Monday, April 27, 2009

The Biggest Fish Metaphor Ever Created

EDITED to add: I know it's an analogy, not a metaphor. Not sure why I make that mistake so often, even though I went to a great public school. OH THE IRONY.

~~
So, there was this lake. Great spot, lots of fish.

All of the parents and children would gather upon its shore to test the waters and exclaim over the variety of fish they would catch. Some days, the kids would reel in tons of marine life: catfish, turtles, bass, walleye... Some days, they would go home empty-handed, but happy from the fresh air and chance to try new lures.

As people began to notice this lake's abundance of fish, more families would gather together on its sandy banks. Soon, the "good" fishing spots became a bit crowded. Many times, hours would be spent untangling one line from another, unsnagging hooks, and anxiously waiting for a good bite that never came.

Some families moved to new fishing spots. But many found that moving to a new spot wasn't suitable for their footwear. Not all banks are sandy and rock-free, you know!

One mother looked at her children and said,

"This fishing spot is still lovely. The view is pleasing and the water is filled with interesting water life. But my children only catch a few fish a day. Sometimes, they come home empty-handed! We can see the fish in the water, but it's hard to cast when so many are throwing their lines beside you."

She was concerned. She could see that they were becoming discouraged over their lack of bites. If they didn't fish, what would they eat? If they didn't learn to fish properly, how would they know to feed themselves as adults?

Day after day, she pondered the situation. They tried to change position on the shore. Perhaps a new fishing pole? A new reel? What could help her children catch their share of the abundant fish?

One morning, her child cast his line so far out that his pole slipped out of his hand and began to float down the shoreline! The mother frantically scrambled over rocks and brambles, chasing the pole on its path into uncharted territory. The pole snagged upon a stump, allowing her to snatch it up from the water. Exhausted, she blew the hair from her eyes and looked around at the new surroundings.

She was standing beside a dock. This dock stretched far into the lake. Tethered to the dock were a variety of boats. She watched in wonder as these boats paddled in and out and noticed something she had never considered; they were fishing from the boats! They were leaving the shore in small groups, looking for the fish! If the fish weren't by the shore or dock, the families with the boats simply tried a new spot! And the most amazing thing was that the children were smiling in the wind and helping to paddle the boat! They were learning to love to fish!!

"How can I do this, too?!?" she wondered. "Is it difficult? Do I need a special license or is this something that only the incredibly rich and privileged can attempt?"

Her surprise was unimaginable when she found her answer; Anyone can fish from a boat. All you need is the courage!

Was she brave enough, though? There was the harder question...

The boats seemed so far out in the lake. Was she strong enough to paddle that far? She then remembered that the children were all helping. No parent paddled alone...

The lake was so big! How could she cover the entire lake and help her children catch every single type of fish available? She then remembered that the crowded lake shore provided no more diversity than her own boat would provide. In fact, her children might be able to catch MORE fish, simply because the competition for each fish's attention would be less when there were fewer lures to look at.

The boats were all alone, though. Wouldn't her children get lonely, so separated from the other people on the shore? She then watched in amazement as the boats gathered upon the lake; showing each other their catches and sharing the best fishing spots. At the dock, more boats pulled in for the day, exuberantly holding up their fish and laughing as the children ran off to play. No more fishing was needed that day! Their families had caught their limit!

Determined, the mother raced back to her children. She would make this work! A new way to fish! A new method to help them love not only the fish they caught but also the process in which to FIND them!! How marvelous! Surely everyone would feel the same way about her discovery!!

The mother and her children began to go boating together. Not wanting to push them too fast, too soon, she encouraged them to learn the ways of boating before focusing on actually catching any new fish. They would throw their poles into the water everyday, and be thrilled with their ordinary bass and perch, because paddling together was definitely an effort. Some days, they needed to return to the dock early. The sun was too hot or the boat had a slow leak that needed patching. But everyday, they faithfully returned to the boat, for the enjoyment they had from the time spent together was too great to abandon for the simplicity of the crowded banks.

Gradually, the mother began to notice small miracles; The boat was springing fewer leaks. Bigger fish were being caught. Her children were leading her to spots that she hadn't even considered to fish in. New species of aquatic animals were making themselves known to the entire family. Even SHE was learning to love to fish!

Others upon the banks were too far away to see the joy that the boat was bringing the family. Not willing or able to take even a short boat ride, they turned their heads in disgust over the leaks and windburn, the choppy waves and strange coves the family was exploring. When the mother would grumble about needing another new paddle to replace the one her child had lost in the lake, the shore fishermen would demand that she give up and "give into reason" by returning to the banks. "After all," they declared, "There is only one way to properly fish."

No.

I am here to tell you that there is more than one way to fish. I am here to tell you that a leaky boat or choppy water isn't a reason to abandon your boat.

