Thursday, July 17, 2008

old-fashioned summers, books, and laziness

Homeschooling Carnival up at Red Sea Homeschool.

The heading quote is

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~Sam Keen

Funny — I should make that our motto this summer, though we haven’t been lazy precisely; just very quiet. No camps except for football camp; no real learning enrichment; in fact, very little traveling at all because just how many experiences are worth 30$ just for the gas?

In some ways the quietness has been nice. In another way, it’s uncomfortable. It makes me realize how much I am geared towards more quietness in the winter and more outside the home activity in the spring and summer. I feel like I’m being lax. Aidan’s neurologist asked at his clinic on Monday about our homeschooling: “What about educational activities? You know, like enrichment activities and lessons?” I looked at him blankly. “Um, he was signed up for T-ball a couple of years ago — he has therapy…” All the interaction with older siblings, the spectacular beauty surrounding the house (people go on vacation and travel here to our national forest), the texture of daily life — that is more difficult to explain and comprehend than a quick, “Oh, yes, he is at discovery camp this week and takes karate and an art tutor comes to work with our homeschool group and…. we are so busy we hardly have time to eat dinner, we have to pack sandwiches in the cooler!”

That is where I think that even deep summer, nowadays, doesn’t make laziness (defined as homeboundedness, here) seem respectable. All the homeschoolers in our area seem actually to be busier during the summer than during the schooling seasons of the year. I am letting down our side. … or being more like the moms I remember in my growing-up years. We didn’t have very many activities that I can remember during the summer. Actually when we did have Vacation Bible Study or some kind of art camp I sort of resented it, to be honest. That was MY time.

All this aside, though, the summer has taken on an interesting character of its own. We still haven’t gotten into the habit of going outside very much. I was planning to go on various nature expeditions this summer, including to the beach, but the fact that Sean and Kevin have our one car every afternoon because of football camp makes that a bit more difficult. Sure, we are in and out the house around our area but not quite the way I planned.

I have been continuing phonics with the little ones, and this brings back memories of teaching their two older siblings about a dozen years ago when I was pregnant with our fifth. I knew I would be busy once the 5th was born, so I decided to commit the summer to getting them reading. This time there is not much time pressure, which is nice. It gives me a chance to learn how to be somewhat consistent yet in a relaxed way, which is a new skill — usually I am one or the other, consistent OR relaxed.

Yesterday I just wrote words for Aidan, still trying to get him out of the habit of guessing based on the CV of the CVC. He likes writing and drawing so this held his attention a bit. It is funny when he draws, because he draws a shape and then decides what it looks like after the fact. “This is an OCTOPUS!” he announced yesterday. Another time he was delighted when his pen and hand produced a VACUUM cleaner! He has one of the strongest visual-associative imaginations I’ve seen even in this family of visual learners. He calls the small thin round pad that you put in his leg brace a “Pringle”.

It has been interesting to watch what Clare has done with her time since she graduated in June. She plugged away all year at giving a final shape to her senior year transcript. Now, when she’s not focused on requirements — well, for several days she played the violin all the time. Now she is spending more time at the classical guitar. She is taking long walks and working out a lot, too. She read Plato’s Republic and several other “steep” books including a couple of biographies all within 2-3 weeks. Then she decided to read a bunch of the books she somehow missed reading in childhood — Alice in Wonderland, Kidnapped, Secret Garden, Heidi, Water Babies, At the Back of the North Wind. So basically an immersion in Victorian childrens’ lit.

Paddy has suddenly become quite interesting to talk to. He has been staying up till almost midnight and our new thing is me narrating stories to him. He listens with huge interest and asks all sorts of questions. Another example of how sometimes I fall into traditions without even “deciding” to. I guess I read a lot about narration recently and thought that it would be hard for a 6 year old to start narrating when he had never seen it modelled, but I had made no resolution. The other day I was telling him about a video that Aidan had seen that he hadn’t — and it went from there. I can see that this could be valuable in several ways — he is learning to listen without visual helps, he will have an example and experience with narrating in the future, but more importantly, it is such a fun relationship time and plus, I am learning to get past my own hesitation about oral “storytelling” since this is so fun and relaxed, and now narrating doesn’t seem so artificial and school-y to me since I can see how it fits into real life communication.

So that is nice ;-).