Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Flexibility & Creativity

I love, love, love, love, LOVE this time with my girls.  I tell anyone who will listen that I found the key to the universe: I slowed down time by spending more of it with my girls!

I love them so much, that I am not without my doubts.

I want to do what is best for them.

Is homeschooling the best thing for them?

Our girls attend an hour long choir rehearsal every week at our church.  They also play handbells.  They are getting something similar to the choral music that is offered in our school system.

In our school system, beginning in fourth grade, there is a pull-out program if your child wants to learn an instrument and be part of the band.  Once a week they are pulled out of class for their lesson.  I have always been opposed to this, thinking music should have its own period or be before or after school, but I can see where, in order to accommodate every child that wishes to learn, they need to be pulled out of class for weekly lessons in a band instrument.

Our girls take recorder at co-op.  I would like to see them learn another instrument.  I had looked into it and in our area, the average is $45 for a half hour lesson and $60 for a full hour.  Times two that is close to $500 a month.  I was a little daunted.  Now, through our Friday Park Day group, I have learned of several homeschool moms who offer music lessons in their homes for a more reasonable price, and have a good reputation in the homeschool community.  A would like to take guitar.  P would like to take drums.  Their father would like them to both start with piano.

Both of my girls love art.  They have taken outside classes in the past, but it has not worked out for our schedule so far this year.  I keep saying I am going to make more time for it.

I have spent the last few days coming up with a schedule for the rest of our school year that will allow us time with friends and also to complete our curriculum.  I have also found one art project for each week.  I am determined to start our days with History and then do Art (since some of the activities I have picked go along with History).  THEN, AFTER ART, I will teach the Grammar lesson and have them do their copywork and Math.  If this doesn't work, we may try doing grammar and math every day, History one day, Art one day, Science one day in depth.

I have perused the websites and found various projects using various media that I think my girls will enjoy and learn from.  We will study Chagall, O'Keefe and Wegman in addition to projects related to our history units or techniques I think they should experience.

Also, the girls are participating in a homeschool art show this Friday.

Even if we don't get everything in every day, I still think academically my girls are better off.  There is such a vast selection of curricula that we can always find what is right for each girl.  We can go over things until they understand it.  We can spend more time if we need to or if we are just really interested in something.  My girls get to be front and center, and actually DO the science experiments, not watch the teacher or another classmate do them.  I am there to answer any and all questions.  It is a MUCH less threatening environment than school, so my girls feel much more free to ask questions.  Also, we can work as long as it takes to finish all of the books if we choose.

Public schools moms with whom I am friends on facebook, are always posting that their child doesn't understand the homework, they have no idea themselves what to do and there are no notes with which to help the child.  Is that beneficial?

I think group learning, working in a group is very important to children's development.  That is why we are part of a co-op.  If we decide not to join co-op again next year, we will explore Audobon classes, a book club that meets monthly at a public library, a Writer's Workshop that meets at someone's home, or a Science class offered by homeschool high schoolers in someone's home.

"So many faces in and out of my life, some will last some will just be now and then..." ~ Billy Joel

I have been thinking so much about this lately.

I do have friends that I have known since I was a kid.  L is a month younger than I, and we have been friends since she was born.  Her parents lived next door to my grandmother and I only saw her every few months, but we wrote letters often.  Her daughters are just weeks apart in age from my girls and they  write emails to each other and see each other once in a while.

I have not kept in touch with any of my other friends from elementary school or junior high.  I attended a teensy weensy Catholic school (12 kids in my entire grade!) so my school world was probably smaller than my girls' homeschool world is.

My best friends from high school both have wildly successful careers.  They are married, but neither has children.  We try to get together occasionally, but what we have in common is the past and politics... we struggle to relate to each other's present lives.

KOJ and Dr. JJ and I all attended the same high school.  But we didn't become friends until years later.  When we knew who we were and what was important to us.  When we stopped trying to impress or be cool.

Both girls still have some friends from school.  A has two homeschool pals her age; P has 2 as well, but many of the field trips and things we go on are geared more toward the 8 and younger crowd.  I started a Park Day on Fridays for the 10 & up crowd.  We have gotten a great turnout.  Both of my girls have been making friends, as have I.

I think the big thing is feeling as though you are part of something.  My girls are part of co-op, they are part of choir, they are part of Park Days.  They have friends and connections in those groups.  They have time for those groups because they are not in school.  If they were in school, they would be part of a group, but based on the sullen moods of the last couple of years, I am unsure of how healthy being part of that group was.  My girls are less stressed now, they are happy and excited when they tell me about these groups, the experiences they had with these friends. They are not complaining about who said or did what or how they felt left out (I know some of my friends & family think this is an important part of development---but isn't being part of a group where you feel good about yourself just as important??).

So what are they missing?  They learn in a group with other children at co-op and choir; they hang out with public school kids at the library and they get to explore with homeschool kids in the park.  They are less stressed, more positive, happier and more relaxed.  They are enjoying their childhood.  We are enjoying them and not having to live our lives according to the school schedule.

I am learning that if something is lacking in homeschooling, I can find a way to make sure we fill in that gap.  It may take flexibility or creativity, but you can always find a way to fill the gaps.