Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cozy Reflective Times

It is snowing here in Western Colorado as we get an unexpected dumping that was supposed to be a minor storm just passing through. The past two days have left us covered in a blanket of crispy whiteness, and there has been no small amount of guilt as Matthew and I sit snuggled today in front of the wood stove as we both work on our studies. More than once we have looked over at one another and said "I sure wish everyone else were home with us!".

It was a little bumpy for us the past couple of days as well, as Matthew is coming to grips with the differences between public school expectations and home school curriculum. He is surprised and not just a bit dismayed to discover that he is actually behind in some areas despite his excellent grades in school in years past. The basics of writing are a real struggle for him...punctuation and capitalization in particular. He was in tears asking me "Mommy, why did they give me good grades when I didn't know this stuff?". We have had a couple of long discussions about what "grading on a curve" means, and how public school has focused on different things than we might at home. It seems that often it was "the thought that counts" and not a strong emphasis on actually spelling or punctuating/capitalizing correctly. While I do not think this is necessarily a completely incorrect approach, and that developing critical thinking skills early on is important, the fact that I have a 5th grader who has not been drilled enough in such basic writing skills is a little frustrating. By this stage, it ought to be on occasional mistake, not every sentence. His writing ideas and development is actually quite good for his age, he is creative and seems to have a knack for pulling things together in an engaging style, so I know he will eventually be a very good writer and I enjoy reading what he writes.

It has led me to a better understanding of what some homeschooling blogs and web sites refer to as needing a period of "deschooling" after removing a child from public school. I think we both need it. I am really finding it a challenge to not worry about "keeping up" with what is going on at the same grade level in public school, to let go and create a more relaxed way of exploring learning here at home. It isn't public school and it doesn't have to look like it, but I am far too fearful of gaps he might have instead of seeing all the gaps we are FILLING. He needs to let go of old ways of measuring success...grades are obviously not a useful tool to gauge mastery of a subject and are often subjective.

So this morning we didn't do any workbooks, no math or grammar. Instead he is finally beginning his study of the Orchestra and has explored the most amazing web sites for kids. He has taken joy in all he already knows and has looked up several times as he has viewed You Tube videos of Renaissance era music, listened to the 1812 Overture, and played around with the sounds of various instruments together and said "Isn't that relaxing mom?" or "Don't you think that sounds so pretty?" or "The piccolo sounds like a bird flying!". He has been at this for 3 hours already with no break, he is enjoying it so much!! He has decided he wants to read biographies about the three composers that were featured at the symphony this weekend, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach. So we will need to hit the library soon. This unit study we bought was worth 10 times the $15 it cost! The web sites it has found are so interactive and he is begging me to keep at it for another 30 minutes before moving on..."Please Mom...can't I just finish the section on the bassoon?". How can I say no to that? THIS is what learning is about.

I was sharing my inner fears and lack of confidence with my mom this morning...about how I worry about being able to actually do this and do it at the level Matthew deserves (and all the kids should we be led in that direction). My mom is always a good person to bring me up short and have me see things from a different angle. She reminded me that my own expectations are always way higher than most people's, that I think I ought to be perfect at something from the moment I tackle it. She is right, I do put a lot of pressure on myself. She then sent me a quote from a recent Guideposts that she remembered and it reminded her of me..."If you live your life worried about the "what ifs'", you'll never enjoy the "what's happenings!". " .

Isn't that so true? And it sort of reinforces my own feelings about our pending adoption. Sure this could be very difficult, we know we are taking on children who have deep scars and perhaps unhealed wounds. What will that mean for our future? What if they turn out to be terribly damaged emotionally? What if we relive our experience with Josh multiplied by the passing of time and age? What if we end up regretting this or finding it rocks our otherwise wonderful world?

But the "what's happening" might turn out to be beautiful...wonderful...amazing. Even in the midst of what COULD be very difficult there will be moments of great "what's happening" to enjoy. As with homeschooling...I need to refocus and not think about the "what if's" of what we might be missing in terms of curriculum, etc. but look at the "What's happening's" as Matthew learns things well outside the standard curriculum...gross domestic product, bassoons, Native American medicine, and where Stone Mountain is and what it looks like. Along the way we will cover the 3 R's, and will do so systematically...but it is what happens outside of that that is where the magic will be found. Just as it will be outside of the expected struggles with the girls where we will see the magic happen as they blossom into the graceful and loving women we know God created them to be. Somehow, we will get there, but only if we can find the joy in the "what's happening" and not focus on the "what if".

So what about you...are you living in "What if" or will you join me in purposely moving to "what's happening"?


Susan said...

Hi--if you ever get the urge to have someone else read one of Matthew's papers, I read college freshmen papers all the time and give a lot of feedback (I know, I know--he's not a college student, but what I mean is that I'm a practiced outside eye if you ever want one). I empathize with his "why didn't they tell me this?" question. I'm loving reading your descriptions of home schooling--it sounds great. I'm one of the Kyrgyz families if you want to look me up. Best wishes, Susan

Carrie DeLille said...

Looks like wisdom runs in the family :o)