Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turning Points

Yesterday was our first "real" day of homeschooling with 5, trying out our new science curriculum and doing just about everything we would do in a normal day. We are still doing "school lite" for June, but having a few serious days of hard work thrown in with lots of fun in between.

It was also a turning point for me, one I think I desperately needed. I can not begin to tell you all how consumed I have been with fear and doubt as I contemplate teaching all 5 kids. Sure, I know people have done it for centuries and tons of families do it today with many more than we have. But sitting here with the reality of 5 eager learners, each of whom is "special needs" (for aren't we ALL special??? Don't we ALL learn differently???), and knowing I am 100% totally responsible for making sure they are well educated is daunting, to say the least. Throw in the language learning, the catching up we have to do, the desire to meet the growing needs of Matthew in particular, and I have been a mess in many ways.

Yesterday though, it all came together...and I "got it". I internalized something that is more important than test scores or grade levels.

We all did math with 5 different levels including Josh and Olesya's which are lessons that actually have to be taught, then me reading and explaining the text to Kenny and Angela, and quickly checking in with Matthew who is pretty self directed in his work. We worked on spelling in a group with all but Matt, me quickly learning that going back and reviewing first grade spelling words with Kenny is NOT a bad idea as out of about 20 basic 3 and 4 letter words he still missed 5...vowels are troublesome. We did some writing, and then moved on to science as a group.

That is where it happened...the joy of learning together, the ability to stop every single time and explain what needed to be explained, the conversation that took off from it all, watching Matthew think on a deeper level about basic questions and offer thoughtful answers as he also helped teach the others and read part of our text to them and pointed out things in photos we were looking at...it will work, and it will be better.

The clincher came when Kenny told me afterward how much he loved it and said "Mommy, for the first time I understood every single thing in class! And I wasn't embarassed to say I didn't know something. I've never understood everything like today!".

Angela and Olesya both talked about how much fun it was to have everyone home learning together and Angela declared "I LOVE homeschool! School so fun!!" with Joshie grinning by her side.

Isn't that what it is all about? Developing a love of learning, fostering an environment where no question is stupid, where there is no embarassment holding you back from learning?

I was also struck by what a gift it is for our children to be with the people they love most so much of their day. When did we as a society decide that "socialization" included distancing ourselves from our family? Dominick and I have noticed a drastic difference in how our children are interacting with one another...and that is within a family whose children were always close to begin with and felt deprived by being sent off to school! I can't count the number of times through the years when comments were made like "I wish we could all just be home together today." as we drove off to school.

It will not be easy, and the logistical challenges of working with this many on so many differing levels is not to be downplayed. But yesterday, I saw why it was worth the commitment, I saw first hand the spark that lit up in Kenny's eyes as he was able to participate fully, stop and ask "what does that word mean", and didn't hesitate to take a stab at it and be wrong knowing no one would laugh at him. I heard the giggles and delight in conversation as we learned about the life stages of human beings and discussed why babies drool, what the word "infant" really means, and Matthew shares his knowledge with the girls who had never been around babies before. We talked about developing muscle tone as babies learn to suck on a bottle or breast and how that effects speech issues such as Kenny's. We touched on how important it is to love and touch infants, and how it can change who they become if they don't receive that nurturing as with Joshua. Our education was tailored to our kids' specific life experiences, and I could quickly see how THIS kind of learning would help all of our kids, but especially the girls and Kenny, to build foundational knowledge.
I know what they do not know, a classroom teacher does not. A classroom teacher would make assumptions never realizing our daughters had never, ever been around infants before...never seen one teething, never heard their cries, never seen one reach for a rattle and be fascinated with it's sound. Talking about infants yesterday was almost like talking about our girls and in some ways Kenny. There are these wide eyed children set before me, eager to explore, touch and experience all that they have never had the chance to see before.

I am their best teacher, and Kenny's words last year come back to encourage me "Mommy, how come you know what I don't know? How come you explain things when I don't even ask the question?".

Because I am Mom. Why did I EVER think that precluded me from being Teacher?

I can do it.

We can do it.

We are Team LaJoy, and we ROCK!!!


r. said...

