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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where I Struggle

Ah, a quiet house on a Thursday night with my work email inbox empty.  Who would have thought I could accomplish on a day when Jen isn't home and I took a 30 minute nap this afternoon?  But the peace is really nice.  I even had a pretty great day with the kids, aside from almost burning down the house.  Oven mitts should not be left in the oven while baking cookies.  Note to self: don't work on a math lesson while baking.  In any case, crisis averted and the smoke has now dissipated - cookies even turned out fine!

But I learned something about myself today.  I struggle with unstructured time with the kids.  I sit and plan what they should work on learning each day, generally to not end up doing it and wondering if they're then falling behind.  Then I remind myself that my nearly 5yo can read, write, and walks around saying things like "2+2=4, 1+1=3, 5+5=10" along with "Mom, I can't read that sign, it says Do not block" and that my 2.5yo can trace letters, has memorized nursery rhymes, has great gross motor control, and amazing compassion.  So what could they possibly be falling behind on?  Yeah, that's my mind in its usual overdrive, planning what will happen next.  I'm trying to focus on the here and now, since Carolyn goes to kindergarten in <6 months and I only have 2 more years with James.  But I think that's what gets me thinking about homeschooling as well.  Then I would get to keep enjoying time with them, but that sounds awfully selfish!

I struggle though to think that school will give Carolyn (I'm not sure about James' learning style yet) what she needs to grow and thrive.  Some of what I'm noticing may simply be differences in age and ability, but I see patterns repeating.  When Carolyn was at Cary gymnastics, she was okay but not great.  Her class size was big and she didn't seem to make much progress.  We switched to Lake Zurich and she took off, quickly amassing many new skills.  Her progress seems to have slowed at Buffalo Grove with a bigger class.  Yes, I have considered switching her back to Lake Zurich, but I do think that Buffalo Grove will be better for her in the long term.  Swimming has proven to me that Carolyn makes amazing strides when she has individual attention.  There is only 1 other girl in her class, but she wasn't there today.  With the inidividual attention, Carolyn put her whole face in the water and was "swimming" (noodle under her) putting her face in the water.  This may have been a natural progression, but I think that this close attention helps her focus and work harder.  She even skipped the play portion of the class to keep working!

So I wonder how she's going to do in a school classrom with 20+ other kids her age.  I chuckle a little inside when people tell me they send their kid to preschool for the socialization.  Yes, kids need friends there age or at least similar in age.  But what is my 4 year old likely to learn from other 4 year olds, other than bad manners?  Maybe I'm missing something here, but I honestly think a room full of same-aged children for 6-7 hours a day is a bad idea for all involved. 

As I cooked dinner tonight and after we ate, I read 3 books to the kids about the nervous system.  These weren't super technical, but they also weren't simple versions.  They use the proper terminology - cerebrum, cerebellum, hypothalamus, brain stem, axons, dendrites - and be using various inflections Carolyn thought the books were exciting.  I know she's storing all the information away as well, that's just how she works.  I do think I might change up how we're working through school topics though.  I'm going to keep picking a topic each week, but I'm going to be sure and check out 7 books.  Then each morning before breakfast we'll read one.  This will spread the information (that is somewhat repetitive with slight variations between books) out over the week.  Both kids are loving reading about the human body since they can relate to it so well.  I'll likely be checking out plant books as we get later in March as well and start to think about planting our garden.  I know that's a kindergarten topic, but I love to have the kids learn real things about what we're doing.  It'll be interesting to see what they remember from last year too.

I'm enjoying working with both kids on learning related activities.  I'm not sure what will happen once they start school, although I'm sure I won't stop helping them investigate whatever they're interested in.  In my secret dreams Jon will get a job that allows me to stop working and we'll discover that the kids really do need the individual attention only an education at home can give them.  Then we'll proceed to provide them with the K-8 education only 2 highly educated parents could provide, to send them off to a high school that can provide the finishing touches before college.  But I don't know what the future will hold, so we wait and see.  For the next 6 months we'll continue the exploring through books and activities.

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