Monday, October 10, 2011

One Fine Day

Oftentimes we as homeschoolers get caught up in doubt. More like tangled up, I would say. Am I doing enough? Is this what my child needs? Am I meeting his academic needs? Am I providing an enriching environment? Is it perfect?

Danger. Warning. There is no perfect. As one wise person quoted once, if don't want to make mistakes ever and want to be perfect, do nothing, be nothing. Mistakes are indeed opportunities to learn in the right setting. As Charlotte Mason quoted, education is a discipline, a life.

My 4-year-old daughter stayed home today from Montessori preschool as it was Columbus Day. She goes there every weekday for three hours. Quality teacher, nice materials, no qualms. I am bringing her back home for K, though.

On Columbus Day we do continue homeschooling, and briefly mentioned Columbus again. We had covered Columbus extensively at the end of second grade, and at the beginning of third grade we reviewed. This was just a few weeks ago.

Daughter's days are so structured at preschool, although I know not nearly as structured as non Montessori preschools. She engages in practical life, pre-reading activities, math activities, writing letters, worksheets, and nature study through the classroom raising tadpoles and fish. She seems happy there, but eager to see us again and leave with us, reluctant to wake up in the morning, exhausted at the end of the day (she also has ballet twice a week and piano once a week), and relieved on days off.

Today was one such day. I know she needed a break from the structure (she is, after all, only four). First we had breakfast together. Then she helped wash up, fed the dog, and I put her on to practice her letters while I was working with Son. I heard her listening to the nursery rhymes and singing along. When she was done with that, I gave her a coloring sheet and a connect-the-dots sheet on dolphins. She wrote her name and connected the dots while counting out loud. She colored the dolphin gray nearly all between the lines. While I was showing Son videos from California and Alaska, two states we are studying, she watched along with us. She helped Son for about ten minutes while he was working on the United States puzzle. She can point out Florida and California, the area where we live, and she can pick the U.S. out of a map of the world.

Then she joined him in conjugating some Spanish verbs in a free online game. Son explained it to her. He was happy she was home.

She asked me to put some beautiful music on. I put some Vivaldi and other classical music on, and she danced and practiced her ballet moves. Son joined her in showing me their grand jet├ęs. They were clearly enjoying themselves, practicing some skills, and getting some exercise too. The girl can stretch well. It lifts up my heart when I look at her.

When I saw she was wandering a bit aimlessly, I gave her her Melissa and Doug wooden letter tiles so she could practice her spelling. She grabbed it from my hands, got excited, and spelled cat, man, and when I gave her her phonics book from school, spelled a couple of those words too, before she was done. She put everything away neatly.

After that we curled up on the couch and I read to them from the Betsy and Guilio Maestro history book The New Americans. The two page spread we read was about colonists and Indians starting to wage war against each other, and I could see that Daughter was interested and not sensitive, just sad for the ones who got hurt. Then I sent both of them out to observe and sketch animals in the backyard as part of Son's Science assignment. When they came back in, I read aloud an Edward Lear poem. I could see she enjoyed the nonsense rhyme. I picked up Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, a library book about animals I had checked out for Son, and she loved it.

She had told me a week or two ago that she wanted to be an animal doctor when she grew up. I'm stepping up the animal content at home, and making a mental note of having her attend the zoo program in the Summer if she continues with this interest. She certainly is compassionate and interested in (almost) all creatures. She does despise and fear cockroaches, though. I don't blame her.

I thought about our day. She didn't have structured activities in the sense of a preschool environment, but she sure learned a lot. It was all nearly effortless, as an extension of living our lives, as a next step in parenting. As I'm writing all this, even I was surprised at all the educational activities she was engaged in without too much directed learning on my part.

She also got to spend time with her mother, with her siblings, and enjoyed herself too. She felt loved, connected, and accepted, which counts in my book too.

Ah, after all that I forgot that she also participated in a discussion about etiquette and how to hold a fork properly. I had recently discovered that Son was holding the fork with his fist, and we're working on teaching him how to hold it correctly. Daughter knows how to hold a fork correctly, and was proud to be able to help instruct Son, four years her senior, in this. He was not too pleased, but a little less than graciously accepted the directions.

Well, here you go. Not one perfect day, but who wants perfect? I happily take one fine day. May we have many more to come.

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