Monday, May 11, 2009

More than an Educator, More than a Mom

There are days when my identity seems so stuck on mom. I mean I hear my name multiply times a day. Most likely over a hundred times a day. Mom, MoM, mom, mama, mOm, mommy, MOM! Yet in our home I am more than mom. I am mom, wife, friend, teacher, taxi driver, base ball coach (our backyard only) and lately it appears student.
No I have not enrolled in College, although I feel that someday I will. I feel like lately I have been in the school of "How to Educate My Children." Have you ever had a series of events that you felt were so tailor made for you. I choose to believe it is not coincidence. I believe that God is specifically teaching me about my kids and how they learn especially my son.
It's long been discovered that boys are different than girls. Never has it been more obvious than in our homeschool. I can confirm the fact that yes boys are different than girls and probably more specifically; they learn differently too. I entered into homeschooling knowing that children had different learning styles, I read countless books. I decided early on to incorprate different styles of learning, a something for everyone learning program. And since I am ecclectic, it means a little of this, a little of that, structured and unstructured, hands-on and book work, auditory and visual, live field trips, video field trip and reading lots of books. I figured with a wide variety, my children would be well-rounded.
For the most part this has served us very well. I love teaching. We do a lot of fun things. My kids are growing and learning, as am I. And they are well-rounded.
Yet while they are well-rounded I feel like now is the time to nuture them as individuals. Helping them to become the man and woman God created THEM to be. Early on I could pick out traits in my children, giving me hints of who they are. One asks lots of questions, one loves to sing, one loves books, while they other could spend the entire day outdoors exploring. I could go and on and on...
So how is God leading me? What has He shown me? While I could never put all the pieces together for you. I will share what I do know. And I will do my best to communicate it with you.
It all started when we were reading a biography on Thomas A Edison. As a young boy Thomas Edison was incredibly curious. He wanted to know how everything worked. He asked A LOT of questions. At the age of 7 his mother put him into the town school. A one room school house with a very strict teacher named, Mr. Crawford. Mr. Crawford had no use for disruptions of any sorts and certainly not for a young Thomas who had questions about the subject matter. He was often ridiculed and disciplined for his desire to know more. One day, Thomas came home from school and declared, "I am not going back to that school!" His mother enquired why and found out that he had been ridiculed and yelled at, yet again for asking a question. The teacher had made the statement, this river runs uphill. Now Thomas had been down to the river, he had studied its flow and all the rivers he had ever seen flowed down hill. So he simply asked, "How can that be?" His teacher responded harshly, his mother however responded BRILLIANTLY! "Thomas Alva Edison, you have every right to be curious and ask questions. He should feel honored that you are so intentive and want to learn. Why, if he won't allow for your questions, I will teach you myself at home." And then she went to tell Mr. Crawford himself what she thought. At age 7, Thomas had his first laboratory. He continued to ask questions, he continued to explore and he became in my mind the most valuable contributor to American science because of it.
Next it was onto the Wright Brothers biography. Right smack dab in the middle of chapter one, God got my attention. The boys were still young, I believe 3 and 5 when Wilber recieved a top for his birthday. Not just any top, a gyroscope. The science of it amazed the family and they all enjoyed taking turns to see how it worked. In the afternoon, Wilber and Orville went into the shed to see how it worked. And to see how it worked they ended up taking it apart and ultimately destroying it. The mother's response to the situation was BRILLIANT! To paraphrase, she told the oldest brother that the boys had taken the top apart and that it was now broken. To which he questioned, "Won't father be mad?" Her reply, "We can not be mad at them. They are doing what they were created to do. Their minds must know the answers to their questions. The must take things apart to see how they work and only then do they understand it. Your grandfather was the same way. He took apart wagon after wagon seeing how they worked. Then he rebuilt them and made them better. That is why he is the best wagon maker there is. If we do not allow them to do these things they will not be all that they were created to be. You are not to scold them, nor well I." WOW!!!
I can not tell the number of times nor all the things my son has gotten into, the times he has taken things apart to what seemed to me destroying something all because his mind had questions that needed to be answered. My boy who asks countless "How and why" questions. My boy that would be much happier out in the back yard than behind a desk. Who has before helped me to fix the DVD player, taking it apart and fixing the malfunction. My boy... is a Thomas Edison and a Wilber Wright.
So what as his educator am I to do about that? Believe me I ask myself often what is best for my kids. A little bit of the answer came when we watched the first 30 minutes of a River Runs Through It. The narrating boy told how he went to the school of Minister (his last name) who was the boys father. Needless to say, he was homeschooled. He told how his father taught two things; Arithmetic and Writing. Those two things he was required to do daily, TO HIS FATHERS SATISFACTION. It shows the boy writing, taking the lesson to his father and him red lining it , circling things and handing it back to the boy. This goes on a couple times until the boy got it right, to which the father replies, "Good, now throw it away." The boy crumples the paper, throws it in the trash and runs off full speed to the woods where he spends the day fly fishing and exploring. The narrator shares, that "All I needed to learn, I learned there in those woods.

