Monday, August 24, 2009

Learning at home

Ian came to me when he was 3, just before his 4th birthday, and asked me if I would show him how to write his name. Sure! I thought and sat down to go over each letter and write a dotted version for him to copy. He skipped over all of it and just wrote his name. Plain and simple. Since then, he's been a writing maniac. He's taught himself most all the letters just by copying them out of books. Throughout the day he asks me how to spell certain words and then writes them over and over again. Sometimes he writes them backwards, sometimes they are split in half because he runs out of paper, and sometimes he just makes up words like he's writing a whole story.

About 2 months ago he asked me if I would teach him how to read. My sister gave me her old Bob books and we sat down to look at them. He has less patience for reading but he gets it quickly. He can easily read the first couple books in that simple series and has started rhyming words in his spare time. "Hey Mom... COAT GOAT!"

It's amazing to me because I decided long ago, when he was really little, that my goal with them wouldn't be to teach them how to read at a young age, but to focus on manners and attitudes. Because, I always thought, who cares when you begin reading as long as you get it some time. But manners are something that can easily be over looked in the frenzy of early childhood education.

Plus, about a year ago something really began stirring inside me that I couldn't ignore anymore. I had to look at it from every angle, decide what it all meant, how it would look, and ultimately... what would Jeremy think. I really... really... wanted to homeschool.

I prayed about it and we'd have discussions about what that would look like and what it would mean for the boys. Jeremy was unsure and I knew his reasons why. They had been the same reservations I had had before. But slowly, our perspectives started changing and we started seeing how good it could be. We read this book and became even more convinced that we wanted to offer something different to the boys.

Another aspect that appealed to me was unschooling... especially in the early years. I wanted the boys to be children. To not have the stress of homework, to not have to sit in a chair for hours on end but to have the freedom to study or play with what they wanted. The other part of unschooling that attracted me went along with what I mentioned above. That I wasn't going to pressure Ian into learning his letters. I wanted him to show interest whenever that happened to be and I had prepared myself for a long wait and possibly years of hearing parents talk about their 4 year olds reading while my 7 year still didn't. But funny how things happen... when Ian has space to think and be creative, space that's not taken up with the TV or being entertained, he shows interest in learning.

I hadn't planned on starting any type of "school" this year but instead wait until next year when Ian would have started kindergarten. He, however, has different plans and wants to learn now. Which ultimately is part of the unschooling philosphy... that life should be spent learning, not just during school hours, but that we are constantly learning every day of our lives.

"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

-John Holt, How Children Learn

So this is the beginning of our journey into homeschooling. We are really excited about it and where it will take us. We live in a city that is full of life, culture, and experiences. I'm excited for the boys to meet people of all ages and backgrounds while we run errands. To have the freedom to explore and touch and interact with things on their level and on their own time. To learn music and to play sports and not have it crammed in to an already full day of hourly classes in a classroom. To watch them be creative and have space to experiment with it. To have time to be quiet and not fill every hour of their day with busy things. And I'm most excited to be there to watch it all happen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Life and vacations

Sitting outside while the boys play. Happy that the sun is out today, if even for a moment, but thankful for the rain that fell this week. Not feeling too well and still feeling sad about our Henry. Thinking about the coming months and what they will bring.

It's important to change and move with life. I know this but it's never easy. I really do love feeling content. But little things move, they flow in and out as days go by. So we make little adjustments to move with it.

It means cutting back on our spending. Letting go of our one hundred tv channels to find contentment in just the few. To eat at home more and enjoy our own company. But realizing that even though we have to cut back on our spending habits, our house is (nearly!) painted and we've avoided further problems by waiting another year.

It means thinking that our 4 year old has finally learned a lesson in yelling only to have to sit down with him again and again. Repetition, quiet voices, gentle reprimands to calm the storm. That he has to be mindful of everything he says and how he says it. But knowing that he is learning to speak kindly even in the midst of his outbursts. And that we must show him, by example, what that means.

And how a 2 year old whose vocabulary has consisted of new words every day, is now stuck on two phrases: "I do, I DO!" and "Mine!". It means realizing that we cannot raise these boys without prayer and without constant emotional and spiritual attention.

But I'm so thankful for it all. So thankful for God's reminders of what it means to live fully and peacefully. That He isn't content to let us just sit and be idle. He's always teaching us and providing opportunities to trust Him and to grow in Him.


I'm still finding pieces of our vacation lying around. A dirt-filled shoe here, an extra nap needed there. Our week away was very busy. We packed our days full of activities with only a little time at night to fit a board game in. The boys had an incredible time. Staying up late, constant company with their cousins around, lots of food, and so many opportunities to run and play. They fell asleep every night exhausted but woke up in the mornings ready to go full speed ahead.

Keeping tabs on cousin Caleb was a favorite past time of Ian's.

There were deer everywhere and like the dutiful city-folk we are, we took pictures whenever we could with however many cameras we had on hand.

We hiked and climbed our way around a couple of waterfalls. I left the picture big so you can see the teeny tiny man standing nearly underneath the fall on the right. That would be my Dad who still thinks he's invincible at 62 and loves to scare us all with his daring adventures. (Really... I can only blame my need to skydive the day before I graduated highschool on him. I get a lot of that from him.)

The boys making brownies with cousin Meagan.

Licking the spoons was the best part.

And collapsing every afternoon for a quick rest and to catch up on Shark Week.

Out of all the pictures we took, there wasn't one that turned out clearly of my 14 year old niece Meagan and I. So I included this one... blurry me and beautiful Meagan. It still makes me happy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Losing a friend

We lost a really good friend last night. Henry was hit by a car. His pelvis was too broken to repair; he had lost all feeling in his legs and the doctor wasn't sure he would ever be able to walk again even with surgery. So we made the hard decision to let him go. The 4 of us crowded in the little room to scratch his neck and tell him how much we love him. He was drowsy on pain meds but he seemed comfortable and responded to each one of our kisses.

I keep going over last night, thinking about what I could have done differently. I realize there's nothing that can be changed. I'm so very grateful to the cyclist who happened to be riding by at that moment and saw it happen. Without him, it might have been hours before we realized that something was wrong. Instead he wasn't in pain for long and for that, I'm thankful.

This morning feels hard, empty. I feel like he should be rubbing up against my leg or asking to be let outside. He was a wonderful cat, patient with the boys, and always wanting to be cuddled. We miss him terribly.

Goodbye Henry.