Thursday, September 24, 2009

Update on Homeschooling

Last spring I decided that when fall came we would establish a routine whereby the girls would spend a portion of each day doing 'academic' activities. I envisioned them sitting by the table for 30 minutes daily, practicing their letters and learning to recognize sight-words. A few people who are close to our family had suggested that formal lessons would need to happen, so I thought it might be a good idea to make them feel satisfied that my children would not grow up to be illiterate. I also thought that our days needed a little structure and that maybe I would be able to do my own studies while the girls were occupied.

Well, the vision in my head did not come to life, and I am not in the least disappointed. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I knew it was not going to happen. First of all, the girls and I are thriving without a routine. I could never have predicted that I would spend the first 35 years of my life following schedules, timetables, calendars, time lines, routines and structures, only to discover that my best, most authentic self is spontaneous. I have fully embraced the concept of flowing with the children which means that we engage in whatever activity we are in until we have exhausted it and are ready to pursue something else. Anna and Holly have learned to say to me and to each other "I'm focussed right now and I'd like to finish what I'm doing."

Anna is particularly resistant to instruction, so it was easy to let go of the idea of making her sit down and complete a contrived activity everyday. Fighting with her is something I'm trying to avoid, not something I'm aiming to engage in on a daily basis. Still, I have been moderately concerned about her lack of interest in learning her letters. She recognizes all the upper case letters, and some of the lower case letters, but her ability to print them is pretty weak. In fact, Anna and Holly have approximately the same ability to print letters. Anna has not spontaneously shown an interest in printing since May when she printed the alphabet, in order, two days in a row. Nevertheless, yesterday she spontaneously asked me to tell her the letters so she could print three words: LOVE, SWEET and SPARROW. After the third word she said "That was a lot. I don't want to do anymore." Okay.

Today she wanted to paint. Paint, indeed! First she put her Barbie doll on the table in front of her to be her model. Then she laboriously mixed paint to get just the right shades to match the Barbie's costume. Then she painted a picture of the doll three times. After her third portrait she asked me to spell the doll's name, and she carefully printed "RENE" before leaving her painting to dry. I was impressed.

Anna and Holly have also been honing their fine motor skills by beading. I bought them an assortment of small plastic beads at the Dollar Store, and they have been creating necklaces, bracelets and decorations for their dolls for the past two weeks. They have also been practicing zippers, buttons and snaps by dressing their dolls about 20 times a day. All this development of their fine motor skills will help to improve their penmanship.

The one area where we have decided to have some sort of routine is with the housework. We've decided that Monday will be the Cleaning Day, and when the house is cleaned up we will go to the little florist down the street and buy a small bouquet for our table. It will be a ceremony of sorts to celebrate the clean state of the house and to reward ourselves by adding a little beauty to our home. Tuesday will be the Shopping Day. Wednesday is Baking Day, a very important part of the routine, because Jasmine and I must have bread and muffins that meet the requirements of our special diet. And Anna and Holly each get to pick one recipe to make all by themselves (with Mommy). Thursday is Outing Day. This could be a trip to the Zoo, the Science Centre, the ROM or a visit to a friend. And Friday we do the laundry. Sigh. Not much to celebrate about the laundry, I'm afraid. (At least, not in a home where the baskets of dirty laundry have to fight for floor space with the baskets of clean laundry still waiting to be folded!!)

So far we are not in any programs, although I am considering attending a gymnastics class if all three girls are interested. When the indoor pool in our neighbourhood opens in a few weeks we will likely go swimming every Saturday, as Holly has a keen interest in learning to swim. But we don't really need programs; we have lots of spontaneous activities to keep us busy.

We're focussed on learning. Just not routinely.

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