And what I took from all this is this:
I should and I will require seatwork from my child. He will be expected to do his math. He will be expected to complete his Language Arts. However long this takes him will be up to him. It should be done well and to my satisfaction. Then he will have time to explore. I have given him the freedom to take things apart, with permission. I found an old camera at a garage sale. He took it apart last week. A little screw driver and an inquiring mind taught him more than I could have ever taught him by forcing him to read it from a book or giving some dry explaination. I will still do unit study appraoches to topics. Offering as many hands-on, practical learning options as we go. I also plan to let him explore as much as possible. Not worrying to much when he digs a hole. Yet also holding him accountable for what he does. Use a tool, put it away. As he grows I hope he will begin a journal of all his discoveries. I can not wait to see what he does with his life because of the choices I am making. I know whatever he does, it is going to be something GREAT!

So what about my daughter. How does she play into this whole mix? How am I to teach her? Differently, that's how. While all these epiphanies are happening on my sons front, I have had a couple on my daughter as well. She THRIVES on seat work. I could give her 20 pages of work book stuff and pages to fill out and she would eat it up. The child finished Kindergarten early because nearly everyday she would ask can I do another day. Last week when I she had consumed all that I had for her to consume as far as Kindergarten goes, we declared that she had finished. My husband told her how proud of her he was and that now she was a first grader. She beemed with delight. The next day she asked, "Where is my first grade school stuff?" Now I was not planning on starting first grade stuff until the Fall. I had planned on doing filler activities and workbooks to fill the time until we were done for the Summer. That was my plan, not hers. She really wanted to start first grade, THAT DAY. Since I had all my Language Arts stuff for her for first grade, thats what we did. She did the first three days in one sitting. Then two days the next. She has already stated she wants to do school all Summer. Seeing that it takes her such a short time to get through it I will probably oblidge her. It is how she is wired and I would be doing her a disservice to not allow her to learn on her time table and according to her interest.
So it does appear to me that I will be Schooling and Unschooling under the same roof. You see I am an educator. I am a Mom. I am a student, ever learning. "Lord, teach me all that I need to know."

Oh and if anyone has something interesting that could be taken apart, broken or not, I think I know a boy that might enjoy the opportunity.


Dad said...

You are doing a GREAT job with those two. I wonder what I would be doing today if you had been MY teacher, Keep up the good work.

Anet said...

Homeschooling is a prefect environment for little Thomas Edisons. I have one too!
We watched a movie from the library, an old black and white film with Mickey Rooney playing an young Thomas Edison. I can't recall the title of it. I think maybe "Young Thomas Edison." Anyways it really kept Noah's interest and it was interesting to compare the movie to the books we've read.
The whole town treated him badly. Because he was different, very sad!

You're doing a great job homeschooling and allowing your children to explore their interest
I like how you handle homeschooling both of your children in different ways that honors who they are and how they learn!

momteacherfriend said...

Dad, While you did go to public, you are who you are because your mother took the time to answer your questions and show you the things you wanted to learn. And you are brilliant!

Anet- Thanks!
I have to keep asking myself what would I want if it were me. I am far from perfect and I make mistakes but I think I am doing the right thing.
We will have to see if we can find the video, my boy would probably enjoy it.

J said...

You are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. We also have a book on Thomas Edison in the Before I Made History series ("Turn on the Light, Thomas Edison"). After reading your blog I pulled it out and plan to read to the kids.

Tracy said...

"Tell me, I'll forget; Show me, I'll remember; Involve me, I'll understand."

It's awesome to see how you are growing as a teacher & parent! From a training perspective, I totally understand the teaching aspect. I wish I had less people to train/more time with each. Its tough to train a group of people at one time versus one-on-one training where I can help them understand in their own terms. I usually end up needing to do both for the message to really sink in.