Personally? I never enjoyed shore fishing. I mean, it's okay, but I always get snagged on the plant life and there tends to be lots of pop cans littered on the banks. When I'm on a boat, though? I don't even CARE how many fish I catch! I have fun just enjoying the ride!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Going with the flow...

Days like tomorrow are one of the reasons that homeschooling appeals to me. We are taking a spur of the moment trip to the arboretum. It is supposed to be beautiful out and, best thing: Friday is a FREE DAY!

Rock on.

This flexibility is something I had back when the boys were little, but had lost a bit due to the scheduling of public school. I adore the fact that we are going to enjoy a little nature and fresh air. I love that the kids will get lots of exercise while having a blast. The math can wait. Monday will still come and the problems will get done then. But Friday is calling to us... All of those newly budding trees and interactive exhibits!
~~~
I did find a way to "encourage" Evan to get his paperwork done without the arguments. Now, before I tell you, just remember not to judge until you've been where I am, ok? Also remember that the idea here is to help him to enjoy learning. And he wasn't enjoying ANYthing before. In fact, we were arguing just like when he did p.s. homework.

What is this magic solution?

By Gum, it's GUM!

Yep. I paid Evan in gum to get his work done. We set the timer with pleeeeenty of time to accomplish each sheet. After each sheet was done in the allotted time, he got a high five and a piece of gum from the Easter basket.

Bribery? No more so than the bribes his public school teachers gave him for good behavior. (paw prints for finishing work which could then be turned in for special treats.)

See? I AM a Genius!!! It has been confirmed.


The remains of the monkey bread that Evan made ALL BY HIMSELF. He read the instructions, measured the ingredients, and did (almost) all of the prep work. It was delicious!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Baby steps

I am still alive.

Barely.

Hanging on by a couple of threads. Hoping to keep the family on the right track. Feeling that I'm doing the right thing, but wishing I had just a touch of precognition. Just to next spring. Just to make me remember that the daily struggles aren't what matters right now.

What matters is the slow process we've begun in changing the way we look at education.

What matters is that Evan may have fought me on his spelling books today, but he read a Berenstain Bears' book. By himself. Which I had no idea he could do, until he chose it himself for free reading time.

What matters is that Evan tried to teach Corinne to read a book today and they played almost as much as they fought, which is a step in the right direction...

I guess I feel a little vindicated in this one fact; I KNOW my children. And I know them well. I knew exactly what issues Justin would have before we homeschooled him. I knew how he and I would react to each other. And I was RIGHT.

Unfortunately, I also knew exactly how Evan would react to homeschooling. I knew how he and I would react to each other. And, sadly, I was RIGHT. We're like two bull terriers, snarling over a ripped up sock...

Baby steps. Baby steps to finishing work sheets without whining. Baby steps to gaining more respect from him. Baby steps to experimenting with new responsibilities and chores. Baby steps to him actually liking school, no matter what format it is presented in...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Field Trip!

Instead of focusing on the not so good stuff from our venture into Chicago today, let's zero in on what DID go well, ok?

Even though we found the museum quickly, but had to drive around for half an hour before we found a parking garage (at the hospital, which makes me feel REALLY bad!) at least we got to appreciate the incredible beauty that is The University of Chicago on a sunny spring day. The architecture and design in that area is absolutely gorgeous!
The museum was only 7 or 8 blocks away and the kids ran and skipped while my heart had palpitations. Honestly, I don't know how you city parents do it!

The Oriental Institute is a small but free museum. It was worth the drive in MY opinion, but my kids were a little disappointed. Justin was expecting something else. He can't quite explain WHAT he was expecting, but it didn't live up to his imagination. Evan was soooo excited to see a mummy and then, when he finally did? He turned to me and said he wanted to go home because all of "these mummies and dead things are freaking me out!" (This is the same kid who went through the haunted house with the chain-saw guy about 20 times in a row.) Corinne, who had just eaten a huge lunch in the van, claimed she was staaaaarving and had to go hoooooome.

Wait. I said positive only, right?

Moving along.

Oooh! Big Sphinx statue from Mesopotamia!Interactive games about Assyria and Persia...
Ancient Nubian bull (minus the horns).
Justin had the camera at this point and liked this Mesopotamian chariot wheel. My question that we will google later on is this: Why isn't it ROUND?!?What happens when your 10 year old gets ahold of the camera...

Evan's favorite is, shockingly, the spear heads. "Did I blink?" (his favorite question....)

We got home in time (without getting lost!) to enjoy a quick but early dinner and soon we'll be off for more errands and functions than I care to focus upon.... Have a great weekend!

Hey, if you didn't know, I have a cool giveaway on my other site! Check it out!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Boot Camp

No surprises on day 1 with Evan. We handled everything from a little boy with a "tummy ache" that didn't want to do any work to a kid who solidly refused to do something because "that's not how we did it at REAL school!" Basically, he was straight out of the text book of The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child, by Linda Dobson (excellent book. Check your library. It ROCKS.)

But there were lots of good moments. Though he struggled with his journal writing (as he always has), he was able to think of a good story to write. It was just difficult to get it from his head to the paper. That's something that will only come with lots of practice. He also surprised me with how athletic he could be. We decided to record how many push-ups, sit-ups, arm curls, and jumping jacks we could do so that we can track our progress and "become stronger than Daddy when he's not paying attention!" Dude, that kid can rock on the push-ups. And Justin is really good at the arm curls. But the biggest surprise? Corinne can crank out the sit-ups better than an army grunt after boot camp! Seriously, that girl has got some AB STRENGTH!! (Mommy, however, is a weakling who is feeling the pain....)

While we didn't cross ALL of our items from our to-do list, we did get most of them, and that is a good start. Justin did pretty well with Evan's intrusion into his "space", with just one issue with ME when I insisted he make an attempt at creative writing. Ugh. Anyone have suggestions on how to encourage a child to write, without forcing them? He is insistent that he isn't any good at it and doesn't like it. I am insistent that he COULD be good at it, if only he'd stop saying that he ISN'T! Sort of like arguing whether the word "color" should have a "u" in it or not, you know? Neither is wrong, but neither is correct...

I will be reviewing a new spelling site that sounds promising. I'll let you know more about that, soon!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gearing up...

I have the daily plan for Monday all written and organized.

Evan's little desk has everything he's used to having at "school." I want to make this transition as smooth and enjoyable for him as possible. I'm betting on the notion that by using his old workbooks and worksheets that are left from school and similar to what he was used to, that he will enjoy homeschooling, too. I'm hoping that he loves it as much as I have begun to...

