“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.”
― Agatha Christie
It’s 8:35am and I’m still in my pajamas. My husband is asleep upstairs, not because he’s slept in but rather gone back to sleep after rising at some miserable time in the late four o’clock hour with Baby Girl. He has graciously given me the gift of catching a few precious moments of sleep after a night of stumbling to and from her room nursing on her demand. I don’t make sleeping babies.
The older boys have also been awake since before the sun rose. They’ve eaten breakfast, built some Lego structures, turned couch pillows into battleships, and played in their imaginary worlds all while getting into at least one or two fights, and are now feeling slightly bored and may start whining for second breakfast.
I glance out the window to see rain, sleet, and wind whipping so hard I worry some of those massive branches may finally break off the old Norway Maple that looms over the back of our house. I know that most families in my neighborhood are outside making their way through that horrid winter weather en route to school with their kids. I close my eyes, grin to myself, and feel thankful to be cozy inside, not in a hurry for anything. The pace of our homeschool life is completely up to us. This is not to say that some days aren’t rushed and out the door, but when they are, it’s our choosing.
Little One will need to gather himself together in about an hours time to head over to his Waldorf playgroup. Thankfully, due to my amazing village, we carpool with my neighbor a few doors down and today she’s driving the boys over to their Waldorf wonderland so I get to spend a little more time in my pjs. Big Brother is starting to compile his list of things he wants to do once Little One leaves. He adores playing with his brother, but what he loves even more is when he gets the sweet, undivided(ish) time with me to work on projects he normally can’t dig into with Little One around. True, Baby Girl needs my time and attention, but somehow, it’s easier to juggle the baby and the six-year-old. The baby just wants a few rounds of peek-a-boo, some kisses, and a basket of interesting objects to explore and she’s content for a while.
Today Big Brother wants to try his hand at animating his drawings using a light table to help him with the animation process. After spending the last two months creating stop motion with his Legos, he is interested in learning how to animate drawings instead. I have recently signed him up for an online course through Jam.com (brilliant website, btw) and he is following one of the quests to create drawings in a sequence with the light table. This entire process is completely his idea. The only thing I have done to facilitate it is download the free stop motion app and provided the Jam course. He’s been in control of how far he takes it and how much time he spends on the task. I’m amazed at his dedication to the project. Today he drew close to 50 images of a stick figure to animate it walking across the page. It took at least an hour, if not longer, and he was focused on the task at hand the entire time. This is what true intrinsic motivation looks like. This is self-directed learning and one of homeschooling’s treasured gifts to our family.
After he has completed his first animation, we make lunch together. On a bitter winter day like today, we must consume something warm and comforting. Tomato soup and grilled cheese, it is! Big Brother has shown a lot of interest in making food for himself so I let him assist with the lunch prep. While Baby Girl naps the two of us enjoy lunch together as we discuss what went well with his recently created animation and what he’d like to do differently next time. We also make a plan for the remainder of the day as well as plans for the week ahead. Even though he has half a year ahead of him before he turns seven, we still have conversations about what sort of things there are to look forward to in getting older. I can tell he feels empowered by his ability and interest in making food for himself. Along with that, I have been trying to introduce new ways he can help out around the house. So after lunch is complete, he practices loading the dishwasher and wiping down the counters. Having these moments of preparing food and cleaning up, not to mention our chats about life are so precious to me. As homeschoolers, I feel so fortunate to watch him grow and blossom right before my eyes as he takes on new challenges every day.
After lunch, Big Brother decides to dive into writing an All About Me book from a create your own book kit he received for his birthday nearly 2 years ago (better late than never)! We sat down and counted out the blank pages in the book and began making a list of the facts he wanted to write about himself from his birthdate to his favorite toys. I love his fearlessness in writing. He will make mistakes and do the best he can to spell words and not feel held back by an unknown spelling. After writing a few pages, he decides to move on to reading his Star Wars phonics books. He has a set of ten Star Wars books that are slightly too hard for him to read on his own, but these days he has almost unlimited patience for sitting down and painstakingly sounding out words. Today he wants to read just one more book in the set so he can start working on the workbook that came along with the books. The fact that my little dude actually loves worksheets is comical to me. When I first decided to homeschool, one of the many, many reasons was to get away from the mindless and time-wasting worksheets used in classrooms. But I have discovered, quite by accident, that when it comes from his own motivation, he loves it (like a Star Wars word search from the digraphs -sh and -th used in his books). The other day he was setting up a January calendar on Starfall and then decided to print out the calendar when he was done. He was over the moon to discover that the printout came with three or four questions about the calendar to answer. He couldn’t wait to write down his answers. But instead of a teacher shoving a random worksheet in his face, he is driven to fill in the blanks and circling words in a word search because they stem from an activity that he has chosen on his own. From writing the book about himself to reading the Star Wars books, all of this was self guided and chosen by him. The only role I played was strewing these materials in his path and helping him sound out a word if he asked for help. Isn’t it amazing how naturally curious and genuinely driven kids are to learn? I love it.
Finally, my husband comes home and the boys are off to a drumming class where they’ll dance, sing, and practice keeping the beat. It’s not every day that we spend our whole day working at home as we did today. Some days we’re out doing so much we are barely home, but I try to maintain our schedule such that open days like today can provide the opportunity to dig deep into the projects my kids most want to do. This constantly changing and variety filled schedule is one of the aspects of this lifestyle I love the most. For instance, this same day last week we were off on a field trip exploring the Natural History museums with fellow homeschoolers. There really is not a typical day on this adventure. It’s ever-changing and quite an exciting ride!