The Learning Experience. Reflections, Week 4

You know what?! I’m finding it surprisingly hard to write honest, interesting, developed posts for this blog.  It has a defined theme, so it should be easy, right? But I found myself just dryly reporting what we did this week, basically a play-by-play.  I’ve come across some other homeschooling blogs like that, I usually pass them by.  The ones that catch my interest really delve into a passionate topic with openness and clear reflection, not just regurgitating their stats with no analysis.  I want analysis, I want reflection, I don’t want a play-by-play.  So, forward I go with an attempt.  It’s an attempt to be honest with myself and open even when things aren’t perfectly perfect.  Generally, I’m not a perfectionist, that’s why it’s a little perplexing to me.  At any rate, I make no promises at this point, but I at least get the idea now.  It is a learning experience for all of us.

Ah-ha! That’s it! It is a learning experience, for all of us!  I’m not just a teacher pulling facts out of my brain with my magic want and transferring them into the empty basket which is my child’s head.  Actually, I don’t even really have any formal training in teaching (which is actually probably for the best, right?). I do have 32 years of life experience, most of which was spent in a formal learning institution. Above that, I have my own intense desire to never stop learning and my gentle parenting intuition. It also happens that interpersonal relations are one of my strong points.  I think these will come in useful as a homeschooling mom. So, I’m ready, I guess.  Ready to learn anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on all the stuff I learned about life when I rode horses in high school and college. It’s pretty amazing how much really!  When people would ask me what my favorite sport to play was, I’d say, “Horseback riding.” Then, usually, they’d say it out loud or look like they wanted to say out loud that horseback riding is not a sport.  But it so is!  I was not into organized team sports, I didn’t have team sport mentality.  Not because I’m a bad sport, but because I didn’t desire to beat/dominate whom ever I was against, I was more interested in connecting with them on an interpersonal level.  I am most comfortable in one-on-one situations, I was more so in high school than today (thanks to Peace Corps).  What I loved about horseback riding was the silent connection I made with my horse.  I would read her body language and she would read mine.  It was beautiful.  Part of horseback riding is also reading your own body and moving it intentionally.  Heels down!  Thumbs up!  Look where you are going!  I desire to have the same kind of connection with my daughter as I felt I had with my horse.  I desire to have it again, rather.

I truely felt I knew Elizabeth, and knew precisely how to deal with her, when she was a toddler.  I could almost know what she was going to do before she did it.  But when I got pregnant for my son, I was so tired just growing a baby, that we lost track of each other a little.  Perhaps too, it was a natural pulling away, necessary for her maturity.  Once my son was born, I was tired and distracted raising an infant, now I still am, but have been trying to make more of an effort to just be more available to Elizabeth again.  Yet, availability also means that I see more.  I think I nag too much. I think nagging is negative, it’s a negative message.  It shows a lack of trust, a lack of confidence in whoever you are nagging.  It is a lot of “No.” “Yes” is validating, “Yes” allows kids to grow.  “Yes” encourages learning.

Unsure of where I was going to go with things pertaining to school at the end of last week, I let myself hang in that limbo state.  I researched unschooling and put some thought into passion-driven learning. (Check out this awesome post and blog on passion-driven learning by Chavva.) I looked over my Moving Beyond The Page curriculum. I fell in love with it all over again.  It’s wonderful.  It’s great.  The wonderful thing about a boxed curriculum is that it’s all planned out for you.  I’m learning that the bad thing about a boxed curriculum is that it’s all planned out for you… The activities are all so enticing and well organized and seem like they should be so much fun.  But, if Elizabeth isn’t interested, which do I choose to leave out, which do I include?  They all seem necessary to me.  They all seem like she ought to find them fun.  Sigh.

