Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to Home School

Well, not back exactly. Depending on how you look at it, we're either just beginning or we're just continuing on the same path we've been on. But a few things have changed.

This week, all across America, H1's age mates are heading off to kindergarten. So, I guess we've "officially" begun our homeschool journey. I've created a daily and weekly schedule for the family. It includes some "kid school" time among many of the activities we already participate in.

Our daily routine includes a trip to a local park. Today the park was full of other kindergarteners burning off steam after their first day of school. Which is how I came to have what I am sure is only the beginning of a long line of annoying conversations. It went like this:

Nice dad in the park: So how old is your son?
Me: He's 5.
NDIP: So he's in kindergarten?
Me: Yep
NDIP: So is my daughter. She goes to [local highly rated elementary school]. Where does your son go?
Me: We homeschool.
NDIP: Oh. Do you do that on your own or as part of a group?

At this point I explain the once a week homeschool enrichment program that H1 attends.

NDIP: Oh. We thought about homeschooling, but we wanted her to be around kids her own age.
Me, inwardly rolling my eyes: Well, that's one of the nice things about this program.

Now, I could have said any number of things: "Really? Why?" or "Hmmm. We don't really want our son to have friends." or "I plan to intentionally keep my kid from all kids his age. In fact, crap! We should leave the park right now as this place is crawling with kindergardeners."

Now, I don't believe this man had any malicious intent or realized that what he said could have been offensive. Now that I've had time to process it, I think the main problem here is that the topic of homeschooling is a small talk killer. Though homeschooling is becoming more and more common, it still one of those things that people don't quite know how to respond to. But really, at least in the context of meeting a stranger in the park, it's not that big a deal. It's just what we do. And it's not a commentary on your family and the choices you've made. I don't care. Really. I fully believe that each family has the right and the capability to make good decisions for itself. You don't have to defend your choices to me.

Also, schooling is so prevalaent and so mainstream that, when it comes to school-age kids, we don't know what else to talk about. So maybe I need to come up with a way to quickly redirect the conversation to a non-school, "how's-the-weather" sort of topic. Maybe, "do you live in the neighborhood? Isn't it great to be so near such a beautiful park?"

As for the rest of our day, I think it went pretty well. School around here is pretty loose. I've only scheduled in 2 or 3 short lessons a day. We have dedicated time for Reading, Math and Spanish. Everything else is well covered by our daily living. For example, while we have no "science time," in the past week we've learned how to identify a swallow, discovered volcanic rock in our back yard, learned all about how sound waves travel through the air and into our ear where they vibrate the ear drum and the cochlea turns them into electrical impulses which the brain interprets as sound. And more. Really, when it comes to science, I'm learning more from him than I'm teaching him!

Our very first intro to kid school was today's phonics lesson. He resisted, but once we got started he enjoyed it and it was quick and painless. He then insisted on listening to the phonics song over and over and over and over again. After kid school we headed out to the museum of nature and science. While H2 napped we did a Spanish lesson. Again, he resisted, but didn't want to stop once we started. He seems to be wary of anything that may have expectations of him attached to it. So, for now, kid school is optional to him. I'm going to do the lesson no matter what, and he can choose whether to participate. So far that strategy has worked well with him.

Tomorrow he'll go to his first full-day of his enrichment program. I'll admit I'm nervous. Orientation was less than wonderful for us. Hopefully he'll hang in there a bit better tomorrow. We shall see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two Great Science Series for Kids

H1 is very interested in science these days. Some of his favorite topics include human anatomy, sea life, and, oddly enough, sound. We've discovered a couple of really great series of kids' science videos, and I thought I'd share them here.

Popular Mechanics for Kids
This series really makes science fun and exciting. There's a lot of gross out science and amazing animal features. We've learned all about aquariums, sewers and water reclamation, garbage and landfills, killer animals . . . all kinds of exciting stuff! This is one that I enjoy watching with the kids because I learn something too. It even holds the attention of my 2-year-old.

The Way Things Work
This series is based on the classic book by David Macaulay and focuses primarily on physics. Islanders and mammoths on the mythical "Mammoth Island" seek to solve everyday problems and teach the principles of physics along the way. H1 will watch these 2-3 times in a row. I couldn't find the videos on Amazon, but we've been getting them from the library. They're short - about 13 minutes - and they cover topics such as light, sound, electricity, heat, pressure, etc. Designed to be used in 3-6 grade classrooms, each DVD comes with a teacher's guide that provides a summary, a glossary, pre-viewing discussion questions, follow-up questions and activities, suggested internet resources and suggested print resources. Grab one of these and you can have a complete physics unit. Very cool.

We've checked out lots of videos form the library, but these have been the favorites so far. I'm sure there many other great resources out ht

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Whatever is pure . . .

We've recently had some run-ins with superheroes at our house. It seemed harmless enough at first, but it has started to cause problems with behavior. Spiderman recently swung from his web (i.e. the shower curtain) and ended up in the ER with 4 staples in his head. That was clearly a problem, but the greater problem, really, has been the physical aggression and the level of disrespect and the mood swings that seem to have escalated since we've invited these wonder men into our home. But it was the ER visit that made me start really thinking about it.

Yesterday, at H1's request, we got a copy of some Batman cartoons from the library. I watched one with him, and truly it was horrible. Very dark, very violent. But H1 loves the excitement. I spent a lot of time yesterday pondering the role of this sort of entertainment in the life our family. I asked God to speak to me about it. It came to me that this is just the beginning of our job as parents in determining what forms of entertainment are appropriate for our children, and we have to learn how to discern what is good and right for our family. Would we let our son surf porn online just because "everyone's doing it?"

Still, taking something a child loves away from him is never easy as a parent. At least it's not for me. I dread conflict. I dread tantrums. It's a weakness of mine as a parent and an area I know God is asking me to grow in.

As nap time approached today (when H1 watches TV while H2 naps), I was dreading the meltdown that would come when I informed H1 that there would be no Batman today. I thought. I prayed. I fretted. Then I remembered the following passage:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
I decided to read it to H1. I asked God to guide me. I prayed to H1's guardian angel. When he asked me to put on Batman, I asked him to first sit on the couch with me and read something from the Bible. I told them that they were words written by Paul, who used to be Saul. (Saul's conversion story made a huge impact on him and he's always remembered it.)

I read it to him and then I summarized it again for him, telling him that God wants us to spend our time with things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and excellent. I told him that I'd been thinking about the TV shows we've been watching and I don't think that Batman fits into this category. I waited for the protest. He was quiet for a moment and then he said, "It's not true, but it is honorable." I said, "Well, beating people up isn't honorable and Batman does a lot of beating people up." He was quiet again for a second and then he picked up a copy of Popular Mechanics for Kids and said, "How about we watch this instead?"

I wanted to weep! I told him I was very proud of him for choosing a more suitable program and he is now happily watching something I feel very good about.

I never cease to be amazed by these miracles. I wish I could remember that when we seek to do the Lord's will and ask for His help, He will make the seemingly impossible not only possible, but easy.

Thanks be to God.