Monday, May 5, 2014

What We've Learned: March and April 2014

Education is an Atmosphere
“I want to do great things for the kingdom.  Those great things, however, are loving, training, and teaching the greatest things in the kingdom – His children whom He has put under my care.  For such is the kingdom of God.” ~RC Sproul Jr.
Education is a Discipline
Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on tweaking our morning routine to run a little more smoothly.  This is tough for me because I am NOT a morning person and deal daily with the temptation to sit around in my pj’s doing nothing but reading and drinking coffee until 10am But I do see fruit in getting everyone going and keeping everyone moving along to the next thing in the mornings.  We are able to accomplish that which needs to be done with a better attitude, and it leaves us with more time to pursue those things we would like to do during the rest of the day.  So we’re working on it.
Part of this has entailed moving James towards independence with washing the breakfast dishes, with the goal of his being completely independent by the time he turns 6 in June.   We’ve been buddy washing for a long time, and I know he is capable of washing them well.  He’s a little prone to dawdling, however, and a little attached to having me right there.  So we’ve started talking about how he will be 6 soon, and when he’s 6 he’ll be a big boy and able to wash all by himself the way Michelle does at lunchtime, while I slowly start moving away to work on something else for a minute.   Why the push for James to be more independent with the dishes?  So that I can work with Elizabeth (just turned 4) on a basic morning routine (getting dressed, making her bed, etc).  This has been pretty spotty and haphazard up until now because I just couldn’t keep a good enough eye on her while trying to oversee everyone else.  If James can be more independent, then I can be more focused on her.
Also in the interest of improving our morning routine, I decided to give up computer time before chores, school, and some kind of devotional time are done during Lent.  I’ve tried to develop this discipline before and always failed….I do dearly love getting online and seeing what all my lovely Forum ladies have been chatting about over in North America while I’ve been sleeping on this side of the Atlantic. J   But trying to fit this internet time into the morning has generally meant a more rushed devotional time, kids who go do everything but what they are supposed to because Mama is distracted, and a slower (and therefore more frustrating) start to our school morning.   I found that the Lent aspect of it provided the motivation I needed to this time, and I hope that now I have a habit I can stick with from now on.  It really does make a huge positive difference in our home when I can discipline myself to stay off the computer during the key ‘transition’ points of the day.
Miss Elizabeth and her dad with their winning pinewood derby car "Fish Out of Water" - just one of many fun family activities sponsored by our co-op this past month.
Education is a Life
April has been our Conference and Co-op Month, so we haven’t been in our normal homeschool routine.   (We did wrap up through AO Year 2, Week 9 before stopping for our break at the end of March, however.)  The way our co-op works is pretty unique due to our situation here, so I thought I’d share a little bit what 'co-op' looks like for us, and some of the highlights from this session for our kids.
Michelle with her co-op teacher - also our very dear family friend.

 Most homeschool co-op type groups meet once a week, but due to the fact that the majority of the homeschooling families in our mission community live somewhere outside of the city, meeting weekly isn’t possible.   So instead, we meet 3 times per year for 2-3 weeks at a time, long enough to make it worthwhile for those more remote families to travel into the city.   Families are asked to participate in at least 2 of the 3 sessions.  Our family prefers to skip the session in August and attend the sessions in December and April.   During these weeks, the homeschooled kids attend school with the children who attend our mission-run primary school full time.  For all of the students, however, they mix up the normal schedule and curriculum to make it possible for the homeschooled kids to participate in fun group activities that aren’t possible when homeschooling in a remote setting.   There are usually special history, science, and writing projects that are scheduled as well as fun things like sports, drama, art, and music.  Last December they did swimming.  This April’s session has included a study of the Renaissance for history and astronomy for science, music appreciation, drama, and baseball.  The little ones usually have the option to go to preschool twice a week during the session too.  A grand time was had by all, although we were more than ready to get back to “normal" when the session finished.
The Music class learned handbells or recorders - this is Michelle's group playing "Ode to Joy"
To be completely honest,  I don’t love this format.   This isn’t a Charlotte Mason or Classical friendly school, so I don’t always like the way that the academics are approached.  I don’t like that it eats several weeks out of our school year at home that I have to make up for somehow, meaning that we lose some of that flexibility that is a benefit of homeschooling.  I don’t love rushing to get Michelle out the door by 7:45 every morning, packing lunches, and dealing with homework.  And I always think I am going to be able to tackle all kinds of personal projects during this time, but between helping with various aspects of the session (parent involvement is expected) and still having my two littler ones at home with me, I actually find I have less time for such things than when we are homeschooling!  I debate with myself every single session if we really want to continue participating.  So why do we still do it?
The drama production was loosely based on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.  Michelle is the narrator between the two posts there.  Caesar is lying dead at her feet.
The biggest reason is because to not do it would be to cut myself off from our mission community.   As much of an independent spirit as I am, community is important – for me as a parent and for my children.   It provides me with an opportunity to serve, too.  I am a teacher by training and have a heart for MK education, especially to equip and encourage missionary parents who never wanted to homeschool but find themselves in the position of having to do so.  This is my opportunity to be able to do that…thus far in rather small ways, but who knows how God will work in the future?  This is also the main opportunity that our kids have to interact with children who don’t live in our city and participate in activities like swimming and drama.  I love that they can still do those things, even way out here in Africa.
Somebody got a little tired of being in the outfield during their final baseball game of the session!
And one other rather key thing…usually after two or three weeks of living the “school” life, I find myself so very grateful for the blessing it is to be able to homeschool my children.  Homeschooling – especially homeschooling using Charlotte Mason’s methods and Ambleside Online – has brought a great deal of richness to our family life.   On those tough homeschooling days, it can be easy to romanticize how nice it might be to just send my kids out the door every day.   Having to actually do it for three weeks always makes me more than ready to bring them back home again.  It makes me realize anew how much I really do like having them around all the time and how much I love learning and growing together with them.
And that’s priceless.
What have you been learning these past couple of months?

No comments:

Post a Comment