July 27, 2015

Usher in Your Life

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Tear up the calendar you bought
And throw the pieces to the sky
Confetti falling down like rain
Like a parade to usher in your life
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Coil (1997) 

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Maybe you noticed my posts have shifted away from homeschooling...it's true. We are still educating at home -- in fact, Benjamin will begin Grade Five this year.  Can you imagine? Grade Five!  Last year I struggled with blogging about homeschooling because honestly, I no longer espouse any philosophy or method. 

I use an outline to structure our school year, but I no longer spend my entire summer researching methods and purchasing resources.  In fact, I haven't purchased a thing for Grade Five.  This is usually the time of year when I would post my Lesson Block outline for the upcoming school year -- and I could do it, but I think I'd rather describe our current Lesson Block so you can get an idea why I stopped wasting time and money planning our school year.

Over the winter I began thinking about the Lesson Blocks I wished to offer Benjamin in Grade Five.  Last year our Science Block consisted of learning about the animal kingdom with a special emphasis on the human body.  This year we are focusing on Plant Life (Botany). Why?  Well, I believe there is no more important lesson I can provide than teaching Benjamin about the (natural) world around him.  

So as of July 1st (for reporting purposes only) we are in Grade Five. Honestly though, we've been learning about flowers, plants and trees all spring and summer.  In early spring we began doing yard work for my parents (if you remember, my dad was in the ER in March, a lengthy hospital stay in April and another shorter stay, in May) and at the same time, we began re-designing our own backyard.  Benjamin has been involved in both projects -- tending a small flower garden at my parents' house and also weeding, pruning, splitting, planting, etc. at both properties.  He has been intimately involved in the design of our backyard, helping to research and choose appropriate plants, bulbs and seeds.  

Last week Benjamin helped dig our new pond!  For weeks we have discussed the size and depth of the pond and together, we visited nurseries and water gardening facilities, comparing price per square foot and thickness of liners.  We purchased a 10' x 15' pond liner (45 mils) on Friday and by midnight Saturday, we had a new pond.  This week (and maybe even the week after) we'll allow it to 'gas off.' Eventually, we'll add our fish, frogs, tadpole and snails - as well as anacharis, water hyacinths and pond irises.

While I did not explicitly plan any of this, I have been amused by how easily the study of plants and plant life became interwoven into the fabric of our daily lives. And when we discovered Natural Selections:  Andrew Wyeth Plant Studies is running at the Brandywine River Museum from August 29, 2015 through January 31, 2016; I couldn't help but again smile at how naturally lessons come together for us.  

Since June we've been reading a book about the history of the American flag.  It has been our bedtime reading (that, and a book about the Wonders of the World). I just finished it last week, and so I began reading All About the Flowering World, a vintage text written by Ferdinand C. Lane.  And while carrying my laundry downstairs to the washing machine I was reminded of Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game sitting on the game shelf, veiled by a thin coat of dust.  I brought it upstairs and soon, we'll pop off the lid and become reacquainted with it.

Why am I describing all of this in detail?  I suppose I hope you might be inspired to "throw out that calendar you bought."  I remember the summer before Benjamin's Grade Three -- hauling around the Core Knowledge Teacher's Guide, even taking it to my mom's swimming pool so I could read the lesson plans! I wasted an entire summer collecting resources to which someone else had assigned educational value.  
Thank goodness, my education was neglected.  I was never sent to school...it would have rubbed off some of the originality (if I had not died of shyness or been killed with over pressure).
Beatrix Potter, in a letter to an American friend in 1929.

If I had continued using others' philosophies and methods we would still be schlepping along year-after-year re-creating public school-at-home.  I won't lie though, there is a certain level of consistency and discipline required if you expect to unloose the reigns.  

So much working, reading, thinking, living to do!  A lifetime is not long enough.

Sylvia Plath, from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I hear from too many homeschool moms who sigh, "I would love to give [him] more freedom, but he'd just watch TV," or, "[She] will just play games on the iPad."  Children aren't born watching TV or playing video games.  Any behavior your child exhibits (good and bad) you modeled, introduced or permitted. Prosaic parenting unfortunately runs rampant in our society. Strive for exhilaration.  A lifetime is NOT long enough.  Nurture originality.  Enjoy spending time with your children.  Alongside your children.  You will marvel at what they learn when you neglect their educations.