Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Reprieve

bacon socks
JT's first 12 week fencing class has ended. Even though he has to wear incredibly uncomfortable gear, he is happy to go to practice, so I know this activity is a success. Classes will be offered again starting in February and he will definitely be taking part.

Fencing classes are wrapping up, EM's pottery classes have finished until spring, and piano and drum lessons are falling into a nice routine; things are starting to take on a nice rhythm in preparation of the holiday madness that descends every December. I am a bit ahead of myself this year and have actually purchased a few gifts. This week I hope to sit down and make a game plan for the remaining holiday responsibilities. Of course, I'll forget  something vital that will cause potential disaster, but at least I'll have a fighting chance this time.

We are taking only two days of vacation for Thanksgiving which means I will have planning work to do tomorrow for next week. Both the boys and I want to push hard to have an early finish to the school year, so we aren't taking long breaks around the holidays. Even our Christmas break will be limited this year. Because of that I will probably go easy on them with their workload during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm already starting to look at planning for the months following the new year to try and get an idea of where we are ahead and where we need to work a little harder to get back up to speed. The end of the school year is months away, but it already feels like it's just around the corner. Even with all of the busyness to come,  I hope we will get the opportunity to slow things down a little to enjoy the holiday season.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Much Do I Have to Learn?

When the boys were younger I spent much more time doing traditional instruction in my role as teacher. If they were learning parts of speech, I would make cards with words that they could use to create sentences. When they learned about the water cycle, I drew diagrams on the white board. During our art projects, I was doing prep work the day before so they could create something in the morning. But things are getting harder for me now. They are starting to study things that are more challenging for all of us.

JT is learning German using Rosetta Stone this year. I am also going through the program. Right now I have fallen a little behind him with the schedule and when he completes a supplemental worksheet, I need to ask my husband to check his work. EM is working his way through a reading textbook with comprehension questions at the end of each story. If I don't read the story, it's impossible for me to know if he is answering the questions correctly. I am trying hard to stay one chapter ahead in the biology text but have let that one slide at times. Then I have to skim quickly to help when it's time for the module review. The American government textbook is interesting, but I don't always feel like reading a chapter or two to verify that JT's answers to end of chapter questions include all the details they should.His algebra worksheets from Thinkwell need corrected. I can look at the final answers to know if he has them right, but if there's a problem, I can't always determine where he is having difficulty so I call the husband in yet again.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy learning many things. I take Coursera classes for fun when I can squeeze it into my schedule. It's just that I do not necessarily want to study German, algebra, biology, American government, or a 6th grade reading text. But when I don't stay ahead of the boys in their studies, I feel like I am not giving them the best shot at success. I'm starting to go a little bit crazy here trying to do all of this on top of prepping their work for each week, running them to activities, taking care of our house, feeding ravenous teen boys, and allowing myself a minute or two to do something I like each day. You know, things like showers or sleep.

Do I have an obligation to have a complete knowledge of the things I ask them to learn? If they were in a traditional education setting I would be aware of what they were studying, but probably have little involvement in the work beyond helping to study for tests. Because I have chosen homeschooling, have I by default chosen to learn all of these things as well? Can I just point them in the direction they need to go and hope they figure it out?

At the start of this year, I thought things were getting easier. I guess I was wrong about that one. That's the great thing about homeschooling; I'm always learning from my mistakes.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Expanding Creativity

pants and pottery
EM has traditionally been our most mathy, practical, child. He has a great imagination that often comes out in what we call "blowing things up." This involves some imaginary battle he has in his mind as he darts around the room making explosion noises. He has now found a friend who also enjoys this activity and they spend hours blowing things up together over the telephone. I can't understand the entertainment value. I guess it's a boy thing.

In the last few months EM has really started to show an interest in the arts. Up until recently, he had not wanted much to do with those kinds of activities. Last year EM took a few pottery classes at the local Y.M.C.A Arts Center. His classes focused on hand-building pottery. This year he expressed an interest in trying the more advanced pottery wheel classes. An opening just became available this month and he was finally able to try it out. He seems to be getting the hang of it although he says it is much more difficult than his other classes. He always comes home covered in clay. I guess that's a sign he's really getting into it.

music selection
We have also added music instruction to his schedule this year. After only seven lessons, he is playing some pretty tricky pieces. His teacher says he is one of the best students he's ever had. EM loves playing and practices every day, at least once, sometimes more. Many times I have to tell him to stop and get to work on other things he needs to do. He likes the challenge of learning new songs and will work until he can play each one from memory. I can only hope this trend continues!

fine art
He added another new pursuit this week. He decided he'd like to learn how to draw better. He was talking with his dad about how he thought he wasn't a very good artist. Dad suggested that he try using this Star Wars book to give it another try. Now that EM has been learning that patient hard work can lead to success through his piano lessons, he seemed more willing to sit down and make mistakes to get to where he wanted to be. Several times this week I have found him in his room or at the table in the classroom working on his art work.

I know that we are told over and over how making mistakes and having patience are the best ways to learn new things, but it's easy to forget when we watch our children struggle to master a new skill. We tend to want to make learning easy for them. We want them to be happy, not frustrated. But in all three of these activities EM has struggled and now he is thrilled that he has conquered those challenges. Hopefully I can keep that in mind as the boys take on more difficult things in their lives and allow them to grow through those struggles.