Thursday, November 18, 2010

My teaching philosophy

So far,  Elliot is responding to our home school with great enthusiasm and a happy attitude.  Because he loves it so far, a part of me wants to get everything "right," and is intimidated when thinking about the long road ahead.  Will he learn all he needs to know?  Home school experts claim that one of the first steps to success is to develop a personal teaching philosophy.

The following is subject to change as I gain experience.  For now, this is what I believe:

The driving force behind my teaching philosophy is love.  I love to teach and learn.  I love my son.  I care about his mind, his spirit and his healthy body.  I believe in our ability to provide a great education from home.  I believe learning happens through trial and error and by learning to ask questions, and questions on top of questions.  I believe we learn through writing, which forces us to imagine and construct thought.  I believe in practice, repetition and reaching for big goals.  I believe in the practice of silence for inner understanding.
I believe that much of what we learn comes to us indirectly and from hands on experience.  Children learn by doing.  They also learn from their peers and their loved ones.

Ensuring that Elliot has regular interaction with other children is one of the big issues we face. I am confident that our home will be filled with friends and that he will continue to be invited to participate in his friend's lives as time goes forward. In the few days before starting our school, I worried he would feel the absence of his public school classmates.  I wondered if a cloud of loneliness would hang over our heads.   So far, that has not happened.  In fact, one day this week he said, "I hope I never have to go back to those bunch of tattle talers".
Perhaps the unexpected delight of being in a classroom of one can be explained by Sociologist Elise Boulding, author of A Small Plot of Heaven.  She writes,

  "It is possible to drown children and adults in a constant flow of stimuli, forcing them to spend so much energy responding to the outside world that inward life and the creative imagination which flowers from it becomes stunted or atrophied."

  After discussing the benefits of solitude for children, she goes on to ask,

"what is happening to our children as a result of the fact that their time is so heavily scheduled both in and out of school, and even increasingly in summer---that once golden time of inner ripening for the child...dare we leave space of time?  Dare we have faith in the workings of the spirit-illuminated intellect?"

 Elliot builds a labyrinth as part of a lesson on the ancient Minoan Civilization.

Elliot makes his first stop motion animation short film.

And so we're moving forward in this new decision with joy.  Our sweet boy is hugging us more.  There seems to be a shift taking place within me as I reconstruct my role from mom to "teacher mom." 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whatcha Say Wednesday

I'm never able to be wordless on Wednesday, no matter how hard I try. So today I'm liking up with Stash Mama for Watcha Say Wednesday.  Today's questions are:

1.  Do you think you are a good friend?

  I have been a good friend to many people over the course of my life.  When I was younger I had a tendency to attach myself emotionally my friends, perhaps a little too much.  Having experienced several profound, life changing events, I now tend to look more within myself for comfort.  I do love people, and want to reach out more.  But friendship is something that grows over time.  I'm so blessed to have some very good friends who still love me despite my faults.
I'm also a Friend, as in Friend with a capital F, as I attend a Quaker meeting.  I don't know if I'm a very good Friend because sometimes I don't attend regularly or participate in community activities.  This is not because I don't love and appreciate the people there or the experience of worshiping there.  I've learned that working from home has a downside: it's comfy here and I have to really motivate myself to get out.  I'm working on that one.
2.  What household chore do you despise the most?

After dinner clean up.  I love to cook, but I'm the kind that focuses so much on the process of cooking that I stack the prep dishes instead of washing as I go.  This makes me have to face a huge mess at the exact time when all I want to do is lay down on the couch and watch the news or read a book.   The strange thing is that I don't mind washing dishes at any other time during the day.  It sort of seems like a little break, a task that I've been doing since childhood.  My husband hates to see stacks of dishes with food and junk sitting there so if I don't start clean up, he does.  Then, I feel guilty and lazy and worthless.  We keep going on like that; he starts the water as I sneak off, then I come in to help dry and put away.