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Still, I came to no conclusion about the boxed curriculum.  But I did conclude that “No” is way over spoken, and “Yes” is not said enough.  So, on Sunday, we skipped church and went to visit my grandmother in the nursing home.  Two little kids always brighten everyone (who is awake) up.  Afterward, we got pizza on a whim and waked around town while we waited, just like we always used to when we lived in town.  We checked out a dirt bike for sale, and an antique race car on our short walk.  That buys into the passion-driven learning right there!  When we got our pizza, we drove down to one of the waterfalls to eat lunch.  Elizabeth spied a trail, and I decided to begin my new task of saying “Yes.” So we followed the trail to a wash.  I suggested going back, but that girl found more trail, so I said “Yes” again.  Oi!  We found a stream – the stream of the waterfall.  Que bonita! Can they get their feet wet? “Yes,” you can even get your shorts wet too, we have dry clothes in the car.  Yeah, go ahead and sit in the water, we’ll use the white rags that are for washing Paul’s sticky fingers as towels.  Can I ride home in my undies?  Yeah, go ahead!

You know what?! It felt good to say “Yes.” It does feel good to say “Yes.”  Why do I say “No?” Do I feel it some how guides her learning and behavior, her manners?  I don’t know.  But her face sure lit up when I said “Yes” on Sunday.  That’s what parenting and homeschooling is all about, that I all ready know.

So, that was Sunday, what has happened between then and today? Well, I talked to some people, got some neutral advice, and decided that maybe I’ll just put the boxed curriculum away for a bit.  Maybe 4 1/2 is too young for Elizabeth personally.  I sincerely believe she’s ready developmentally for the subject matter, but perhaps not for the discipline aspect of doing school a few days of the week.  Hopefully, she’ll forget the negative emotions she felt towards it when I get it back out again in a few months.

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The word caterpillar

For some reason that I’m not even entirely sure of now, I decided to put the Mis Primeros Poemas book from All Bilingual Press out for her to color on Monday evening.  I think I was thinking that since the book is basically just a coloring book with poems that are read on CD, it might be something we could use now that isn’t too pushy and at her level.  So, I just put it on the table in the evening with her crayons and put the CD in the CD player and left it.  I mentioned it to Elizabeth in passing, with little response, and when the book lay untouched about a half an hour before bedtime, I put it away.  But she asked me, “What are you doing with that book, Mommy?” When I replied that I was putting it away, she responded that she wanted to color it.  So, we did together for a bit.  On the hope built up from the night before, I decided the following day to try out the last lesson in Unit 2, which was were we had left off in the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum.  I think I did this mostly for closure for myself because I just felt like I needed to get that last lesson done before I could put it all away.  Or, I needed to try at least. And she was game!  She knew she was doing the school work, but she was into it.  This has given me more hope. Wednesday and Thursday were so busy that there wasn’t any time to even try for school, which is ok, it’s August, but Friday I tried again, and we made a word caterpillar out of the vocabulary cards, as well as read the Unit 3 book and play-acted.

Why can’t I just let the boxed curriculum go?  It’s just so pretty, so nice, so organized.  Beyond that, it’s also sparked imagination in Elizabeth.  Everyday some aspect of the unit activities comes through in her play.  Everyday she has either painted, played with the play doh that came with the manipulatives – and she usually forms letters with it now, she also role-plays like the school activities do, or I hear aspects of what we have covered come out in her speech.  One of the best ways that it has shown it’s self was when she was at Vacation Bible School recently with my grandmother, and insisted on writing her own name on her project.  She’s never done that before that I know of.  That’s great!

So, at the end of Week 4, I’m left on an island (our newest book is The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown), but one in a river.  I feel like the one side of the loop is Elizabeth’s attitude that resists the school work.  On the other side, is her requesting to re-read The Little Island for her bed-time story, writing on her own initiative, and the creative expression our school has sparked. I have decided to throw out the new tv time routine that I was enjoying, for better or worse for me, because Monday and Tuesday when Elizabeth was willing to do the work, she had all ready had her normal tv programs, and it made me think that she has just seen too many changes lately, and that that change was just too much for her.  Besides, I would be resentful towards the school if my block of, say, relaxing coffee time was pushed to the afternoon.  And it was pushed back, and it was kind of hard for me too, so maybe it was too much for the both of us.

What I hope to get from all of this myself is really getting to know my daughter on a more intimate level again, and having her know me, and know that I love her and that I am on her side.  I want to say ‘Yes’ again.  I want to be able to read her as I was able to read my horse years ago when I rode regularly.  I want us both to be aware that it is a learning experience, and that we are both learning.

It is a challenge.  But I’m not afraid.

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