Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homeschool in Winter

Norm and I have been busy lately with writing and reading projects.  These are the topics he chose to focus on while I am in my "sabbatical phase".  This week, however, we are also spending time with math.  Our multiplication tables need more work before we tackle division in March.  This is a challenge for me as much as for him as I, quite frankly, faked my way through math...or maybe I slept.  Unfortunately, Norm shares this tendency and so we struggle together to make it interesting.

This is one of the biggest tensions in homeschooling for me this year.  I need to find the right balance between what the school will require him to know in 5th grade and what Norm actually wants to spend his time learning.  Many long-term homeschoolers worry quite a bit less about this.  The idea is to wait until the child is interested before tackling a subject.  This seems to me a graceful form of education.  Unfortunately it is probably unrealistic in the way we structure public education today.  In school what is important are benchmarks, scores and tests.  These determine your achievement level and, therefore, your worthiness to advance.

I am not a test sort of person.  I am a minister trying--for one year only--to teach one specific child in a way that makes sense to him.  Still, we must hit the benchmarks for next year.  We sepnd time focusing on his interests. Then we frantically try to keep up elsewhere.  It is amazing all the things there are to learn about that school doesn't seem to know exist.  Even among that which is traditionally taught, certain subjects suffer because, for example, actual school is less interested in art and history in fifth grade than Norm is.  It is not clear that it is ever that interested in art.  History becomes a concern later on, I guess. 

Fortunately there is writing.  Everyone wants kids to be able to that...right?  During the wetter sorts of days this winter, when we just cannot get out of the house, this has been our saving grace.  We are learning about how to make sound and interesting paragraphs.  We are putting them together to make essays.  We are doing our best to expand vocabulary and--even--improve spelling.  Still, we mostly want to get outside.  There is too little of that.

I do have concerns in writing as well.  They are similar in nature to the ones I have about math.  When he returns to school his classmates will probably have learned the same things, but they will have learned them in a different way.  Terms will be different.  Approaches will be different.  My experience with many (not all)  teachers has been that they know one or two ways to teach a subject quite well.  They are sometimes less convinced that there are other ways.  Will people know that he knows what he knows?  We shall see, I guess.

So the winter of our homeschool year continues with interuptions for his brothers' snow days.  Still, signs that spring is around the corner can dimly be seen now.  We have had a lot more rain this week than snow.  Astronomy classes at the local Audubon Sanctuary are starting up this Thursday.  Art classes and the Athenaeum still fill our Fridays.  All of this gets us up and going.  Soon there will be less time to be concerned about the future.  We are learning this winter and that is good.

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