It's funny you mention infants, because I thought of your oldest son often while watching the documentary "Babies" a few weeks ago. The film follows four babies from four different parts of the world, including one baby who lived in a yurt in Mongolia. It's a cute film. It's not quite fast-paced enough for most kids, but it might be a good film for your family since it requires absolutely no English skills. (The film doesn't translate or provide narration--it's just the babies. The San Francisco couple does speak English, but it's not crucial for the film.)

The filmmaker's name is Thomas Balmes, if you're interested in Googling it. It would probably be pretty pricey for six tickets, but maybe when it comes out on Netflix or something you might be interested. Also, I'm pretty sure the trailer can be found online.

r. said...

Here's a link to some the trailer: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/babies/

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and Best Wishes on your new adventure! I pray you all have LOTS of fun together.

My thought is that teaching a LOVE of learning is more important than the specific learning itself, as we can all continue learning all of our lives and fill in any gaps from our school years.

Love and encouragement,

Peggy in Virginia

Lindsay said...

I'm so happy for you that you are feeling confident and enjoying teaching your children, and they are also thriving with it.

Just a quick side note: you mentioned Kenny have problems with vowels. Have you had his hearing tested thoroughly? I know that cleft palate can often be associated with hearing loss, and even a mild hearing loss can cause big educational issues, especially if he is missing out on how letters sound (such as being able to differentiate between a,e, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! You're on your way, Team LaJoy! I think another history unit could be on one room school houses, because that's what it was like according to my father-in-law who attended one a mile from where we now live.

You'll manage just fine, because you will learn also as you go along. And one day, you'll be one who can help other homeschoolers, from all of your own experience.

Nancy in Iowa

Anonymous said...

Part of socialization though DOES include a certain distancing from your family, age-appropriate of course. It's another way for children to discover the world around them, compare the ideals they learned at home with others, and eventually create their own families.

Family should be the center and the ultimate 'safety zone' for kids, but a certain distancing lets them grow in ways we can't see all the time. This is in NO way an anti-homeschooling rant since there are great benefits to that approach, but I've seen the good in traditional schools too while having kids who may face similar issues to yours. More than once I've had the children's wish that we could all be home together on a school day, but I've also seen the joy on their faces when they've come home with a new friend, learned something new that I might've overlooked, or faced a challenge successfully that they wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience in a home setting.

Again, not slamming homeschooling, and in your case, it sounding like it's a great option, since some of your kids might need the basic information that other people and educators could mistakenly assume they know already. But on the other hand, I love seeing my kids venture out, even when it's away from us for short periods of time. The things they return with are sometimes as priceless as the times we spend all together.

Lori said...

You DO!

Anonymous said...

Rock on, Team LaJoy.

LOL (love on line),

Anonymous said...

so happy for all of you!
Teresa F

Tammy said...

Of course you can do it. You are their mother. As you said, who knows them better than you?

And what an interesting comment about wondering when socialization became about leaving your family. Yes, there are many things kids can learn from others. But for those of us who have had kids who have already been on their own (and that includes babies who have gone into new homes or from home to home without anyone familiar to comfort them), our children have already had many of those experiences. Your homes schooling gives them time to learn about something they haven't had experience with yet. It is interesting that as I have dealt with my son's attachment issues, my perspective has changed. Now the experiences I want my son to have center around me and a stable family. All the other stuff is good but no one where on the priority list. Maybe someday they will again become important. But for now, the only thing that's important is teaching our children what family really means.

wilisons said...


I am so glad that you have turned the corner and are now becoming a confident home schooling mom. Your children are lucky to have YOU for a mom. You understand them in ways no one else does and work so hard to reach the needs of each of them individually!

A resourcce that I want to share with you and love as a teacher is the Readinga-z website (readinga-z.com) for printable books. You need a membership but it is an excellent source of leveled and decodable books each with its own lesson plan and follow-up graphic organizers and sheets.

In addition, last year reading a-z added 'multilevel books'. These books come in 3 levels and are on 1topic but language is changed and modified as appropriate. It may give you ALL something to read and discuss while still meeting individual levels. I think these books begin at around 2nd grade level. I also use fairy tale versions to do this in my classroom.

Besst wishes,

Lisa said...

Praise the Lord, LaJoy Family!!

Maureen said...

What wonderful compliment from Kenny! And how awesome that you've got a confidence boost that homeschooling will work! I'm sure you will have good and bad days, but it's good for your confidence to have a good day to celebrate. You (collectively) can do it!