Tuesday, August 24, 2010

But... How Do You Know?

Every time someone starts asking me questions about homeschooling, there is one question that always - ALWAYS - comes up.  Something to the gist of...

"But how do you know your kids are getting what they are supposed to?"

I was recently in the middle of one of those homeschool conversations, and the person was genuinely interested.  Questions were coming one after the other as they reconciled their own school experience with what I was telling them, but the question eventually came.

"But how do you know?"

I gave my usual about how I'm with them all the time so I know what they do and don't do, their strengths and weaknesses, yada yada blah blah blah, which is all entirely true.  But it wasn't until the car ride home that the real answer came to me.  What I should have replied with is,

"How do YOU know?"

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
The way I understand this, if I am teaching my children, I will be blessed to understand the things I need to to perform my mission as their mother and as their mentor.  Likewise, in doing my part, I will help them learn what they need to know and understand for their missions as well.

I can't tell my children what their mission is any more than the school can.  But there's a difference - at school they have all these tests of what kids at certain grade levels are "supposed" to know at that point.  At home I may not have all the state tests, but I am with my children daily, I know and love them as individuals, and what the schools say my children need to know isn't important to me.  What is important to me is that I know that each of them has a mission in life to fulfill, and that I have the amazing opportunity to help them prepare and work towards that mission.

When my second son was struggling with math one year, the daily homework was a variety of review problems.  I talked to his teacher about getting practice problems on things they were studying in class so I could help him learn and review it at home, and was surprised at how mystified the teacher was by the idea.  Turns out, the regular daily homework was getting them ready for the end of year test.  Rather than focusing on mastering what they were learning right then, they were worried about preparing the kids for the test.

I know what my children are getting because I can take all the time I want to help them master the things they are learning.

At school, also because of those tests, the teachers teach less and less of the "extras" that don't fit in the realm of those tests.  My children have time to learn any of the extras they like, and they want to, and they do.

How do you know what your children are being taught?

I am in my children's classroom every day. I know what their textbooks teach.  Did you know that because of theophobia, plenty of textbooks teach that the pilgrims came to American because they were mad at the king, or just because they wanted to?  The fact is, they came because they wanted to worship God as they chose, because in England, they couldn't.  It was a religious decision, pure and simple, but in schools, religion isn't allowed.  I can testify about God's hand in history or science or literature or anything anytime I want to.  I can share the testimonies of the Founding Fathers and Christopher Columbus regarding God's hand in their efforts.  I can compare scripture stories and principles to other things we learn.

I'm not sharing this to say our way is better than sending your children to school every day, but so you can think about the same question every homeschooler gets asked.  I believe it is equally important for all parents.

So... how do you know your kids are getting what they are supposed to?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tough Chicks

After a wild and crazy day at the zoo (where there was an attempted attack on Erin and my nephew by a baby Siamese Crocodile and the tigers were more playful than we've ever seen them), we had dinner, the two middle girls had a bath, and we pulled out a couple of library books to read.

I picked up the first one, a book called "Tough Chicks" that Carolyn had checked out. When I started to read, I quickly got the feeling that I would be getting more out of the book than they would.

Not that it isn't a light, fun story. Three baby girl chicks are born and immediately prove to not be the normal variety of chicks. They do all sorts of wild things, getting into things they aren't supposed to, doing things they shouldn't.
"Make them be good!" called the animals.
"They are good!" Mama Hen clucked.
But sometimes even she worried.
I had to chuckle at one page in particular because I'd had a similar experience today at the zoo. When we go, we always joke that they zookeepers are going to think Carolyn is one of the monkeys and try to keep her there. She will usually ask a zookeeper if she can have a monkey, and when they say no, she'll ask if she can pet one (she hasn't talked anyone into it yet). She thinks the whole place is one giant jungle gym. In several areas of the zoo they have guardrails in front of the cages that are perfect for swinging on, and she sits, hangs, flips, and sometimes flops on them. Today we went with my two sisters and their kids, and as Carolyn was swinging away on one of them, my niece, who had been told not to do that, walked over to me and said, "Isn't she supposed to stop doing that?" I didn't respond, thinking, "But she's so GOOD at it!"

In the book, one of the three chicks likes to swing off the cow's tail, and after one particularly wild swing which causes the other chicks to run for cover, Mama Hen calls to her to be careful, then adds quietly to herself, "Nice form."

When a crisis happens on the farm, they are the ones to come to the rescue and save the day.  Happily ever after and all that.

This book is a treasure. A wonderful reminder for this mom that I have good kids too. They may be wild, loud, boisterous, active, nutty, playful, and disruptive, but they are good kids. And I can't wait to see what all that craziness becomes. If I'm still sane by then.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tricks, Traps, and Huh?

I've written before about how much I enjoy cleaning my house. I look back at the days when it was just Jamie and I, and wonder how in the world I ever got behind in it back then. Then again, my "getting behind" then is a lot different than my "getting behind" now. Then we would get busy with school and after a week or two decide that things were getting out of hand and needed some touching up. Now, one busy day, even a half a busy day, can leave the entire place shot. It's a conspiracy!

When I really can't work myself up to start cleaning, sometimes a little game will come into my head to play while I clean. Almost like talking to myself, only different.

Today as I was dragging myself to the sink to do dishes I noticed a piece of hard candy on the counter, unwrapped it, and popped it into my mouth. Then the thought came, "Clean as long as it takes to melt that in your mouth." Voila! Like Mary Poppin's spoonful of sugar, it helped the medicine of cleaning go down. "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and SNAP! The job's a game!" What a wise woman Mary Poppins is. And since many times I just need to get my motor going, the candy game was enough to do that. I didn't even realize when it was gone! But when I did notice, I was already seeing the good results of my efforts and kept moving (till I stopped to blog about it).

Another starter for the day was writing on facebook, "I am such an amazing person! I can think of at least 684 things to do besides clean the house. Any independently wealthy people out there want to send a maid over for me?" As soon as I clicked the "share" button, I thought, "What if one of my friends and neighbors reads that, thinks, gee, sounds like Marni could really use some help today, and actually comes over to help. How embarrassing would that be?" That thought sent me on another cleaning frenzy.

Unfortunately, distractions abound around here, and some days it seems that I hardly get going before someone or something stops the progress. Today it was Madeleine getting a big bonk on the head, after which I held and loved her for about an hour. But somewhere I remember hearing that the distractions in life are life, so here's to the distractions.

Something else struck me the other day. I was looking at a picture taken of me in our kitchen the month before I turned 16. I hadn't noticed much about the picture except me before, but this time I noticed a kitchen chair showing in the picture. I stared at it, digging in years of unused memories, and for the life of me, I do not remember those kitchen chairs. (Coincidentally, I mentioned it to my sister today who would have been 9 at the time and she did.) We moved a month later and a new dining set was purchased, so those are what I remember. I've heard it said before that kids don't remember the mess, they remember what you did with them, how they were loved, etc. etc. So by golly, if I can't even remember chairs I probably sat on for the first almost 16 years of my life, yet I do remember a lot of really fun things, I guess that's got to be true and it's most important to enjoy being with your family instead of stressing over the mess. Then again, I don't remember Disneyland. But that's another point for another day.