Unexpected lessons

I was homeschooled growing up, so when I set about to do the same for my own children, my primary goal was to make sure they learned to love math. It sounds silly, but math was a huge sticking point during elementary school for me and I just didn’t want that to be the same for my kids.

We started working on math when the kids were little and thankfully, I think we’ve created a culture of positivity around that subject. So I’ve felt pretty good about our work there. For instance, today, Liam had a lesson in math plus 200 mastery questions. He tackled the mastery and then came to me to tell me that he needed a break. This, for us, is a huge victory. One of the things I have not modeled well has been listening to my body and mind when I have pushed the limits too far. And yet, working with the kids to teach them to recognize these limits in their own lives has proven to be lesson that is far more valuable than times tables. So he did a huge portion of his work, took a break to reset and then dove back in.

Liam loves history. Sylvia loves science. I love nuturing these loves. Nurturing a love for science is easy for me. But when history came up as a love, I was surprised. I mean, I enjoy history and museums and reading biographies, but Liam had never been interested until last year. We started using The Story of the World curriculum and he wanted to learn everything. He kept listening to the cds over and over and spouting information, so I decided it was time to start giving him comprehension tests to see what the outcome was.

There are days when all Liam does is history. Because he’s in the zone and learning and thinking and talking about it. While it always creates a ping of “am I doing enough” in me, I see his growth. And I see him teaching his sister to love a subject so deeply. She has been a hesitant reader, progressing slowly and anxiously, but watching him throw himself into something has given her the courage to do the same. We work and work and when they’ve hit their limit, they have learned to tell me instead of melting down, unable to communicate.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned though, has been how. to. let. go. of. expectations. I knew it. I’ve read all the books, listened to the podcasts, perused the blogs. But until I saw the difference a day of living graciously made in my life and the life of my family, it just didn’t connect. Lowering those expectations and allowing myself to not conduct things in our homeschooling environment like I “think” they should be done and instead realizing the needs of the hour and working with them. It’s freeing, I tell you. Sure, I still want to accomplish things so that the state is pleased with me, but this isn’t about living up to perfection. By learning that, I think I’ve accomplished my own mom curriculum. I’ve got about a B+ average right now, but their enthusiasm for learning is helping my own growth curve. Maybe I’ll be an A student by the time Liam hits junior high? ­čÖé

A quick field trip

Sylvia and I were on a work trip last week and while we were in between stops, I needed to get a squirmy first grader out of the car. Truthfully, I needed out of the car and a walk around too. The home of James A. Garfield was the perfect stop to remedy our cranky legs.

Even though President Garfield was only in office for 200 days, his museum and home tour were well worth the $7 admission fee. The museum had lots of treasures from his life and the home involved a great tour that was lead by a volunteer who really knew her stuff.

I think one of the best things about this visit was that the home is part of the National Parks Service and to keep kids involved, they had a work book with assignments for the kids to complete. Sylvia’s job was to complete the bingo page (we treated it as a scavenger hunt and sought out each of the items), ask the Park Ranger a few questions and find items on a map. When she was done they gave her a little park ranger pin and I tell you, it made the day for us!

Work will slow down a bit for me after September and at that time we are going to try to do more day trips around the state. There’s so much to learn here in Ohio!

On commitment and frustration

I made a hard decision last week. I did not like making said decision, but I know in the long run, it’s the right one.

How do we teach our children to persevere when we are all exhausted? How do we tell them that sometimes, the right thing is to quit?

I was not allowed to quit anything as a child. The only time I did was when my parents weren’t able to financially support the activity any longer. So when I started college and began loading up my plate, I over loaded it and committed. And committed. And committed. As an adult, I’ve continued my habit of over committing and then spending my free time bemoaning these commitments.

Last week, a heart-to-heart with my doctor said I needed to start taking things off my calendar. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had that conversation, but things were scary for me health-wise. So I’ve been working on my own commitments and while I was at it, I took stock in what the kids are doing. In so doing, I realized Liam was over committed.

It broke my heart to realize I had done this to him.  I know mothers are supposed to make mistakes and that I am human, but I was so frustrated with myself for  continuing the you-will-not-quit-mid-semester attitude and forcing him to continue with guitar lessons even though he was clearly burnt out. No one should have to have a fight with their 7 year old over practicing. Nope.

So I sent an email and made a phone call. It was uncomfortable for me. Not because we were ducking out, but because we were ducking out during the school year. And in that moment, as I read a very gracious email from his teacher, I realized that I’m still breaking the patterns of my childhood.

It’s not a bad thing, but I feel like the longer I parent, and homeschool in particular, I’m learning things that I shouldn’t repeat. I know there are loads of parenting books with “answers”, but he’s my child. And no matter how fussy I am about quitting, I should have realized that he was done and drawn the line.

So here we are. Mom learned a lesson. And Liam did too. He needed to learn how to express himself minus the anger and frustration. And when HE is ready to commit again, we will try it. But this time, I won’t set myself up for failure.