Monday, April 29, 2013

Work in of consciousness

From the outside looking in it can seem that everything is simple, it is easy,  and that it just comes together.  However, there are times in our homeschool experience when nothing is simple, or easy, and in fact, everything is so disjointed that they magical flow of learning ceases and some large questions have to be asked.

We are at a point like that now.  I have one girl who is struggling to find things that interest and captivate her.  I have another who is at a point where I question how well I can provide her with what she needs.  

When the learning seems to stall and the anxiety seems to build, we have to take a look at what we need to fix or change, add or delete from our lives in order to restore the balance which allows the flow of learning to begin again.  

I have a tendency to go back to basics.  For me that means putting on my teacher’s hat and doing some planning.  I conferenced with each of my girls about what they liked, what they did not like, what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.  

Grace is researching the care and keeping of backyard rabbits.  She is going to pursue this research and write a report to persuade us to allow her to own a rabbit.  This is working for her. She loves to learn about her interests and spin a curriculum of reading, writing and art around it.   We are in the process of finding a math tutor or teacher to guide her through the upper level math courses she will need in order to apply to a college level meteorology program if this is still what she wants when she is ready to apply to college.  We are also excited to meet a new potential guitar teacher.  This gentleman is an accomplished classical guitarist.  I am crossing my fingers that this is a match.  It will be our third guitar teacher in six months.  

Lilah expressed a need to slow down and dig in.  Her favorite memories of homeschooling over the past three and a half years were the projects we did around the study of Egypt.  She would like to slow down history and dig deep, like we did with the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks.  She would like to return to our study of grammar and memorization of poetry.  

From our conversations I had the realization that my girls need more hands-on guidance from me than what they are getting.  I thought they were organizing and managing their projects well.  But the last few weeks our involvement in 7 Cool Homeschoolers was called into question because of the conflict that arose every week around the planning of the weekly video.  This gave me great pause.
Perhaps my girls were not as organized as I thought.  Perhaps they need guidance.  Perhaps my 10 and 12  year olds are not as independent as I thought.   I explained to them that I am happy to step in and act as a project manager.  I explained that there are steps we can take to learn how to move through a project and focus on communication and collaboration.  

We began by listing the steps involved in making a video.  Once they saw the steps laid out, they identified where they have conflict.  Once I understood this, I was able to help them with strategies to plan and help mediate conflict before it became a crisis.  Their next video is due Wednesday.  Hopefully this week will be more peaceful.

This strategy of project management was also applied to Lilah’s magazine.  Her first magazine was created entirely on her own.  For some reason she struggled with her second issue.  She had ideas but seemed to get lost in translating them from her mind to the paper.  We recalled our recent trip to Brooklyn and the project boards that lined the walls with each layout of the catalog posted for viewing and easy editing.  She took this concept and began a project layout in her notebook.  Each page is a sketch of what the issue will contain.  This helped her to get out her thoughts and to know what she has and what she needs to complete a ten page magazine.

Homeschooling is not easy.  There are days, weeks even, when it is very very hard.  While the girls were watching a movie with their friends, I went back through my planner of our 2012-2013 year. Even when I thought we were not doing much, we were in fact, doing very much!  We got stuck when we came back from Tennessee.  We got into an early spring rut.  I think I have pulled us out of the rut.  There are still decisions to be made and curriculum to work through.  My girls are asking for a bit more from me as a “teacher” and I am always willing to give them what they need.  

I spent hours planning and getting excited over things I have wanted to try -- like personification vocabulary journals and digging out our analogy workbooks.  We got away from these things.  The beauty of homeschooling is even though it is the end of April, we can pull out those things and pick up wherever we left off, for there is no end date to what we are doing.  It is all a work in progress.


Susan Getty said...

I so completely agree: it is all a work in progress! We've been going through our own struggles here...some similar to what you're describing, others different. You're right, though, it doesn't matter what point in the "school year" we're in, as homeschool families, we can make the changes that we need and move on :) I hope things settle out for you all soon.

Karen said...

This is so timely for me. I find it is a fine line between letting her do things all by herself and when she does need more hands on with Mom. This is making me really think about some things in our homeschool. I feel like, even though we are doing mostly Interest Led, how our weeks are again beginning to look like a 'let's check off the To Do boxes' that I hate so much. I told Keilee last night that we have all these amazing resources that just sit here. It is strange that at times I still feel like I haven't really found my groove as a homeschool Mom. I think I will sit down with Keilee and really talk to her about some things she wants to do. As always Jess, you have inspired me.

Anonymous said...

Studying Egypt is one of the things that my girls both always mention as one of their favorite memories, too.

Allie is very excited for Grace with the rabbits, she is all about small pets now and researching them!

Jessica said...

Thank you Susan. I think once you identify the issue, you can work on resolving it. When I was talking to Karen last week she commented that our learning always seems to flow and most of the time it really does but I had to be honest and tell her that right now it is not, and it has not been that way for a few weeks.

I felt much better after giving deep thought to what needed to change and what we needed to add into our day and delete from our day. I was excited to begin this week and we ended up having a great day and accomplishing many things.

Jessica said...

Our groove is always changing, isn't it? I realized that Lilah has not had an new animal books in over a year. I ordered her the animal book that Keilee loves so much from The Smithsonian. I think I got complacent in what we were doing and did not realize that the girls were getting bored.

Today we began a new vocabulary journal, continued to work on Herb Fairies and each girl got one on one time with me for math. A new focus was definitely what we needed. I am crossing my fingers that we are back on track!

Jessica said...

Lilah completed her presentation and Grace is going to take her writing and present it as a formal research paper. To do this, I have to sit with her and help with the formatting. I have not seen any of their work. It will be a surprise to me when they present their findings to us.

If Allie has any resources the girls should look at, they would love her input!

Susan Getty said...

We've definitely had some flow issues, too. I'm glad you were able to start off the week with excitement and had a great day :)

Lula B @ said...

Another of your posts that resonates and makes me think - thank you!

My oldest is only 9 but achieving that balance between fostering independence and supporting her is one of my biggest goals. I try to see myself as her learning mentor, and remind myself of what Lori Pickert (Project-Based Homeschooling) says, and be kind to myself - I'm learning here too :-)


Jessica said...

We are all learning aren't we? There is no one-way to do this, as opposed to a tradition school method. So we try things, we keep what works and we adjust when it no longer works. It is a tricky mix when you have children at home full time who are going through developmental changes at the same time they are needing academic changes. The beauty is that we can be flexible and open to change, but the hard part is knowing what is needed!

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