3.  What was your favorite board game as a kid?

The first was Chutes and Ladders.  Then I loved one called Head of the Class.  My dad loved to play games and I  played Scrabble with him for many years before he died.  Operation was always fun too.

4.  Bonus question:  Look around the room to find something with I, J and K.

Ink pens, Jenny (that's me), and Keyboard.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Faith in the Light

 It was only after graduating from a Quaker college that I began to practice meeting for worship with the Religious society of Friends.  Raised Catholic in a parish so small we had to have visiting priests, the New Garden Friends Meeting in my new city of Greensboro felt like coming home.  Perhaps that's because there's really not that many Quakers in the world.  In fact, half of them live in Kenya.  The other half are spread around the US and England. But while the size felt familiar, everything else about my experience was completely different.  And perfect.  And wonderful in a way that defies words.  Sitting in silence to wait upon the presence of God is an extraordinary feeling.  Even more extraordinary is when the Spirit calls me to stand up and bring a spoken message to the meeting.  Like a live wire plugged into an electrical outlet, my heart begins to hammer (hence, "quaking") until I cannot take it anymore and stand up to speak.  The messages that have come out in the last few years always seem to explain some truth or beauty or struggle that I'm experiencing and I feel immediately connected to everyone.  Today I want to share some messages from other Quakers to go along with my pictures of light.  The Light is another way of explaining God's presence within each person.

 "Men seek, often without realizing it, to know what they are and what may arise from the depths of their own being to give meaning and direction to their life" ---Howard H. Brinton

"God can lead us by more ways than one.  Some he makes ready before he sends them out, others he sends out so that they may be made ready" ---Mildred Young

Listen, then to the silence. Listen to what they say who say nothing.  Open yourself to the silence within, to the Inward Light that shines in every soul."  ---Frederick Parker-Rhodes

"Once having the vision, the second step to holy obedience is this:  Begin where you are.  Obey now.  Use what little obedience you are capable of even if it be like a grain of mustard seed."  ---Thomas Kelly

The final quote is particularly important to me now as I commence with creating a home school for our son.  And while I didn't know of it's existence before starting Knees and Paws, the line "begin where you are" is a thought that gave me the courage to try. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monday Mugs: Best Friends

Sandie and I were best friends at GHS in Michigan.  Twenty years later we discovered we're living parallel lives in North Carolina.  Thank you fb!

Cae and I are opposites in many ways.  Perhaps that's why it's easy for me to love her.

We love Cae and her children like our own family.

Elliot and Kit Cat

Jack Jack and Thomas the Dog

My daughter Emily and I are also best friends. 

Richard is my husband, but truly the best friend I've ever known.

Looking Up

This morning I'm joining Tabitha and friends as we share our favorite quotes.

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you" --- Maori proverb

It is an uncomfortable reality but sending my children to public school in North Carolina has taken an emotional toll on my family. Perhaps homeschooling would be an even bigger emotional investment, an additional financial burden and extraordinarily time consuming. But as I write this post, I am two inches from achieving my childhood dream of teaching, even if the classroom only has one student: my own.
As a first grader, Elliot has spent a great deal of time in school but has apparently not learned much. And now his teacher is complaining.
Let me pause to say just this: if I have to spend four hours each night to bring him up to the standard level that is acceptable for first graders, then why am I sending him to school at all? Why send him for six hours of nothing only to have him do all of his learning at home in the afternoon?

Elliot and I have begun practicing sitting in silence with our candle in the
mornings. We are not sending desperate prayers to God to save us from what we know we must do. We just sit there in silence and feel comforted.
And yesterday, we took a break from our work to walk. It was incredibly beautiful. Just being in the woods seemed to wash away our problems. With camera in hand, I realized that instead of hanging my head down in shame, determined to work harder so that my son will succeed,

I need to look up and see the sun.

And look within for answers.

Knowing there will always be bridges to cross.

And unexpected signs of love on the path.

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