any interesting information that makes them memorable. I’m hoping to make poetry a semi-regular posting here.

Marianne Moore
(1887 – 1972)

Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet with sharp wit. She graduated from one of the “Seven Sisters”  – Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Ms. Moore made her living as a teacher in Pennsylvania and later as a library assistant in New York City. She wrote poetry throughout her life and beginning in 1915 her works began appearing in a number of literary magazines. She was awarded the Pulitzer prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollinger Award for her book Collected Poems (1951).

Her most well-known poem is titled Poetry. She was almost notorious for frequently revising her poetry. Poetry, for example, in its original incarnation was 32 lines. She revised it several times, eventually down to just three lines. I believe that the original poem is far more thought-provoking and ‘real’ than the final revision; her most evocative lines in the original have been omitted.  Take for instance this often quoted line:

Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.

The writer’s job, she seems to say, is to bring real life, sometimes ugly as toads, into the world of the imagination. Unlike the school-books and business documents she mentions earlier in the poem, poetry is a combination of the imagination and reality. Both are important but their role is quite different.

Here’s an audio recording of Moore I found reciting her poem Bird-Witted.

Continue reading

Writing, part II

Last week I posted about EJ and writing. My struggle to strike a balance. I want to nudge him so he progresses but not so much that he shuts down. There seems to be a very small window between the two. This week he completed the second All About Spelling writing activity I mentioned in the previous post.

Objective: Use the following words in sentences. You may not use all the words in a single sentence, but you may combine one or more words into each sentence. The sentences may be unrelated to each other or related forming a paragraph.

I let thirty minutes go by before checking in on him. He had nothing on paper, and no ideas. My husband saw both of our frustration and stepped in to help. I don’t know if what he said helped EJ, but I do know that five minutes after his dad talked with him he brought this in to me:

feeding | spoonful | toothless | sobbing | plays

“I am feeding a toothless baby blue bird spoonful of bird seed. It eats, it plays, and it naps. feeding birds is fun!”

2011-Oct-20_001

This is beautiful! Aside from some minor errors, for a boy who dislikes writing so much to come  up with something unexpected, is just an amazing thing! He has a great start here and I’d love to take it further, develop his idea a bit more, but I’ve made a decision to not critique his writing at this time. I feel he is a baby bird just peeking over the nest and will all too easily startle.

I have had a hard time pinning down exactly what my goals are for EJ and writing. In the long-term I hope that he is able to write well even if it’s never his passion or spark, but I know arriving there may take years.  Finally though, I think I’ve discovered my goal for the near future. That is to help him forget that he hates to write. To help him break the cycle of believing he cannot do it, to actually begin thinking of himself as a writer.

Spark! Peter Benson at Ted

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited Plutarch

The Writer Within

My 8-year-old son despises writing. Although it’s not a big factor, I do count this fact as one of the reasons we homeschool. He is a creative, energetic, verbal, bright boy, but if you ask him to write anything from his head he can’t do it. Tears are not unheard of no matter how gently I approach writing. Fortunately for my own peace of mind, I have found that this is not at all uncommon for boys this age. There have been several interesting discussions over on the Secular Homeschool forums of late that help me reinforce my approach with EJ and writing.

Despite all of the angst over writing, every once in a while EJ surprises me with some spontaneous original writing! For example he came up with this during a math lesson and dictated it for me to write:

Things I could do if I was flat.
Inspired by Flat Stanley.

  1. I would win more often at hide and seek.
  2. I could slip under doors.
  3. I could repair a sail on a boat at sea with just myself.
  4. I could fly like a kite.
  5. I could mail myself in an envelope.
  6. If I turn sideways no one would really see me.
  7. It would be easier to climb a rock wall.

This summer, much to my amazement, he wrote a poem that he wanted to put in the birthday Thank You notes he was writing. We typed it up and glued one into each note below his handwritten thanks.

Summer’s fun will last forever.
No matter the time, no matter the weather.
Summer’s fun will last forever.

Recently his spelling lesson (All About Spelling) added a new activity that I knew would cause angst. Of course I had a choice, I could have skipped it entirely. But the reasoning behind the activity was well explained and felt it was valuable. He was given the related words below and was to create several sentences using these words.

rainy, dripping, ponds, melting, quickly

Ultimately he didn’t do the assignment. When he was stuck, I tried to help by suggesting he imagine a scene where the words might all fit. He was unenthusiastic so I sent him off to figure it out himself. After a while he came to me with this:

It is spring.
The birds are singing, the snow is melting, getting warmer.
It is spring.

I’m so happy that he took the assignment and made it his own. I could focus on the fact that he only used one of the five words, or the fact that it is really very simple. I know that his peers are probably writing fabulous book reports and essays about their weekend, but for EJ and today it’s enough that he was asked to sit down and write and he succeeded! I’m so proud of him.

Wordless Wednesday: Playing Hookey

In honor of the warm October weather we’ve been having we decided to take the day off from lessons. Here we discovered a rare site: a mother in a photograph with her children. Thanks honey for stepping behind the camera for a moment.
Skinner Park