Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teaching Self Discipline

Cowbell Half Marathon 2013

Self discipline is one of the most important traits I wish to impart to my children. It is right up there with love, compassion, authenticity, and generosity. I think self discipline and focus pulls together all the other wonderful traits and makes them useful in a practical manner. I know it is a cornerstone of my life and is responsible for the things I have accomplished with the most pride.

But what is the best way to teach this to our children?

Well, like everything you would like your children to become the best way to teach is by example. Living out these qualities so they can see them in action will stamp them on their young lives. We all know children become what they see much more readily than what they are told. Those lessons stick with them forever.

Both of my children would like to learn musical instruments. Hannah is eager to begin the piano and violin. She has asked about it for years. Together we made the decision to wait until she is 7. Daily practice is an important part of the learning process and I wanted her to be mature enough to handle those demands. In the mean time, I have started teaching myself piano. She sees me practice 20-30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week. We have discussed it many times as she sits beside me and watches my every move. She is learning how to learn. She is discovering what it takes to master a new skill. I don't need to lecture her because she is seeing it daily unfold.

It is with this in mind I am considering running another full marathon. The training is hard and takes a lot out of me. The entire family will have to make sacrifices. Both my husband and I are long distance runners so the scenario isn't unknown. I think it is of the utmost importance our children see us challenge ourselves and fight to achieve our goals. Training for a marathon isn't easy and is so far out of my comfort zone, but those exact traits are what makes this process an invaluable lesson to my children. I want them to see me fight, struggle, even consider giving up before I ultimately triumph.

Anytime I discover a trait or characteristic I would like to see my children acquire I take an honest look at myself. Am I emulating this trait? Am I living it out daily in their view? If I am not, how am I going to change my life so that I am?

I am not saying you have to run a marathon to teach your children.No, we all have to find our own path. But I will ask you, are you living out the qualities and characteristic you want your children to have? If not, what can you do about it?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our Homeschool Flavor

One of the first things people ask you, or well those who know much about homeschooling ask, is what kind of homeschooler are you? (People who don't really know anything about homeschooling with ask you about socialization. We grit out teeth and try to smile through that one.)  We love labels don't we? I get that. Labels help us understand and categorize. Knowing the type of homeschool philosophy someone follows can tell you simply oodles of information about them. Unfortunately, we are the totally ambiguous yet very popular relaxed eclectic.

The translation of that ever popular reply is we do what we want, when we want. We happily cherry pick from a variety of styles and resources and aren't afraid to drop whatever if it isn't working. It is very free and we love it.

However, I can describe what it means to us in a bit more detail. There are a few things I think are important. Hannah practices math, reading, and writing three times a week. We read a never ending stream of books on whatever strikes her fancy. These books are almost always non fiction heavily focused on science with a smattering of different cultures thrown in. Both of my children watch more television than they majority of other homeschooling families but it is all commercial free and mostly educational. The Wild Kratts and Magic School Bus are frequent visitors and Carmen Sandiego often steals her way into our time and hearts.

I do think musical education is important and will encourage them both to take lessons on some instrument.  Their father and I both play instruments as adults so it is natural for them to find their instrument. Hannah is fixated on the piano and violin. Logan is insistent he learn the trombone. We havespent many afternoons with the St Louis Symphony.  Another avenue we are exploring is chess. They are at the beginnings of learning this amazing game. Although chess and music are different, I think they are crucial in learning to think. They help you train your mind and your focus. That is of quite important to us. If you can learn to control your mind and focus, you can do almost anything.

We love art. It is a family passion. Recently, we have given them access to all their art supplies. Yep, that means paint, glue, glitter, feathers, and all manner of messy things. It occurred to me that if I wanted to raise independent and competent children then I needed to treat them as independent and competent children. Yes, we will have messes, big ones. But they are doing amazingly well with this new freedom and responsibility.

Okay, so that is the nuts and bolts so to speak. The book work really only takes a few hours a week. Reading aloud and art takes as much time as it takes. Now to the crucial part of our homeschool curriculum, great big, huge blocks of open time for unstructured , open-ended self directed play. This to me is absolutely the most important component of all.

Experts are coming out of the wood work screaming that our children are nature deprived, play deprived, over-structured, and over-scheduled and they are right! Play is the most important work of childhood. Through play our children learn self control, negotiation, cooperation, self reliance, how to be a friend, how to resolved conflict, and so much more I cannot even write it all down.  Children learn so much when parents will just step back and let them learn.

Let me show you how we educated our children.

A long hike in the woods.

Painting with friends.

Visiting a baby elephant at least monthly to watch how she grew for the first year.

Finding an amazing group of friends to share adventures with and a yummy way to learn about the phases of the moon. 

Taking the time to explore, play, and really enjoy life.

There are so many pictures I could share here. This journey has already been incredible.. The point is all of these pictures either come about from child interest or are completely child led with parents trailing behind giving them as much freedom and space as they need. Our children direct 90% of their learning and they revel in it.

This is what we do. We love life. We love to learn. Our lives are not busy or stressful and we prefer it that way. Will this prepare our children to be successful in life? Yes, we think so but perhaps our version of success is different. We want them to think deeply and love well. We want them to care about themselves, others, animals, and the planet we live on each day. We want them to know you can choose joy each and every day and that life can be an amazing adventure if you choose.

John and I were once on a different path. We once thought status, materialism, and a higher salary was the key to happiness and oh so important. We wouldn't have told you that but we believe it. Then one day we choose a different path and that, my friends, has made all the difference.

May harmony find you and peace reside within you at all times.