Friday, January 3, 2014

Ring in the New

So it is three days past New Year's Eve.  We all saw the ball drop this year - even Lily.  Mike, Rory and I managed to stay up due to a very exciting Iron Man DVD marathon.  Yes, we watched all three in one night.  Lily fell asleep on my lap about 9:00, but I promised her I'd wake her up, so I did.  Somehow a big ball which didn't appear to be moving because of the camera angle wasn't as exciting as a man in a red and gold suit flying around and blowing things up, but hey, we did it! We had a Sparkling Cider toast, finished the last movie, and went to bed.
Iron Man!
Does your focus change at this time of year?  Mine does.  It really does seem like the start of something new.  Maybe it's the winding down of all of the holiday hoopla, just as much as the date on the calendar.  The past month or so has been filled with shopping, planning, travelling, and celebrating with family and friends.  We actually still have one more "Christmas" to go on Monday, which I found out is actually Epiphany, the day the wise men came to see Jesus, and still technically Christmas (thank you, Pastor Russ!)  This was the day we are celebrating with my husband's family, so it seems very appropriate.

I don't like New Year's Resolutions.  For me, they seem destined to fail. I believe you can decide to change something on any other day of the year just as easily.  But I do like to take the time to reflect and plan., and the start of a new calendar year seems like a good time to do this.

One thing that is changing a bit is our school plan.  I know, this is a constantly changing entity, but I am kind of excited about this change.  I had a big plan for this year back in August.  It is the first year I have been very specific about the curriculum I picked, and the schedule for getting it done.  Well, by about Thanksgiving everyone was burning out.  So we spent the holiday season kind of "deschooling."  I took down the schedule, and we spent time doing stuff we wanted or needed to do.

I also let Rory sleep when he needed it, whether that meant staying up late and sleeping in, or getting anywhere from seven to 12 hours of sleep a night.  His health is still not the best, and one of the admonitions of his doctor was to keep his stress low.  I've also researched a bit about adrenal function, and have realized that he really needs to be able to sleep when he's tired.  So, getting up in the morning in time to start a timed schedule does not work well for him.  One day, he'll be up at 6:30 raring to go, and the next, he'll need to sleep until 10:00.  He has always had trouble going to sleep, partly because he starts thinking about things when the house quiets down at night.  So I'm spending extra time with him some nights, finishing an exciting book we just can't put down, hashing over the day, or solving the world's problems.

I've researched "unschooling," and am still trying to figure it out.  There is something called "radical unschooling" which I really can't quite grasp, which seems to allow the child to decide everything for himself, including when and what to eat, and whether he would rather watch tv all day or learn his times tables.  Many people claim this works, but I'm afraid I would be put in a mental hospital if I went that far with it.  I'm also concerned that my children's health demands that I keep a good watch on what they are putting into their bodies, and what they are doing with their days.

So I'm trying to take a middle ground, here.  There are some things that I think are necessary.  One of these is math.  Actually, I'm excited about math, as is Rory, believe it or not.  We have struggled over the past years to find math that he actually wants to do.  At all.  But I think we've found something.  It is Khan Academy.  This is a free online system, which was started by Salmon Khan to tutor his young cousin in math long-distance.   I recently read his book, "The One World Schoolhouse:  Education Reimagined".  I was very impressed with his ideas, and the research he has done in education.  So, I decided to check out his website.  To make a long story short, Rory loves it!  He gets prizes, doesn't have to write much on paper, and can go at his own pace.  Win-win-win!  Granted, it's only been a few days, but he's actually excited to do math.  Lily wanted to do it, too, so she's started with addition and subtraction.  And I, just for fun, took a pretest and found out I'd forgotten quite a bit of math!  The problems looked familiar, but the solutions were a blank.  So I'm trying it out, too.  I figure I have to keep ahead of the kids!

Our new "schedule" looks a bit different.  We get up and have breakfast.  We generally do our Bible time with breakfast, to start the day.  Then everyone does their own thing for a while.  Today, the kids took turns doing their math on the computer while I went grocery shopping, and Lily did some handwriting, and then they played a little Minecraft until I got back.  We had lunch, and have finished cleaning up the kitchen.  Actually, Rory has decided that the china cabinet needs reorganized, so he is working on that, and I'm taking a few minutes to finish this post!  Then, he still has to do writing (we're doing grammar today), and we are all going to do music, our Lighthouse book, and some reading.  I've taken out the time element, and the strict schedule of what is done on which day.  I'm letting the kids each choose a subject to work on each day.  Yesterday, Lily chose art and Rory chose a book called "Seabird" that we've been working on.  So, they used "learn to draw" books while I read.  Lily drew a chihuahua and a golden retriever, and Rory drew a platypus swimming in the water. And we finally finished Seabird!  Then Rory finished reading "Squanto," which we started just before Thanksgiving, and Lily started reading Peter Pan to me.

It's still too early to decide if this is working, but it feels less stressful to me, and Rory actually said he had a good day yesterday even though he had to do school work.  I think that it helps to go with the flow of the day, rather than try to fit the day into a box.  There is no rule that I know of that school needs to start at 8:00 and end at 3:00, or that you can only learn through schoolbooks.  So my new recording device is a duo of single-subject notebooks, and I'm simply going to keep one for each kid, recording what they did each day.  I'm not sure how this will work come reporting time, but I'm sure I'll figure it out!  For now, it's helping my children to enjoy learning again, and that's what matters most.  It's very hard to remember things you were forced to learn, or weren't interested in.  I wonder if that's my math glitch?  I don't remember disliking it at the time, but I don't think I thought about it too much.  It just had to be done.  I know I didn't have as much fun learning it the first time, as I am now that I have a reason to do it.  I hope that I can find the secret to learning that will stick, for me and my kids.

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