Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Doing School"

Once again, the devil on my shoulder--the ugly one that says "You're not a very good homeschooling mom!"--has reared his disgusting head.

A couple of nights ago, I was getting ready for a get-together with a group of friends, a full third of whom are school teachers. In my pregnant-hormonal state, I imagined myself (or one of my kids) being asked the dreaded question...

"So, What did you do for school today?"

They would ask it innocently enough, but it would be the question that exposed me for the sorry excuse for a teacher that I am. What did I do for school today??

The worst possible scenario, of course, would be for my five-year-old to chime in,

"We didn't do any school today!"

Let me find a hole in a corner somewhere to crawl into. (Lest you think that this is unlikely and I am exaggerating, our barber asked him during a recent haircut if he went to school, and he flatly told her "no".)

Why did the possibility of this question send me into a panic, you ask? Because, in my mind, I didn't think we really had done school that day.

I mean, we didn't do math, and everyone knows that a school day without math is really no school day at all!

Okay...stop. Really? Is the fact that I hadn't done math the honest-to-goodness reason I didn't feel as though I had "done school"? What's going on here?

Here's the truth of it:

A lot of days, I feel as though I haven't really "done school". Math makes me feel as though I have "done school" because it is the one piece of "real" curriculum I am using right now. "Real", as in, I spent "real" money on it, and it has a teacher manual, a workbook with pages to do each day, and a video to watch every week.

You know, real school. we're getting somewhere!

Am I kidding myself? Is not one of the reasons I chose homeschooling that I didn't want the conventional school model for my children?  Do I not, by and large, despise canned curriculum, busy work, and twaddle? Why am I beating myself up for not doing something that I actually do not want to do???

Oh, how 13 years of public education has shaped me!

As I thought about it a little bit, I realized that I indeed had educated my children that day. "Done school"? Maybe not, but I had educated them!

Here are my less-than-conventional school achievements from that day:

  • I read two chapters of Little Town on the Prairie out loud, snuggled in bed with the children, before breakfast.
  • During breakfast, we listened to an MP3 I downloaded from of Ken Ham, from Answers in Genesis, speaking to a group of children about dinosaurs, creation, and the flood. Once they were finished eating, the children drew pictures of dinosaurs as they listened. (All eight audio files from the 2009 Answers in Genesis conference are available for free download here. The children's message is #5).
  • On this MP3, Ken Ham mentioned the platypus, and how it confuses evolutionists. The kids started asking questions about platypuses because of the funny and engaging way Mr. Ham described the creatures. After the MP3 was over, we went to the computer and found a video of platypuses on YouTube. It was great, because they got to see platypuses swimming and waddling around in the wild, and hear evolutionists sound confused about them!
  • The children then had some free playtime to themselves while I put the baby down for his nap. Asher built a village out of Lincoln Logs, and Acacia unloaded her entire bookshelf onto her bed (sigh). At least she enjoyed her books!
  • After lunch, we went for a walk together. We got some much-needed exercise and sunshine, and we practiced following directions, staying close to mom, and looking both ways before we cross the street.
  • When we came back from our walk, we spent most of the afternoon outside in the backyard. I read a book (to myself!) while the children dug in the sandbox (finding horse chestnuts that the squirrels had burried), rode their bikes, and ran around in the grass. And, no, we didn't do any worksheets, art projects, science experiments, or nature journals. We just enjoyed being outdoors.
  • When it was time that we finally really must come indoors, the younger children napped while I made dinner. Asher helped me out with a few things, and then settled down to read (by himself, without prompting) until dinner was done. Incidentally, my children ate three homemade meals that day. They are learning that food is more than calories and convenience. We are not doomed to a life of breakfast cereals, school lunches, fast food and frozen pizzas. I am forming their palates, teaching them to make good nutritional choices, and giving them the blessing of eating real food.
  • My children also did their share of age-appropriate chores that day. Whether it was helping put away laundry, setting the table, or putting away their toys, they are learning the blessings of work.
  • Over dinner, we talked. What about, you ask? Honestly, I don't really remember. I think Asher asked about a river in Brazil on his globe (which still lives on the dining room table, by the way). I know they asked a lot of other questions, too. It's amazing what children learn when their parents actually take the time to answer their questions.
  • After dinner, we drove into town for a baby shower (the aforementioned get-together with friends). We "socialized" with whole families--moms, dads, babies and children of various ages. This is more realistic "socialization" than a classroom full of 25 five-year-olds will ever be.
  • On the way home, Asher asked for a crash-course in supply-and-demand economics and the real estate downturn. Okay, not in so many words, but he did ask for it...and I gave it to him. I think he even understood it.
  • At bedtime, we snuggled, read our Story Bible, and prayed. We read about the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea in the Old Testament, and the empty tomb in the New Testament. Of all the things I do or teach in a day, this is what is most important. This is what I live for.

So, that was my day. I challenge you to do this kind of thing yourself every once in a while. I think you'll be surprised at how much you teach your children without "doing school"! may be wondering...did any of my school teacher friends ask me what we did for school that day? Nope.

One of them did tell me how smart my daughter is, and wondered aloud if she could read the whole dictionary yet. I sheepishly replied that well, actually, I'm sure she would be reading already if I were more diligent in sitting down and teaching her, but I haven't been, so no, she isn't reading yet.

They all looked at my like I was nuts.

"Are you kidding, with everything you have on your plate? She's not even four yet!"

I then realized, once again, that I have a lot higher standards for myself than other people do. The standards that I assume they are judging me by are completely imagined on my part.

