Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Learning Process

I bet you you read the title of this entry and assumed it was about my children learning something. Wrong. This one's all about me, and the curious way that we homeschooling parents are educated while educating.

I've been at this about five years now--a little more if you count the hours I pored into hovering over my firstborn when she was a preschooler and insisting that she cut on lines and color in A is for Apples. Five years is plenty long enough to learn almost any job thoroughly. Take a look at most careers and I think you'll be safe to say that if you haven't come upon the situation in the first few years, you'll never really need that skill. I even feel confident saying this about most institutional school teachers. While the odd unique behavior issue or family situation may arise, you can feel fairly confident in knowing that year in and year out, the choices you made two years ago --be it in topics covered, field trips taken or math books used--are going to be remarkably close to the choices you'll make next year.

But homeschooling doesn't fit that mold. While you may be a far more comfortable homeschooler by the time you hit the four year mark than you were back at year one, as long as your kids are moving forward (and trust me, they are always going to be moving forward) your situation is going to be morphing. It's your job to keep pace with the changing needs, take the pulse of your family homeschool and jog on ahead, forging the way.

Sound like hard work? It is.

I'm still trying to master the art of getting just far enough ahead to take a good look back at my three little ones and gauge what needs to be done in the upcoming school year. You know what I'm talking about--looking at their interests, weighing their capabilities and defining what goals their Heavenly Father, their earthly father and I have for them. The trick is getting far enough in front of them to be able to see where they're headed without overshooting altogether and setting the bar to high. Oh, yeah--you also have to stay close enough that you can keep their unique learning styles in mind.

A few months ago I ordered WinterPromise's Animal Worlds for my preschooler. Initially, my older two dug into it with a fervor I hadn't planned for. They ate up the potato print painting and carving up cardboard boxes. They dove into the habitat creation. I took a step back and wondered aloud: "Huh ... maybe they're hungry for more of this stuff? Maybe the Sonlight isn't the perfect match I thought it was?"

Second guessing. Raise your hand if you've been there.O.k.--I can mix WinterPromise with Sonlight, doing Core 3 and WP AS I, then I can add this, take away that, throw in a unit study on ... You should have seen the schedule I worked up on this contingency plan. The problem was, even though I was never a math qhiz, I'm fairly certain that there are not actually 28 hours in a day.

As it turns out, my older two have tired of the scheduled arts and crafts. They've reverted entirely to the process they've used with SL since dd was 5: they read (or hear) something, they create props, they reenact it ... then they start all over again.

Thankfully, I hadn't hit "PURCHASE" anywhere yet.

So, I still have two children learning quite happily with Sonlight, inventing their own crafts and creating their own art. And I have one contentedly loading up a paintbrush with WinterPromise. Two auditory/visual learners and one kinesthetic/visual learner.

Until the next hiccup in the learning journey ...

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