Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Quest for a Well-Educated Mind Continues

You may be wondering if I'm finished with Don Quixote...Well no, I'm not.  I have not given up the quest to read that tome, but I am not finished.  It seems like other things just, well, take precedence sometimes.  Like Oliver Twist, which I listened to on my ipod and read along in my book from time to time.  Let me just say that if DQ were as wonderful as Oliver Twist I would have been finished with it months ago.  Now I am well embedded into The Pilgrim's Progress which I am also enjoying.

I have also in there somewhere watched the movie Food, Inc. which summarily turned my world upside down and has me reading more and more about food, the food industry, and how to change our diet and habits.  I try to bake bread from time to time, and read a lot about that, we are planting the garden, so I am reading about that, and now I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, with great delight.  It is a wonderful book about how the author's family made a one-year commitment to eat only what they could grow or buy locally--a personal experiment in living off of the land and reducing their carbon footprint.  I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially people who are trying to learn how to live and eat differently than the culture in which we live.  It is both a friendly look into another family's culinary life and an education in how our food culture affects our lives.  And it's set in Virginia, which makes it even nicer.

So do not lose heart (preaching to the choir here).  We do not "quit" on books.  The bookmark is still firmly in place in the pages of Don Quixote as proof that I am still reading it.   When a bookmark is removed, then there is cause for concern.  I will get through it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What She Said!

Last night the parental units of the family went out for a celebratory date.  When we got to the restaurant I found that I was talking my poor husband's head off for an extended period of time about homeschooling, curriculum, goals, challenges, and the ever-interesting "so-and-so's kid..."  I finally asked him if I was driving him crazy, and he assured me that I wasn't.  I realized that I have so much on my mind.  I find that I have to reevaluate about every three months, make new plans, pitch what isn't working, and take stock of myself and what I am doing, as well.

I find that at this moment, I have traversed a threshold in which I am no longer teaching just how to read and write and add sums to my son.  I have come to a point where I am shaping his worldview and educating him, nourishing his hunger to learn rather than just sounding out long and short vowel sounds.  I think about it all the time...what next?  Is what I'm doing enough?  Is it too much?  How can I add more activities that he'll like?  How can we get more exercise as a family?  How can I make him understand that it's more than just eating healthy, or learning a new vocabulary, or memorizing history facts?

On the WTM forum that I like to read, one of the posters who goes by Sahamamama, posted this simple thought:

Of what value is a high wall, if it topples over?
A good foundation is worth the time it takes to lay it.
Be encouraged, and build well.

All of my thinking could be summed up in that.  It is so well said.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Class, or Unschooling the Mother

I don't know if you remember health class in school.  I don't remember a thing that I learned.  I remember it was taught by the gym teacher, and seemed like a HUGE waste of time.  I do remember the girls being somewhat fascinated with Mr. Dean's legs because he always wore gym shorts to class, but I digress. Somewhere down the line in this homeschooling journey I believe that the state requires us to show that we are teaching our kids "health" using some stupid curriculum.  I wonder if I would be able to cite Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution as a curriculum.  Let me explain.

We had an insane week last week, complete with a weekend that was packed just as tightly with commitments and activities.  There was barely a moment to breathe, and so this morning I let the kids sleep in, woke feeling slightly guilty that on this Monday morning, school was not going to be in session for any reason other than we needed a break and some time to clean up the house and regroup.  If they were public school kids, I would have dutifully put them on the bus, they'd have had their proper lessons, and I would have stayed home and cleaned up the house and done the laundry.

Instead we all three got distracted watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution premier online.  Matty was completely fascinated, and all of a sudden decided he needed to go through our pantry and start reading labels.  He put out everything that needed to get tossed out onto the middle of the table.  Products containing high-fructose corn syrup, soy bean oil, hydrogenated oils, MSG, and things he was unable to pronounce were evicted from the pantry.  Thankfully there weren't a lot of items, but the important thing is that they were all his choice.  We also found very healthy things in the pantry and decided to make some soup.  I asked him if he wanted to learn and  he said yes.  So we pulled out lentils, an onion, chicken broth, etc, and I taught him to make lentil soup.  It was as if he finally understood the changes we've been trying to make and suddenly, he was a part of them. Molly too--in her little way--is understanding.

I suppose this is a two-pronged post.  The first prong is that I take issue with the state's requirements that I have to jump through some distorted hoop to prove that my kids have been properly educated about health.  Everything I know about eating well and living well I learned from my mother, who took great pains to teach us the best that she could, and now I am adding to that knowledge and teaching my children.  The second prong is that I still can't believe that I give in to the guilt associated with not sitting down with the textbooks and the chalkboard in a little mini school house to do "school" with my children.  UGH!  What they learned today will serve them a healthy dinner not just tonight but for the rest of their lives. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thanks for the Help, Lord

This week I've been in one of those March doldrums, nursing a case of serious spring fever, feeling overwhelmingly busy, and inadequate as a homeschool mom.  So I prayed.  I am beginning to understand that the affirmation that I need does not come from people or the kids or even my friends who are in it with me.  They can say nice things, but they are not the deep-penetrating voice of my Father who knows my deepest need.

But this week in the midst of feeling less than exemplary, I stumbled upon an old / new idea.  I've been bemoaning the fact that my kids love crafts and I really hate to do them, and deep down I know that it would serve them well to do something with their hands that they really like, and something in a forum that I visit reminded me of lapbooking.  I saw this at homeschool convention and completely wrinkled my nose at it--WAAAY over the top from what I could see displayed on the tables at convention (well, of course, it's convention).  That, combined with the fact that I'm a perfectionist and an all-or-nothing person caused me to turn away in dismay and think it could never be done.  However, online I've seen a lot of really simple examples and a lot of really kid-friendly projects that lots and lots of people have posted.

When I saw them, I thought, "I like paper crafts...I could actually do that with the kids!" and so this week I have planned that TODAY we will begin our first lapbook on ancient Greece, and Matty is excited.  So I will post pictures and results of our lapbooking extravaganza and if it goes well, perhaps use this as a fun tool to record some of the things we're learning.  It may sound strange, but I sincerely believe that whenever I ask, the Lord breathes a breath of inspiration into my humble journey here, and I am able to meet the needs of my children better.  When the needs of my children are met and they are at peace, then I am affirmed as a teacher and mother.  This can only come from the Lord.