~~~~

We will be going to the Oriental Institute in Chicago this week. It's a great museum. Smaller, but just the right size so that you don't leave feeling like you missed something. And, best part: It's FREE.

I haven't been there since junior high (ah, memories. I got my first period there. While wearing white capris... Lovely times...) but I remember the mummies and huge statues. I KNOW the kids will love it. We have reserved several books from the library on the different regions and time periods. I just hope they call us soon, so we can actually study them BEFORE we go! Of course, being that we are making our own schedule, we can always push the field trip back to allow ourselves time to really know what we are going to go see!

I just love this homeschooling thing more and more each day... :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Random shots....

Apparently, just the THOUGHT that she will be homeschooled is making Corinne into a super-genius prodigy who does puzzles UPSIDE DOWN....*
Geometry. Still working on classifying parallelograms properly, but he's getting there. I know that this was taught in 2nd grade. Shouldn't he have had it down pat by now? We are doing serious review on polygons and the features that make them what they are.
Finding the volume of a cube was brought into 3-D, too.
"I don't like Art, Mommy." HAHAHAHA. I fooled him into loving art by making it a social studies project...
Just wait till you see the finished products. They are AWESOME!

*For all of you newbies, that was SARCASM in my voice. M'kay?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Like Topsy we grow....*

And, like that, our "schoolroom" has increased its size by half. Evan will spend his last day as a public schooler on Friday. We will honor the spring break that was scheduled by the school district, and officially restart first, fourth and preschool on Monday, April 13.

Evan is ecstatic. He yearns for his daddy, and I am positive that his emotional needs are not being met without seeing Pat. ESPECIALLY since the rest of us get to see him every day.

So! My family takes on a new direction! It is exciting and a bit daunting, but nothing that we try today is something that cannot be changed, if we decide that this isn't the right lifestyle, after all.

I feel liberated, honestly. When I pulled Justin out, I was TERRIFIED, but with Evan I am confident that there isn't ONE WAY to learn: there are many. We do not have to believe that a traditional school is the only way our children will thrive. I know that Patrick is a bit unsettled with the prospect of his children having a different childhood experience than we both did. But there will be experiences that they will have that we will be jealous of. This I am sure of.

The best thing about homeschooling, as I told Evan the other day? He will be the smartest kid in my first grade!

"I'm the only kid in your first grade, Mommy!"

Exactly. No one for him to compare himself to. He is far too concerned with how much smarter the other kids are in his class. He has placed himself as "average" or "not REALLY smart" simply because he didn't learn to read as quickly as everyone else, and doesn't guess all of the answers correctly. I see huge benefits for his confidence in his own intelligence, if everything goes according to my plans. (muwaaaahaaaahaaaaa!! I sound evil, don't I?)

That said, he DOES have school TODAY. And Corinne has ballet and Justin has some homeschooling buddies coming over to design their own coats of arms from the middle ages. Speaking of which, just WAIT till you see the castle he and I made! Complete with drawbridge, machicolations (it's a new word for our household), and a turret. Verrrrry cool!

*Anyone know which favorite book of mine I quote?