Monday, September 29, 2008
Is it possible to homeschool with seven chickens, a bunny, a new puppy, a cat, and two kids sick with pneumonia? Like some multi species remake of Cheaper by the Dozen? YES! Is it possible to clean up pee puddles while you cradle a phone, monitor a thermometer and prepare supper? YES! How about feed chickens while holding a pup AND cradling a phone on the way to the compost. Yup. Mostly possible. How about follow an election (obsessively) while picking up poo and measuring antibiotics and purelling and comforting and mopping and getting chickens out of the road and making cupcakes and helping with math and.....and paying attention to the fact that my twelfth anniversary is approaching? Yes... would be a lie. I've been doing it... except for the anniversary part. Not doing it well. But doing well enough. I have found that is is nearly impossible for me to take time to write during all of this. In my sleep deprived state there are two things I know for sure. I need to find out why new is spelled new and pneu is spelled pneu . And gnu gnu. And after eating a handful of puppy chow instead of the popcorn which was in the other hand, I know I am not quite as functional as I want to believe. Yes, I spit it out but it really wasn't bad!
Of course if I come down with this dreadful pneumonia I expect the whole household will come apart. I suspect that my immune system is working extra hard to make sure I stay well because listening to my husband deal with the household while I lie sick in bed knowing what he is doing WRONG is excruciating. NO I croak from the bedroom. Adam doesn't eat the orange kind. Only the kind with the shells. It is NO WAY to be sick. Gosh I am so controlling! Before marriage I got sick in peace. It was lonesome and pathetic, but quiet and not annoying.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Good grief. We've been doing this for nearly five years now and I still get stuck this way, forgetting the obvious opportunities to step out of the box. Well, we took a big comforter and spread it out under a tree. What a gorgeous September day it was. A real sparkler with much lower humidity. We lounged on the ground and I read aloud. Math got done. The tire swing inspired a drawing and the writing of a silly poem. The chickens wandered by. My five year old took bouncing breaks on the mini trampoline between work on pages of his beloved math workbook. Yes, I said beloved. Now maybe these boys will grow into men whose workdays will entail hours under fluorescent lights in windowless workspaces. But for now they are boys experiencing an educational alternative which allows them breezes and the sunshine. They know that learning can take place anywhere they are.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
“You kids were never bored until you learned the word from Sesame Street!” My mom has always said this. The fact is we kids were often involved in child directed projects or plays, puppet shows or elaborate make believe games. When we were not busy with these activities we were involved in solitary…do not read that lonesome… pursuits like reading and writing, knitting, sewing, day dreaming. The introduction of the word BOREDOM into our lives was most unwelcome. We began to use the word BORED! “Mom. We’re BORED!”
I believe we had, in fact, experienced boredom, but just had never named the feeling. Perhaps Sesame Street helped us label something we felt and maybe that is a positive thing. However, the words BORING BORED BOREDOM do have a sour ring to them, an inherently negative taste. They are tough for parents to hear. Boredom, like itchy skin, seems to cry out for remediation. Make it stop, Mommy!
But should we parents try to make boredom stop?
Many parents have tapped into their inner cruise director. We believe that the balm to ease the child’s discomfort (and to stop that horrible word) is activity or entertainment . It is annoying to hear kids whining that they’re bored. Why don’t you go play with your_________ (fill in the blank) rolls off our tongues. Or, How about you go and work on your__________(fill in.) For many parents, homeschoolers or not, the appearance of our kids “doing nothing” is just too anxiety producing. Idle hands and all that.
Imagine for a moment how different it would be to treat boredom as an opportunity!
As a culture, we seem to have a mistrust of children and their impulses. Not only do we feel we need to protect kids (which is totally appropriate), we feel their time needs to be managed so they do not “go bad” and “get in trouble.” Keeping kids, especially teens, occupied and supervised at all times might reduce the chances of getting into trouble. I don’t have teens so really I have no idea if my ideas apply. But fear of allowing kids, no matter what their age, to experience boredom, robs children of the opportunity to know them selves. It minimizes the opportunity for introspection. We parents are participating in a system of busymaking, which looks good on the outside, but actually leads, I believe, to stunted adults who expect to be spoon-fed and entertained and have any discomfort they feel fixed by something or someone outside themselves.
What if we were to welcome and even celebrate periods of boredom? Protected boredom. Not kids loose on the street boredom but boredom under an umbrella of parental care?
It can ease a homeschool parent’s mind to see busy children packing learning into every moment. I know it eases mine. For one thing busy kids working at easily observable projects is good PR…for people who are skeptical about home education. (It is an unhappy reality that, in spite of many positive reactions to what we do, some folks feel entitled to point out, sometimes right in front of our kids, that they believe we are ruining our children’s lives through our choice of home education.) For another, those happy busy kids make me feel like a success as a “teacher.” Obviously I am doing it right because my kids are NOT bored But wait a minute! We have an amazing opportunity here to see what happens when we trust our children as natural, creative learners and to respect their unfolding as people.
At the risk of sounding too hallmarky, within each child…each person…my children… are nuggets of potential, over-wintering, waiting to be discovered and tended. Waiting for their time. Nobody, not even so-called experts, can say what these seeds contain, whether or when they will germinate or what they will become. Children who never practice being with boredom may never know how powerful this uncomfortable, temporary state can be. They may never feel what it is like to conceptualize and then bring THEIR OWN creations into the world. Kids in most traditional school settings are rarely allowed to harness the power of their own inner lives. In fact, many never realize that they have or have a right to become acquainted with an inner life. They are busy taking information in. In a homeschool situation we are well positioned to reframe the concept of boredom and practice a different reaction to it.
In homeschooling our sons I am learning to welcome the pronouncement of boredom. I have discovered that within days or hours or even minutes of boredom's onset, one of my kids is likely to enter into a creative, self-initiated project of some kind. Examples include Zack, at six or seven, imagining a character, Fat Chipmunk, and then creating many dozens of pages of comics with drawings and captions over a period of several months. Or Adam, five, becoming Batman and creating an elaborate Batmobile out of an old box. Or Zack, eight, making a catapult out of boards and bricks and using it in various configurations to send balls into the air. Zack, five, developing a cursive signature on his own. Adam, four, imagining and then making a book, and then a poster, of numerous Pokemon he had colored. Adam, six, insisting on a doing a woodworking project which resulted in nesting boxes made from scrap lumber. Adam, six, realizing he could patiently out wait a hen and get a warm egg as soon as it was laid. Adam, bored while I cleaned the house for a party, realizing he could read Hop on Pop to himself. Zack, 7 , making his own cooking show and having me record it.
All these self- initiated projects will both nourish the children and provide true expression of their inner selves. I have no doubt that the ownership my boys feel for their own work...projects that have germinated in the fertile ground of boredom...is more important to their development than a hundred assignments I might dream up and make them do.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
This Rokenbok setup is made up of many sets that were handed down to us by dear friends. The pieces we have are all at least five years old, probably closer to ten, and have held up extremely well. Every time we bring this out the boys construct it differently and work on it for hours and hours. Rokenbok, along with Lego blocks, has turned out to be one of our favorite toys and a great addition to our homeschool.
As for the tomatoes they came from plants my younger son grew. They had their beginnings as part of a spring circle time activity with other homeschoolers. He hates tomatoes but he loved planting the seeds and watching his plants grow. Part of the fun was that we really did not know what kind of tomato was growing! I'm still not sure but they are definitely not your average supermarket tomato variety.