So, off my shoulder, ugly devil! I am not a bad homeschooling mom. By God's grace, and with His help, I am doing what He has called me to do.

And, I am so blessed.


SmallWorld at Home said...

Fantastic post. Funny thing about math, isn't it? I do that same thing in my head. If we get nothing else done, we MUST do math!! It's so crazy!

Lish said...

Tiana, You are a great homeschooling mom, a great mom-period. You are a true source of inspiration and encouragement for me!

Ben said...

Your kids received more "real" education in the day you describe then they would had they sat bored in a classroom all day. Self learning is a marvelous thing. Teach them to learn and help them do it. Don't teach them a subject by forcing it into them.

Christa said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts. You made me cry today...I have a big "bad HS mom" stick that I regularly beat myself with. I need to stop doing that and stand firm in my convictions. I am so blessed to have my kids at home with me and to be able to prioritize how they spend their time.

Tiana said...

Hi Christa,

Thanks for reading! I'm glad I was able to encourage you today...that's what I'm here for!



CaptiousNut said...

I'm a big math guy here. I've got my 5 year old into algebra already. And yet I'm still unsure how important of a subject it is when weighed against everything else. Just because I was extraordinarily good at it is no reason to elevate it beyond its station. What did Charlotte Mason say? Something about how math was over-emphasized because it is *easy to test*?

When you see your off-dropping, outsourcing friends...

Go on the offensive like I do. Ask THEM what they are doing for *family* today. Ask THEM if they are worried about the *social skills* of their age-segregated and reality-shielded children!

Allena said...

thanks for sharing your day! i'm soo going to show my girls the platypus video!

Laura said...

love your post so much - i do the same second guessing game over homeschooling and what i actually accomplish in a day, and beat myself up unnecessarily more than i like to admit. Thanks for the encouragement.

Cindy said...

Love this post. Thank you for submitting it to the upcoming CM Carnival!

Amber said...

I really enjoyed this post. I identify, and I like reading about how other homeschoolers' days go, even if they aren't "doing school."

The expression on the front girl's face in the top photo is pitiful and hilarious at the same time.

Oh, and thanks for the platypus video link. They are amusing creatures and I'm sure my children will enjoy it. Isn't YouTube useful?

Renee said...

You're singing my song! And that picture of the totally enthused kids with abacuses (abaci??) just cracked me up. Thanks for that!

Dawn said...

Wonderful post! I do this same thing once a month to remind myself how much we are getting done. It is so much more interesting to see our day laid out this way then in a lesson plan book. It always amazes me how much happens.

Jamie said...

Wonderful, honest post! I think all of homeschool moms deal with this sometimes. I know I have (and still do some days)!

(Visit my NEW blog: See Jamie blog)

Ellen said...

I love posts like this. Thanks for sharing it and encouraging us all!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

I think this is the beauty of homeschooling...our lives are just filled with learning moments. Remember CM said that learning is an "atmosphere" not a set of books or curricula. You made me smile. :)

The Schulz Family said...

I just got to read this one! I love it! I feel the same way alot of days, when we do Bible and just enjoy being a family, and I feel like we didn't "really" do school. But then I think about public school kids that watch movies for half the day and do nothing. It's all good!

Christina said...

HA! Sounds like a day at our house.
Interestingly..I got an idea to try a public school at home curriculum which is actually pretty good, but I was spending 7 hours a day with my 9 yr old and trying to also squeeze in the 7 yr old's work, while my poor barely 5 and 3 yr olds wandered around like little lost sheep. We were so segregated and I was neglecting my home and my smaller children... We had to drop violin, and other pursuits all to check off the boxes of my chosen program. I felt horrible for not being able to keep up (did I mention I am almost finished baking child #5!) And on top of all that the child I was spending all of my time with shared that she missed me and felt neglected!!! I finally went back to my 'classical/natural' method, and now we're all happy reading together, contrasting and comparing the code of Hammurabi with the Levitical code, reading and learning about the world and real life. SO Happy with all my little chicks gathered around me doing things as a family!!!
THanks for the encouragement!!!!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, beautiful day! Thanks for sharing!

Nina said...

I love it! I struggle with this so often. I purchased My Father's World for my Kindergartner this year and I've only gone through a few chapters. I just can't stand the monotony! I'm totally an unschooler at heart. I love reading to the kids, teaching them words in Spanish, delving into what interests them on any given day and answering questions that they ask. It's so nice to see that you do that, too. I have started having my son copy words so that I feel like I've done school - at first I just used simple three little words, but then thought, "Duh! I could be using Proverbs!"

Have you watched the documentary Dragons or Dinosaurs? It's a great in-depth look at creationism and dinosaurs.

Your fellow FAA member,

Claudine said...

Wow! What a blessing to read this! God knew I needed this. The devil has been on my shoulder lately... a lot...with this! I found this blog by "accident" and it was just what God knew I needed to hear! You've blessed me more than you can know!! Thank you!! God Bless!! :)

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

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Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
Catechism-- "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds" by Starr Meade
Phonics--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
(Kindergarten), Year 1 Booklist (1st Grade)
Handwriting--Bible Copywork, made using Educational Fontware
Spelling-- All About Spelling Level 1 (1st grade)
Math--Math-U-See Primer (Kindergarten) , Math-U-See Alpha (1st grade)
World History--Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis Through Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt
American History--The Light and The Glory For Children Series
Art--Interest-led projects and handicrafts
Geography and Missions-- "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson, as well as various other missionary biographies, incorporating globe and map study
*We will be studying music and phy-ed., participating in a writing club and nature club, as well as attending various field trips, with our church's homeschool group.*

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