Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Mental Bric a Brac

This blog post is probably going to be my "rapidwrite" equivalent to what Samantha does, except that I like to put in paragraph breaks to denote a change of subject matter and I can't quite free myself up to just let it all go. At least not yet.

Lately I got into a bit of hot-water on one of my lists (what else is new? sigh) by stating that I hate homeschooling and would rather stick pins in my eyes than teach small children to read. The obviously un-pinned state of my eyes should tell people how seriously I really am about hating this particular chore, btw. When I sat down to really analyze it, it isn't really hatred that I feel for homeschooling. Instead frustration would probably be a more accurate term to use. The frustration stems, not from the homeschooling itself, but rather having to homeschool in combination with doing laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, planning meals, errands, deal with toddlers who table dance where we are doing schoolwork, being pregnant and wanting to sleep in the middle of a lesson, finding lost books and tools needed for a particular subject, and running two home-based businesses on the side. I like to be focus in on what I do and naturally tend to being project oriented. The often fractured nature of trying to do multiple things all at the same time and not being able to give my mind over completely to one of them is very trying for me and any sense of accomplishment I may feel on any given day. One of the reasons I prefer to do housework instead of homeschooling is that it is often mindless work that allows me to focus on doing a good job in cleaning, while still contemplating interesting things or listening to good music or informational radio or tapes while I do it. It is a form of productive meditation if you will.

Despite the fractured nature of our homeschool, when I was taking stock of things the other day I found that I am not doing as badly as I feared I was. I was reminded of the fact that when my daughters went to highschool, they had to be tested because the schools didn't know what to do with them. They tested in third year university levels in some of their subjects, which surprised all of us quite greatly. Patricia landed a job as a store manager for a shoe store when she was 19 and has been quite successful at it. Trista is now a mother of two, but she was a supervisor when she was working in some of her jobs despite her tender years, and her diligence has always been a welcome aspect when it comes to getting employment. Nathanael, who is 18, is now a foreman for the landscaping company he works for and will be in charge of a work crew on his own this summer. He's also completing his highschool through a local flex-time program at the community college. He managed to get 92% on his trigonometry test despite not having any tutoring from the teachers nor really displaying an interest or aptitude for math in previous years. Benjamin, who is almost 17, is a favored employee at the local forestry nursery because he is a hard and diligent worker. They tend to call him before even some of the more experienced workers.

Call me slow, but I finally figured out one of the ways to alleviate my homeschool fractured frustration. Instead of trying to do half a dozen subjects every day, I am focusing on just one or two until we get large chunks of it done. The past week we finished up some social studies work, we are almost completed a year's worth of spelling lessons, and I intend to blast our way through the grammar work this week. All this is in preparation for sending in some sample work for the purpose of getting it graded for report cards through the E Bus program we are using this year. In fact, I am seriously contemplating on sticking with a few subjects over the summer in order to get a leg up on next years work. After we finish the spelling and grammar, we are going to do some intensive stuff on creative writing and focus on science experiments for the rest of the year. My goal is to have all the work completed by the end of May so that I don't have to think of school while I am getting ready to have this baby.

Garnet, my five year old is now counting to 100 by one's, can count by 10's and is working on counting by 5's. He is also reading and his printing is coming along nicely. Tamara is our spelling whiz. It isn't uncommon for her to get almost all her spelling words correct on the pretest. Bethany has finally been bitten by the reading bug and has been gobbling up Patricia St. John novels in her spare time. Elodie, at 2 has already learned how to count and spits out the occasional bit of knowledge that has us wondering when and where she picked it up.

Anyhow, I don't feel so bad about my homeschooling as I used to. It seems to be working, even if it is lamer and I'm more frazzled than I would like it to be. With the older children, I have often fretted because I hadn't seen them applying themselves to their work the way I would have liked to. In each one of their cases, the real self-motivated learning started to happen when they found some motivation outside of getting a nagging mother off their case that helped them get going. It is hard work trying to drag reluctant learners over the finish line. However, when they catch the vision for themselves, it is hard to hold them back, and all the effort goes out of it. You just stand there and try not to eat too much of their dust as they whizz by.

When I really think about it, I am a product of homeschooling despite the 12 years I spent in the public school system. Most of the most useful and important learning I have had took place in the environment of my own home through a variety of means like correspondance schools. I am currently enrolled in a nutrition course through the University of Miami's School of Medicine, for instance. I also have done applied nutrition courses, continuing education courses for medical professionals, and am studying anatomy and physiology on my own time through books I have picked up here and there. I have a midwifery course that I worked through part time, did doula training in labor support, apprenticed as a midwife's second attendant for a short time, took a neonatal resuscitation course (but wasn't allowed to write the exam because of medical politics of the time -- others were able to do so later, but I was pregnant again and opted not to take it over), have studied herbology on my own time, learned how to read medical studies and sort fact from fiction and junk science from valid studies. In short, I am a homeschool student myself. Homeschooling must not stink so badly or I guess I wouldn't do so much of it personally. Hopefully some of this practical example will rub off on the kids and they will do the same. I am also hoping that some of the shortcuts in housekeeping and home managment will help them to be more organized than I was when I first started out. I have had to learn to streamline my methods and plan ahead in order to accomplish everything I want to do in a day. If nothing else, they will have a leg up in getting things in order so that they don't have to figure out how to do it all .

Anyhow, I was going to write more on other topics, but I have run out of time and need to get back to the grammar.

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