Love the season of death

I love this time of year and all of the harvest celebrations. Two holidays our family celebrates this time of year are Halloween and All Saint's Day. On Halloween my kids will pose as Darth Vader escorting Queen Isabel of Spain and their little sister the princess.  My favorite things of Halloween, are plastic masks, candy, jack-o-lanterns and even the eerie sound effects my neighbors set up with motion detectors. I could do without the gore. Blood and guts and haunted houses aren't my cup of tea. But this night is when I give a nod to death and all of the mysteries that natural end holds for us all.  No matter what anyone says or believes, I have yet to meet anyone who knows what death is truly like from experience. And that is precisely what unnerves many of us. I see Halloween as a time for us to poke fun at ourselves and our fears of this very natural part of life.

All Saint's Day is the other side of death's story. This is the part of faith. November 1st is when I honor all those who have actually gone before me and I place my faith and trust in God who holds them with care. I light a candle. My kids to dress up because our church holds a parade where they can dress as their favorite saint.

St. Christopher the Christ bearer
Two books we've enjoyed greatly are Once Upon A Time Saints and More Once Upon A Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki. These books are great! These are legends and stories of early Christians who are often lesser known and their stories are G-rated.  We used these books to choose their saint. My oldest picked St. Zita. St. Zita was domestic, charitable, and loved by the angels. My son picked St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers who is said to have carried the Christ child over rough waters. My three year old still wants to be a princess.


Good Questions

My daughter was talking with a friend recently who said she was not smart. She insisted on calling herself "dumb" because the only thing she was good at in school was science.  After thinking for a moment, my daughter told her that the only thing she really knew a lot about was ancient Egypt and that none of it would really do her any good in real life. This exchange must have been simmering in her because several days later she brought it up to me and asked me several really good questions.

I only know about Egypt because I have a passion for it. What about things I don't like? Will I be able to learn about them? Why do you think I am smart when I hardly know anything yet? 
Can you still be considered smart if you aren't great at everything?

Where to begin? I hope I got it right. In the back in forth conversation that followed, I hope she heard me clearly because those questions strike at the heart of why I choose to homeschool.

First of all I told her that no one is born with a lot of knowledge. "Smart" is what we call people who can learn relatively easily. Because she can learn, she is smart. All the knowledge she accumulated about ancient Egypt is just proof that she can learn when she tries.

Next I told her that by learning about things she is passionate about, she is discovering how to learn in a fun way. The key is that learning about boring or uninteresting topics is done in exactly the same way. Research, reading, and asking questions will serve her well even if she doesn't like what she is looking into. Learning how to gather, sort, and compile information is more important than any of the actual facts she gathers. True, it's harder and more work when you aren't interested, but it is a lot easier if you know what to do.

Lastly, I told her that nobody is good at everything. Yes, there will be subjects that just don't click easily or sometimes at all. That's okay. Do your best and focus on your strengths. Life will go on!

There you have it, one of the top ten reasons why we homeschool: I want to teach my kids how to lead themselves to knowledge rather than how to play follow-the-leader. There is absolutely no "teaching to a test" here. Our lessons, whether they are structured or not, are all based on teaching them how to think for themselves. If they can learn for the sake of learning and not to please me or a random teacher, I will feel that I did something right.


~~~~~Wordless Wednesday~~~~~ Kendo Tournament

Jelly Bean at the Southeast Kendo Tournament
Noda Sensai an excellent teacher


fighting her heart out.


Forced Fall Break

This week is fall break. I didn't realize that until Tuesday. Life just got in the way of formal schooling. On the other hand, life has its own methods of teaching and boredom can be a wonderful tool:

bored bored bored
  • My youngest had a slight fever which made her extra clingy. The older two were just going to have to manage on their own. They were bored but they soon learned how to entertain themselves. They worked on a lot of unfinished projects. The violin and calligraphy pens were used often. My son's Lego skills got a workout as he tried to shape his own planet/space ship. (Yes. The boy is crazy about Star Wars) The increased down time was just what my son needed to crack open a chapter book and really take off reading. We were all pleased at his huge strides in this area. 
  • My eight-week -old nephew was taken to the hospital last week. I spent a lot of time there as we waited for information. (He's going to be just fine). Hospitals are boring. Even just waiting for me to come back from the hospital was boring for them but they learned something anyway. This ordeal taught my children about being there for others in a time of need, hospital etiquette, and how lucky we are to have our health.  It also taught them about the digestive system, the liver, the gall bladder and what happens when these things aren't running smoothly.
  • Extra games of hide-and-seek resulted in my oldest helping her baby sister count high into her teens while the older two practiced counting in as many languages as they could. I heard Spanish, Latin, and Japanese. 
  • The computer got a lot of use too. PBSkids.org is a favorite because the littlest has a lot of fun just watching the others. My son later brought up a discussion about asthma after playing a game from the site. 
Homeschooling is often full of activities, books, writing, and field trips. It has allowed me to fill our life with activities of our choosing. But there is the other side to homeschooling that I think is just as valuable as all of that. Homeschooling allows for downtime.  Downtime is a rare luxury in today's overly scheduled world. For kids, learning how to be alone, working on a large project without rushing through it, and breaking up boredom on their own develops skills that most kids don't have. I can't help but hope it will give a sense of balance to my kids.