Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mom Schooling - An Inventory

What I have learned from a year and a half of home schooling.

After I stopped alternately kicking and screaming and crying, I really enjoyed homeschooling. You are looking at a truly accidental homeschooler. I didn't believe in it. In fact, I still don't, some days--not for everyone, at least. But I got a strong inspiration the summer before first grade began and it wouldn't go away. I had no idea how I would do it. I half heartedly tried to see if I could do it, but it hit a lot of barriers when I tried, and so I figured I had tried my best, but it didn't work. (Whew!) 

Then I got full custody and at Christmas time when we had that "family emergency" and moved to Utah for 3 months, I pulled her out of school. I had unplugged from all my work so I had lots of free time. I didn't really think of it as an opportunity, but more like a sentence. 

 For the first 3 months I did nothing in the way of schooling. She played in the snow all day every day and at night she cried herself to sleep. It was a rough time. Then we went back to California. We went to the beach every day and she no longer cried herself to sleep. I felt like a horrible home educator. I didn't feel I was teaching her anything except maybe some abstract lessons about being graceful in a crisis. Which I now realize was a huge thing. But it was hard to quantify at the time.

Then one night in desperation I put on a movie I had been keeping in reserve till she was the right age. I figured she might be close enough. It was, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. I hadn't seen it in years and I hadn't read the books so I didn't really remember what was in it.  It was amazing. What was more amazing though was to watch her watch it. She wept so bitterly when Aslan let himself be sacrificed. She couldn't stand it. She looked at me like this was the worst movie ever. I didn't know/remember what happened. but I said, "I think it turns out okay." 

Then of course, he is resurrected, because he is the Christ figure, and she was so happy you'd have thought she was the one riding on his back. She wanted to watch it every day after that. And so I let her. Twice a day. Three times a day sometimes. This was the first time she had taken an interest in something for very long (besides snow and beach). I subscribe to the "follow their interests" kind of homeschooling philosophy and here, finally, after detoxing from the old way of learning, we were both ready to just go with the flow. And the flow was a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia.

We went to the library and got the books and read them all that summer. We watched all the movies that they made--a lot of times. Reading that series for the first time as an adult with an already deep understanding Jesus Christ, was so awesome. C.S. Lewis's is truly a magnificent, enlightened mind. They are so deep, yet they are written for children. It was so cool to watch the way it illuminated gospel concepts for my daughter in a new way, through the story and the characters.  

So that is what we did all summer. (We also threw some watermelons and things into the pool to see if they would sink or float.)  When we moved to our new town, the library became one of our regular places. They knew us by our first names. Once, she was learning about idioms, she ran up and told the librarian "this library is the cat's pajamas!

This led to other great books.When we read The Neverending Story, we both wept at the end. (The movie is a huge disappointment. The book is epic. 1000 pages epic, but worth it.) 

We also started listening to books on CD. So we have both been able to listen classics and other books that we would not normally have ever read on our own, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (15 hours round trip to AZ), and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Also a trip to AZ. I recommend listening to this rather than reading it because of all the hard to read jargon--it's much more fun to listen to.)  

We have also enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society, which is a series about some pretty cool and genious spy kids--the plot is remarkably similar to what may actually be going on in the world....( evil man sending out subliminal type brainwashing messages into people's minds through technology waves... plotting to take away all their agency and power and take over the world..)

And there was a lovely book we listened to on a drive recently called The Magician's Elephant. The whole book felt like dreamy poetry. The actor who read it was also very great. 

But let me get back to the point. I never thought I could be a home schooler, but it has proven to have some benefits for me, too. At first I was kind of jealous. I wish I had been schooled this way. It would have been so great for me.... Then I got over it and realized that I was actually also healing my own school experience, which was not bad once I got to high school, but the younger years had some trauma in them. 

The social part was getting a little crazy-making. PJ needs a LOT of social stimulation and I like a lot of time alone to read books. So together we don't always match. But we found a great enrichment school where she goes 3 days/week and takes classes like farm to table cooking, improv, tennis, hiking, or space explorers. The kids actually vote on their classes each trimester and then they pic between several options that get voted in. It is kind of like a liberal arts college. They also go on a field trip every week. It's amazing that a school like this even exists. And I think it only exists here where we live.
feild trip to tide pools

So I still get a few hours off every week and she gets her social group of friends of all ages. The school even pays for our curriculum we use at home, which is nothing really, except for library access and youtube, so we spent most of the money on art supplies. Another form of prosperity for us. We are rolling in it around here. Wahe Guru!

I thought I would only home school her for one year, but now I think I might do it forever.

Oh and as an afterthought, did I mention that she loves math. She adores it. Finds ways to do it everywhere. And even though she resisted reading (independently) for this whole year, she is now obsessed with stories and writing things. This has led to lots of "mom how do you spell ...." and lots of funny notes and poems and stories. Her vocab is huge, but her spelling skills aren't there yet so it can be funny. 

I have noticed lately that she is sneaking and reading books when I am not looking. I figured out in pre-school that she is the type who likes to be good at something before she shows anyone. So she pretends she can't, then secretly practices until she is really good and one day says, "look what I can do." 

She is also a nature girl and our town has proved to be amazing and healing for her. Her school here even made a class in honor of her called "Earth Works" because during all the breaks she would build fairy houses out of sticks and flowers and acorn hats. They got pretty elaborate and all the kids started joining in. She creates art wherever she goes. When I get fed up with the mess and take all her supplies away she goes outside and makes art with rocks and sticks and yarn. If she were a bird, she'd make awesome nests. 

At the Lavender Festival

So in the end, it was me who got schooled in this process. I feel like I am actually enjoying her childhood with her some of the time, and I have had an opportunity to re-school myself and follow my interests too. 

I am so glad I let God provide they way for us to do this. Wahe Guru!

with friends

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