Monday, August 31, 2009

Joyfully Educating Mi'ita

My friend reminded me that learning is supposed to be joyful. Anything learned by cramming down the throat is not worth the pain, nor is it well retained. That is much easier to do when you have more patience than that of a gnat.

We had a good day today. Mi'ita woke up under the weather, so I was going easy on her. I think we got more done today than we usually do, so perhaps going easy on her is the ticket. I forget that as smart as she is and as well as she reads and understand concepts, she's still a kid. We need to include the arts and crafts. Our first lesson of the day was art, and we sketched her bearded dragon. The last thing we did was build jello models of both an animal cell and a plant cell. Then ate one. Yum, yum.

I also let her watch two Magic Schoolbus videos. The books are good kid science. The videos are crap, in my humble opinion. There are good things to learn via television, but you certainly have to pick and choose. We watched half of a show on human genetics today, and that was definitely worth the modified brain waves.

We went to the library today, too. Every week I make her pick out 1 poetry book, 1 biography, 1 science book, 1 history book (ancient history right now), 1 novel, 1 nonfiction video, 1 art book, 1 folktale/legend/myth, plus whatever else she wants. Since she reads at the adult level, I was picking out for her simple adult books with lots of pictures. Mistake. She likes the format of children's nonfiction and the bite-sized information. She is getting quite good at finding her own materials now, using the catalog and call numbers. I didn't have to help her at all this time, and it was only our second trip. She made good choices, too. I really can't get her to read anything that I suggest, unless I am totally nonchalant about it and really and truly don't care if she reads it or not. She is such a contrary child.

Since we were going at a relaxed pace and had included lots of breaks in the way of free reading time and Magic Schoolbus videos, we went all day until dinner time. We still didn't get Latin in, nor did we walk the dog. She did write a fabulous story about her lizard, though, and spent a good hour on it. We'll see how much I can get her to revise it tomorrow. She wants to build a blog of her own writings, so we'll publish it on the web.

All in all, a good day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday Field Day

I think Fridays are going to be popular.

I read in one of my homeschooling books to leave one day per week open for library trips, field trips, and projects. We already go to the library Monday afternoons (I volunteer), so field trips and all day projects belong to Fridays.

Since school doesn't start for a couple weeks for the rest of Newport, we still have access to other kids. Mi'ita a wanted to go to Otter Beach aquatic park for Friday field day this week. It lacks the science or social studies that I was thinking of (museums, hikes, field studies, zoos) but it does have some value. We went with two of her friends, and she swam like a fish for two and a half hours, in the rain no less. They had a great time and a lot of exercise. I figured it was a PE day. Mi'ita has my body and will have to watch her weight her entire life. PE is not to be sniffed at and letting her enjoy her exercise is a good thing.

Speaking of PE, I think Mi'ita is getting more exercise than she does in school. We walk the dog every day for 45 minutes to an hour to a rope swing near our house. It's a beautiful spot in the woods by a creek. We can collect leaves, pinecones, water samples, and find newts. I've never seen a frog there, but I've heard them. Being outside, seeing all that beauty, watching the seasons change, having time to talk to her mom, or not. It's all good.

Mi'ita has more time to herself in the afternoons, too, and I see her being more active. We do seat work in the morning and after lunch she does what she likes. Theoretically, it's time to unschool. Unschool is the concept that all human beings are wired to learn and do not need to be forcefed education. A true unschooled education would be to let her do what she likes all day and to teach her only what she requests to be taught. I am incapable of leaving that much of her education to chance. I do buy the concept, though, and am willing to let her do it part time. Afternoons, I let her go and she has been educationally focused. She watches her German and Latin DVD's or science shows (no TV that isn't educational) and reads mostly. She built a volcano and exploded it Saturday night.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are the Tears Necessary?

This is what I don't understand. My lovely daughter complains bitterly about every assignment I put in front of her. She does them grudgingly and acts like she hates all of it.

My mother called the other day while I was in the shower and asked Mi'ita how school was going. Does she tell my mother that she hates it? No. She tells my mother that everything is good, with enough sincerity to convince her.

