Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homeschooling Requires Jelly Beans

WHY ? why? Why?

Why do we homeschool?

This is the question a psychologist asked me two years ago with great incredulity when I went to her for help during my dark days of postpartum depression. It's a fair question, especially for someone feeling overspent, overworked, underslept, and overangry.

The answer to this question eluded me then as it does now. I have read books about why other people choose to homeschool and I relate with some of their reasons. I get catalogs from the great amorphous right-wing, conservative Christian homeschooler guild that is sure I am homeschooling so that the infidels in the schools won't whisper the name of "Darwin" to my little darlings, lest they be convinced there is no God.

I don't order from those catalogs .
And Darwin is not why we homeschool. Unless that is to say there would not be opportunity in public school to answer or explore all the questions my children have about who he was and what he did . We do have opportunity to indulge curiosity in a way that cannot be done by a teacher in a classroom. I have a finite number of curious minds to indulge. The logistical impossibilities are stacked high against teachers from the outset. I can't blame them for the parameters that restrict their abilities.

I am Christian and I admit this does play a part in my WHY. We don't watch television in our house. It is bad for us. This is a personal choice that has made us a happier family. We do not have any video/computer games in our home. Again, this has helped us turn to other forms of entertainment and engagement - namely each other. These choices stem from our Christianity, our own interpretation of how we, as a family, can prepare to know Christ. I do think that the influence of media and gaming found swirling around in the brew of popular culture in the public school is at odds with our choices as parents.

This, of course, may be considered being overprotective.
tomato - tomahto

I think I mostly find my Why in being privy to my children's moments of discovery. If I sent them elsewhere for their education I would not see the first stitches of recognition as they sew a new concept to their own young collection of ideas.

I am rewarded constantly by the time I give to my children in the name of education.

Jonah does a timed math sheet every day - one minute to complete 25 addition facts. The point is not necessarily finish all 25, but to continue to improve and get as many right as possible, an effort at proficiency. Jonah only sees the 25 that need to be completed and we have gone through many days of tears for the blank addition facts glaring at him at the end of one very short minute.

The crying.
Ughh, the crying.

One day I said to him, "Jonah, you don't need to be so devastated if you don't finish every addition fact."
Without hesitation he responded "Just give me some jelly beans if I feel devastated."

Caroline and I did a reading lesson yesterday; number 64 of 100 - the 100 that are in the lesson book. There will be a thousand more lessons over the next few years as we read together regularly. She has a story to read each day and they are getting longer. Yesterday's story was a full page and at the outset she slumps her body into the refusal posture that tells me we will be at it for a long time and each word will require frustrating coercion on my part. The battle ensued. But it was a funny story, as most of them are, about a boy who tries to send his mother a card but a cop gets it instead, and it inspired her to make two beautiful cards for me that said "Mom" with hearts and flowers.

Jonah and I read Shakespeare. Not the intense, full language Shakespeare that will come several years from now. And not the Henry V Shakespeare that is best left until one has developed a true appreciation for the slightly more approachable plays. We have read children's versions of the plays that make us laugh.
It did not occur to me the other day as we read Romeo and Juliet that the end of this story was very different from As You Like It or A Midsummer Night's Dream.
While Romeo was kissing the lifeless lips that would soon warm giving Juliet her turn to find the death of love lying poisoned beside her, Jonah was already crying. When Juliet turned the dagger on herself Jonah's crying became full sobs that wracked his little body. I couldn't finish. He had his head in his hands, full of tears, while he asked over and over "Why would he write this, why would he write this?"
When Jonah calmed enough to talk I finished the last few paragraphs where the Montagues and Capulets vow to resolve their differences for the sake of the lost youths.
I told Jonah, "It's not a true story."
"I know," he said, "it's just so sad."
"Why do you think Shakespeare wrote a story like that?" I asked him.
"To torture someone."
"Do you learn anything from it?"
"It teaches you one thing," Jonah acquiesced, "never quarrel, because bad things might happen and it all turns out horrible in the end."

Had I any jelly beans that day, I would have offered them as balm to his devastation.

Strangely, my biggest regret with this experience was that Jonah will never discover Romeo and Juliet for the first time again. The tragedy is known to him no matter how many times he reads it or sees it on stage. But at the same time I am so glad that I was with him to talk through his visceral response to a very unhappy ending. That is the gift of homeschooling.

A week may turn out very different form my vision on Sunday night of our next round of lessons. This week there has been letter writing to Norway, philosophical discussion about the nature of curfews imposed by Henry Plantagenet in England, uncovering Herculaneum (the lesser known city destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 A.D.), a trip to Temple Square to participate in another homeschooler's geography project, watching the leaves sprout on our sweet potato immersed in water, and the creation of two very impressive versions of pages from The Book of Kells.

It's a good week.

1 comment:

aubtobobtolob said...

have i mentioned how pleased i am to have you in my camp? it helps. every day.