Monday, May 20, 2013

Growing Together

With our first official year of homeschooling nearly complete, I've been doing a lot of evaluating - what worked well, what should we change, etc.

Doing this has made me realize that many of my views on education have changed significantly.
Although I understood theoretically that learning should happen naturally and as a part of everyday life within our home, I just couldn't shake what I knew best - worksheets, sitting at a desk, memorizing facts.
That gave me a sense of control and direction and assurance that my children were indeed learning and measuring up to society's expectations for their age group.
However, reading various books, conversing with experienced home educators and delving into the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education has helped me dare to let go of what is normal and comfortable for me. 
It's been one small step at a time but I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with this path we've chosen.
I'm making some big changes for next year, namely embarking on Year 1 of Ambleside Online with Piper.
I'm immensely excited and a tad bit terrified by (what is for me) a radically different way to approach education.
I've also been trying to be more relaxed with Taitum and attempting a more gentle and natural way of teaching her.
We've lightly touched on various things like colors, letters, numbers,etc. but nothing too intense.
Mostly, we've read together and talked about things, played and had fun.
This is hard for me.
I want to haul out the worksheets, demand that she memorize each letter both uppercase and lowercase and their sounds. 
I want her to be able to count to 20 in three languages and know how to write her full name perfectly.

Get a few really good books, and read them together aloud. Set aside a good regular chunk of time. This will be one of the most rewarding and stimulating relationships in your life. Guess what? If you have the courage to be honest, that youngster's comments and questions are really going to make you think, think hard. You can throw away all the manuals. That child has an awful lot to teach you. Your mind is probably in a worse state than his. After reading together, go to a really nice place outside for a couple of hours at least. Don't rush. Turn a rock over and watch the beetle run away. Throw rocks in the stream and slide down a hill.
Talk together. You'll find yourself enjoying it!
It isn't all as hard as the experts make out. We are human beings, persons, created to live. To have life more abundantly. Wonder together; grow together.
~Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

She is three!
She has a beautiful, perfect mind capable of learning and growing and progressing exactly as it should.
She is a child that needs to move and laugh and play and discover the world first hand.
Me, I need to slow down and sit back and enjoy the learning that happens naturally, spontaneously, amazingly!
This evening, I was so blessed with a moment that affirmed to me the direction I am choosing to take with my little ones.
Piper had picked out snack: almonds and crackers.
I was doing dishes and not paying much attention as they sat at the table and fiddled with their food.
(Even snack time is hugely composed of imaginative games involving whatever they find before them!)
Suddenly, Taitum calls for my attention - "Mama! Look!"
She proudly points out her work on the table....cracker, almond, cracker, almond, cracker, almond, etc.
I was impressed. I've never taught her anything about patterns.
"That's a beautiful pattern you've made, Tait!"
"Thanks, Mama!"
She grins from ear to ear.
A cracker falls to the floor and breaks.
Taitum jumps down and grabs it - "Oh, no! I needed it to be a square like the others!"
Um, I didn't know she knew what a square was!
I suggested she eat the broken one and pull out a new 'square'.
Soon, she is happily back to adding to her pattern joined by her sister who is inspired and makes a circle/square pattern by biting some of her crackers into circle shapes.
And this is one example of thousands that happen every single day often without me even noticing!

The most prosaic of us comes across evidence of mind in children, and of mind astonishingly alert. Let us consider, in the first two years of life they manage to get through more intellectual effort than any following two years can show....If we have not proved that a child is born a person with a mind as complete and beautiful as his little body, we can at least show that he always  has all the mind he requires for these occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind. 
~Charlotte Mason

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