Thursday, January 6, 2011


Two quick items before I get into the topic for this post. In our last two days of schooling before our Christmas break, we were able to use the flexibility of our schedule to our full advantage. Very early on Tuesday, December 21st, we pulled the boys out of bed at about 1:30am to watch the only total lunar eclipse this far north on the sky’s dome until December 21, 2485. It was spectacular! If they were enrolled in public school, I wouldn't have dared to get them up in the middle of the night. They both thanked me many times for letting them see something so out of the ordinary.

A couple of days before returning to our full time school schedule, I was desperately trying to get some work done around the house. The boys were doing everything they could to prevent that. So I did what any normal mom does...I threw them out into the bitter cold. They protested and said, "What are we supposed to do out here, anyway?!"
I suggested that they...(the first thing that pops into my mind)..."Look for a bird's nest or something!"

About ten minutes later, EM came running into the house. "Mom, we found one!"

Thinking fast, I asked if he'd like to borrow my camera to take a picture. Then HE came up with the idea to find the book he has that shows pictures of different birds' nests so he could try to identify what kind of bird built it. Isn't accidental learning the best?

Today I learned how important it is to never think I am the expert. JT had been given an assignment for grammar. He has a text book called Building English Skills, published in 1984 by McDougal, Littell & Company. I really like this slightly outdated text. It doesn't mess around with a lot of fluff. It presents grammar in a straight-forward kind of way, with simple exercises for reinforcement. Today JT was examining sentences to see if they were run-ons or correct. He had to number his paper from 1 to 20, writing 'correct', if the sentence was not a run-on. If it was a run-on, he was to rewrite the sentence as two or more sentences. This was a no-brainer kind of assignment. Maybe that was the problem. JT doesn't want work for the sake of work. He did the first 10 sentences and then started to whine.
"I don't want to do these."
"It's too much writing."
"These are B-O-R-I-N-G!"
I told him how important it is to learn to edit in writing. Recognizing mistakes in others' work can help us recognize our own. Blah, blah, blah.

Then he offered a compromise. What if I let him edit a chapter from the book he's been writing instead? I was resistant at first. As MOM, I often feel the need to 'stand my ground' once I have made a rule. But the more I thought about his suggestion, the more I realized how much sense it made. Why not allow him to put into action the very skills I was trying to teach him in a life applicable way? He could care less about those run-on sentences in the old text book. Isn't one of my complaints about the state of our current educational system that kids never get practical life lessons?

So, we put the text book aside and he pulled the first chapter of his book from the folder where he keeps it. He worked through the chapter and found several capitalization and punctuation errors on his own. Then I helped him work on the quotation problems he was dealing with in his dialogue. I reminded him of lessons we had already covered on split quotations and he was mostly able to fix the remaining problems on his own.

As a parent, I need to teach myself that the urge to always be the expert will not allow my child to become an independent learner. Most of the problems we have dealt with in the public education system have come from closed minded 'experts' who only wanted to do things the way they have always been done. Why should I walk that same path? If I can allow compromise and creativity to pave the way, education will take on a whole new meaning for my children.


Monica said...

Way to go, Mom!

Monica said...

Also, I was so sad to miss the eclipse. What is with this cloudy winter?