On top of that, she has woken me up every day this week and wanted to start school immediately. This morning, with her friend spending the night (with the understanding that school will continue as usual and her friend had to join us--it's still officially summer vacation for the rest of the world and we need to take advantage of that), they woke up at 5 AM wanting to start! I had to send them back to bed until they woke up again at 7:30. Again, they had to start immediately, and immediately started the complaints.

I have to think that Mi'ita's complaining is just part of her personality and she really doesn't hate it. This actually frees me up a bit. I don't enjoy her complaining at all, but now I know that I can blithely ignore it and not take it as a criticism of my teaching, the curriculum, or the texts. I can insist that she do my assignments until she can come up with a better plan herself.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor your child's education to her interests, skills, and abilities. I've been trying to do that this week, responding to her complaints. Now I know that won't work--she's just a complainer. I can still tailor her curriculum, but I have to be less sensitive and more forceful. Of course she could come up with her own plan that meets my minimum requirements. I do hope that she takes control of her education at some point.

We seem to have developed a schedule that is working, though. First thing in the morning we start (around 7ish), take a breakfast break and then a "recess" break, then done by lunchtime. Whatever we get done by noon seems to be all we're going to get done for the day. PE dog walk is in the afternoon.

In case you're wondering, dog walks won't be her only PE time. She is also going to be starting ballet in a couple weeks, and the local homeschool group has a swim time at the pool that we'll horn in on as soon as it starts up. She'll start up guitar lessons in a couple weeks, too, for music. I'm still figuring out how to add in art. Library is Monday afternoons.

Now how do I get her to stop complaining short of flinging her off the nearest cliff? (That would be bad, I know, and her daddy would be frightfully angry with me.) Other people's homeschooled children are perfectly behaved, I think, and the rest of the world sends their kids to school to torment their teachers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I was hoping today would be a better day, and it was. A bit.

I've turned math over to Mi'ita's dad. His degree was in math, but that's not the reason. I can teach 4th grade math just fine. She hates math and is evil at math time, and her father has more patience than I do. I happily plunked that little turd in his lap, and he got the tears and arguments today and forevermore. He got a lot more work out of her, too, and more valuable work. I am pleased, and I think the tears and arguments will diminish when she sees that they have no effect. I don't know what all the drama is about. She is perfectly capable of it, the work is not too hard or easy, math comes easily to her even if it's not fun.


There are a lot of math games out there in the world, as my mother has pointed out. I need to get in touch with them.

Science and history have taken some adjustments, too. Thankfully, she likes both those subjects, but she didn't like the way I was teaching them. The classical model suggested that we read, then summarize what we read with illustrations. She likes reading, likes the texts we are using (Kingfisher's Illustrated History of the World, and Usborn's How Nature Works), but she hated the summarizing. Taking a page out of the Magic Schoolbus series, I suggested that she draw a picture, then write captions and a paragraph that went along with it. Basically, a summary with pictures, but now the pictures take the front seat. It worked.

And we're slowing down. We got 2 1/2 hours done today, not including the PE dog walk.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Selling Her to Gypsies

Any bidders?

Yesterday I waxed poetic about mi dulce hija and how wonderful it was to have her working with me all day. Today I'd cheerfully sell her to gypsies. Heck, I'd pay them to take her off my hands.

And I wouldn't miss her for hours.

I wanted to use the classical education model for teaching her, because it is rigorous and emphasizes history and languages. There are tons of different models of homeschooling out there and I haven't learned half of them yet. I myself would have loved learning with the classical model as a child. Of course I was an odd child and adored having my sharp little pencils in a row.

My daughter is not a sharp pencils in a row kind of kid. I've been looking at other models out there with the knowledge that whatever model I use will be a hybrid, and the classical model will not be the one that resonates with her soul. It's the model that resonates with my soul, though, and I want it for her.

