It’s been an uneventful week—as our weeks go—thus far, and I’m almost at a quandary with what to do with my extra five minutes (LOL). Our son’s respiratory system couldn’t keep up with the 40-to-70-degree shifts in the weather, so I wanted to keep him home from dance, but by Tuesday, he was feeling better—I jokingly told him that he must have been praying not to cough so that he could attend class. At any rate, he was like a pig in slop once he got to class, even if there were only a few other students there. His second competition is coming up in a couple of weeks and he wanted to work on improving. This year for the first time he was actually given his judges’ critique sheet. I thought so much about my post on peaking too early, and I was glad that he was able to see what the judges thought in order to keep a fire lit up under him. They were very kind and considerate of the fact that these were children, but of course, like most of us, he was initially defensive about any comment that was less than glowing.
One thing the semi-down time has allowed me to do is to enjoy the onset of spring. KeriMae’s sweet peas are already sprouting, the mimosa tree is sprouting its first green leaves, and oh, the fresh mulch smells so rich and looks so beautifully dark brown amongst the greens. Also, our son’s duet partner lives on a farm, and her family gave us enough onions—white, yellow, and red—for the rest of ’09. I’m sensing quite a bit of time outdoors this year, which is fine right now, but I’m sure that by mid-May, when it hits the 90’s and climbing, I’ll regret that I got so excited about all the new spring growth.
Actually, as we’ve been busily working away at our normal days, I have had time to think about one of the many intangibles of homeschooling—getting to really know your kids. A while back I posted a quote from actress Jada Pinkett Smith (wife of actor Will Smith) about how they homeschooled so that their kids could be competitive in a technological age, or something like that, rather than educated in the current educational system, geared to the industrial age. I also went on to talk about how homeschooling is becoming all the celebrity rage in Hollywood. My first recollection that celebrities don’t always go to regular schools was when, in a Michael Jackson magazine interview, he was pictured as a young teen with his private tutor. The tutor was called just that—a tutor. Now, most child stars that our children watch state with pride that they are homeschooled.
As I said in this earlier entry, I found it disappointing that the Smiths didn’t teach their children themselves because I thought that, given their level of fame, it would have really promoted homeschooling to a population that would be far outside of the normal community and show that homeschooling isn’t the cause of the weird and freaky (smile). Anyway, after I blogged about this, one person commented that she saw no difference in what they did vs. what most of us do; they just homeschool with money. It was the same as hiring a piano teacher or math tutor. I chose not to respond to the respondent, but I thought, and I still think, there is a marked difference between a parent’s involvement and interaction with a child vs. allowing a private tutor to enter your home and to be your children’s primary instructor. The tutor may genuinely love your children and be a more effective teacher, but he/she cannot transform your home the way this level of interaction does. There is a bond that God created within a family, a bond that is strengthened through home education, and a tutor will never be able to completely simulate what God has called us to do. Day by day, year by year, our children’s hearts are woven into the beautiful, unique tapestry that each of us calls home. I’ve taught homeschooled children via co-ops and formal learning centers, and as much as I might enjoy it, and no matter how hard I prepare, I will never match the totality of what Mom or Dad is divinely equipped to pour into that child. So, I respectfully beg to differ with my commenter; Mom (or Dad) and tutor are not equal.
Such were my thoughts this morning as I got started on a harried day. I am still adjusting to daylight savings time, and this morning, I’d slept 10-15 minutes past when I should have been up. My plan was to make homemade biscuits, which took a bit of preparation, and I needed to get my superhero out the door quickly and get a list of things together for him to bring home. I didn’t finish checking the school work for yesterday, and so the oldest was trying to get going while I had her books, notebooks, etc., in several places—the shape of an approaching nightmare, and our son needed to leave with Dad. Our son was also going into a fairly detailed discussion which boiled down to one simple statement: could I please buy him new socks? Thus, school for the youngest was on the back burner until I could put out more pressing fires. But, after the house calmed down, I thought about each of the children and what helps them complete their work the most during the day. Our son just needs his planner up to date, and he’s off to the races. The oldest is also increasingly self-sufficient, but needs a periodic
checking on refocus on the day’s priorities. She has a sweet spirit, but an uncanny knack to do something relatively unimportant, particularly when she’s challenged with something academically. This is the kid who’ll stop to alphabetize the disarranged DVD’s rather than complete a science lesson outline. What about the youngest? I am increasingly convinced that she needs more structure than I generally provide. If I begin her day with what she thinks of as school—books, pencils, crayons, etc.—then she performs well, and with a great attitude. If she is allowed to do something else before “school,” even though it might be equally educational, she is difficult to work with once we get to the table. She whines, she’s overly sensitive (read dramatic) if I correct her on something, and she’s asking about taking a break far before one is due, in large part so that she can get back to what she’s doing. Though I’m trying to detox from some of my own thinking about what school is and be a bit flexible with her, no one would confuse my nature with that of an unschooler. Translated, child-directed doesn’t work for me, so her alternative plans have to fit somehow into my plans. Consequently, there are days when we part frustrated with one another. Of course, her frustration goes away in minutes; mine lingers for hours. There are other factors involved, like the fact that she thinks she’s as old as everyone else in the house and so rarely takes naps. I’ve also been thinking and rethinking a lot about her diet and making sure that she is not getting too much sugar. As an aside, isn’t it amazing how diet is the secret to so many of our physical and mental woes? I’ve been reading a lot about natural hair care lately as both our girls wear their hair in natural styles, and I’ve been so amazed/ reaffirmed that good hair care starts with lots of water and raw fruits and vegetables. Even Charlotte Mason begins her discourse on education not with any particular academic subject matter, but with a discussion of diet.
So, somewhere during this morning’s sprint for sanctity and sanity, I had a fleeting thought—would she be any different in school, without Mom there to unintentionally add complexity to her need for a routine? (Incidentally, I like a routine, too—it just rarely works out that way). Then I thought about an incident that occurred when our oldest was in school. Her name is Halle, pronounced like the actress Halle Berry. One of her classmates was Hallie, pronounced like the comet HAY-lee. On the class’s first progress report, the teacher gave our daughter an “NI” for needs improvement on name recognition. Stunned at the mark, I investigated and found out that when the teacher would address either Halle or Hallie, our daughter would ask, “Are you talking to me?” People often mispronounce her name, and so I thought this was a valid question. As we talked, even the teacher confessed that she sometimes called either kid by the wrong name. As silly as it sounds, it was my first slap in the face regarding the somewhat impersonal nature of a school system, even in an intimate setting. Three years old and already considered needing improvement. Fast-forwarding back to present-day, I quickly concluded that, for all our topsy-turvy-ness, the youngest is better off here where, whatever she brings to the table, she has a mother who knows her, loves her unconditionally, and always thinks she’s exceptional, no matter what. What tutor could offer her that?