She's very bright and curious about the world, so rigorous is not the problem. The problem is that she has her own strong ideas and is stubborn and opinionated about them (and obnoxious, pig-headed, and immature, too. Do you get that we didn't have a good day?)

Yesterday, our first day, we learned Latin, literature, math, history, spelling, handwriting, dictation, PE, and library skills. We didn't get to grammar, though it was on the agenda, and science we are alternating with history. So it was a full schedule and we worked hard. I even had this nifty point system that I was going to brag about later. She didn't like everything, but she worked and earned her points.

Well, today was not such a good day. She probably learned as much as she would have learned in a regular classroom where she isn't challenged, but it certainly wasn't yesterday. She studied Latin, German, literature, handwriting, and math today. But I had to say some words and do some things that I certainly wasn't proud of to get her to do it. Subtlety is lost on her.

It doesn't help that I have the patience of a gnat.

My husband came home for lunch today and noticed that she was runny nosed, puffy eyed, and bit under the weather. For being such a helicopter mom, I can be so blind to these things. We called it quits for the day, with over half the curriculum left uncovered, and we stopped being evil bears to each other.

I might be tempted to throw in the towel after today except that we've had identical times over homework in years past. Tomorrow is a new day. God help me make it better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day

We hit the ground running on the first official day of homeschooling. I've prepared, read the books, bought the curriculum, compared theories, and wrote the schedule up on the whiteboard. Today we started.

It feels like I'm getting my kid back.

I'm in charge again, just like when she was little and I knew what was going on with her in all areas of her life because I was there. Now I know what she is studying and can help her connect that information with the rest of the world. I am reading to her at night again, even though she learned to read four years ago. I don't have to be frustrated that they don't teach languages in elementary schools. She's taking two now, Latin and German. She won't grow up monolingual like most Americans.

It's hard work, though. At least it was today. We spent five hours at it, then went to the library for an hour and a half, then finally took the dog for a walk for PE. We'll burn out if we keep up this pace, and all the books I've read have estimated time for seat work between 2-4 hours. I need to scale back. I was more tired than she was. Except for math I think she appreciated the rigorous pace.

When she was going to school where I worked I was still very much connected to what she was doing all day. Since we moved, though, I sent her off to the local elementary school, got her back at the end of the day, and felt completely out of the loop. I even volunteered in her class half an hour a day and still felt had very little idea of what was going on with her.

This is the most precious person in my life.

And it feels like I'm getting her back.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homeschooling and Camping

Homeschooling is a new adventure for Mi'ita and me. Science on a camping trip is such a no brainer, but I am certainly learning what flies and what doesn't.

What didn't fly:

1. There were no other kids! That was no surprise for me or John, but it was for Mi'ita. Camping for her has always been at a big campground with room to bike, swim, and play with the tons of other kids crawling all over the place. This was a working camping trip for John--he was scuba diving for the forest service fish biologists who were doing a fish count for salmon. So we were camping with a bunch of fish biologists, none of whom brought their kids. Next time, we'll invite a cousin along.

2. Assignments. Who goes camping to have assigned reading or projects, no matter how interesting they may be?

3. Bringing only nonfiction books. Maybe that was a mistake, maybe it wasn't. It forced us both to read the nonfiction and kept us bored enough to spend a LOT of time wading on the river.

What did fly:

1. Wading in the river and looking for animals. Me looking them up in field guides, talking through the process of identifying them, and sharing the information with Mi'ita. Taking bets with her about whether a lizard was a Sagebrush lizard or a Western Fence lizard, verifying with the biologists, and having her win.

2. Snuggling and reading out loud to her from biology books that taught her about things that were right there at the river--reptiles, lizards, fish, tadpoles, amphibians, and metamorphosis.

3. Reading the information posted by the forest service about salmon, spawning, local wildlife, and so on. Visiting the ranger station and going on the hikes.

4. Talking about the politics and science of endangered salmon--breaching dams; the needs of fish, farmers, loggers, and fisherman; the Endangered Species Act; and spotted owls.

5. Finding a 6 inch bullfrog tadpole (!) and learning more about invasive species.