Thoughtful Thursday Week 21 – Recitals

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Twice a year, our son has music recitals: December and May. He takes piano and violin lessons. He enjoys both and it is hard to know right now if or when he will drop one and focus more on the one that he keeps. Recently, he even played a piano piece in church – his first special music.

Mom, son and daughter, after violin recital

With my son and daughter after his violin recital, May 2015

Here is his violin recital – Hunters’ Chorus by Carl Maria von Weber. His piano piece in church was Chant Arabe, an anonymous song from the first Suzuki piano book.

We are coming up in the world, my husband and I. We used to be the ones with the noisy babies, who could not even sit in church. Now, one of our babies is blessing our church family with music.

Thoughtful Thursday - Recitals

Several people came up to my son before and after his performance, to encourage him or to thank him for it. Continue reading »

 He took it all in and said “Thank you.” He told me afterwards that “everybody” came to talk to him about his playing. Well, I know it wasn’t everybody. But I am glad it felt like it to him. We have a supportive church family, who embraced his efforts and encouraged him that day.

By the way, my son does not have a problem with playing in front of a large crowd or a small crowd. He told me that he felt nervous during the first three notes of the song. Then, he got over it. To me, it is another confirmation that socialization in the context of a 25-kid classroom for seven hours a day, five days a week is not a guaranteed way to increase self-confidence. On the contrary.

I find homeschooled kids more self-assured than the ones who attend school away from their parents for 35 hours every week. Is it any wonder? Homeschooled children receive a lot of mommy time, a lot of attention from both parents, and their mom-love compartment is full to the brim. That’s a great way to start your journey through life and its challenging social situations.

I pray that this is the beginning of a long journey – my son giving his talents to our church family and the community around us. Praising our Maker and Redeemer through music and helping people think about God surely counts as a ministry.

Wonderful Wednesday – Planting a Veggie Garden

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Every spring, I buy some vegetable plants and start another garden in my 4’x8′ enclosed patch in the backyard. The whole thing started when my son was one. I felt inspired to teach him where foods come from. He is six years old now.

I have learned a thing or two every year from working in the garden. About gardening and, also, about my own character. Lately, about homeschooling, too.

This year, I have already gleaned two lessons:

1. Don’t (trans)plant too early. We planted our veggie garden in mid-April. A week later, hail and snow killed it, even though we covered it with a sheet. When it’s cold, it’s cold.  Continue reading »

Plus, the rule of thumb is, plant outside after Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May). But we got in a rush…

Children are like plants. You take children out of the warmth of their home and they freeze up in the cold of school buildings.

Pepper plant shriveled up in my first garden this year, after hail and snow damage

Pepper plant shriveled up in my first garden this year, after hail and snow damage

If you don’t wait until they have had all the mothering needed, well, you will suffer some consequences. Wait for Mother’s Day – the symbol of nurturing.

I have had several parents tell me how their warm and bubbly five-year-old child went to kindergarten and became a cold, withdrawn person as the weeks went on.

Everybody is asking, “What about socialization?” from us homeschoolers. I think we should ask these same people the same question about their children, who meander the jungle of social interactions all alone, for seven hours a day, five days a week. No wonder children are exhausted by the time they come home. No wonder so many of them become peer-dependent. No wonder the family unit has become a joke in most cultures these days.

2. Don’t water inappropriately (while the sun is still shining). The day we re-planted the garden, at the end of May, I watered. It was around 5pm. I thought it would be late enough in the day. It was not. The sun was still shining and it was 77F. A lot of the leaves got burned by the sun, due to the magnifying effect of water on the leaves.

In my rush to get the project done and checked off my list, I forgot to take into consideration the conditions I was working with.

How do I apply this to homeschooling? Well, in our zeal to make our children Ivy League-ready, we might teach them too much, too soon. Absolutely we must quench their thirst for knowledge. Sure, we must challenge them. But too much knowledge, too many demands, too early will lead to burnout.

Vegetable garden in a small enclosed area

My second garden this year.

I have trimmed the burnt leaves. Many of the plants seem to be doing fine, but some will be lost or not produce as much. The same goes for children who get burned out with too many worksheets.

In case you are wondering, I planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon.

Here’s hoping that my garden will survive and thrive.

5 Quick Points on Socialization and Homeschooling

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The other day I took my son to his science class, organized by our local aquarium specifically for homeschoolers. As I sat there looking at PowerPoint slides of bones and muscles, I also glanced occasionally at the students sitting on the carpet. They interacted well with each other and looked oh, so socialized.

And yet, public/private school parents still believe homeschooling produces social misfits. Mainstream parents also equate schooling with socialization. Generations of parents have been lead to believe that children belong together in age-segregated classrooms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are 5 thoughts that hit me that afternoon during my son’s science class:

1. Introverts will be introverts. My Myers-Briggs profile is INTJ – Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment. I attended public school and, before that, I was in day care. I have friends and I enjoy public speaking, but I will always be an introvert. Personality does not change. Shy children will be shy no matter where they went to school.

2. Public school is not the real world. When I was deciding on educational choices for my children, some people encouraged me to send them to public school because “public school is the real world.” Nonsense. Where else in your post-college world will you spend seven hours a day with 25 other people your age?

The best way to socialize a child is by exposing her to different age groups and different social situations – and homeschooling affords that as we take our children to different co-op classes, orchestra events, 4-H groups, mission trips, nursing homes etc. That’s the real world.

My extended family dining together

My extended family having breakfast together

3. Do not underestimate the mommy factor. Dr. James Dobson talks and writes frequently about the importance of the mother in the lives of her children. Research shows that children who grow up in the care of somebody else other than their mother show more aggressive behavior and disobedience than those raised at home by their own mom.

4. Socialization is a non-issue. If anybody asks you “What about socialization,” they simply show their ignorance about all the research on the matter. By the way, here are 7 ways to answer the socialization question. Sure, there are some homeschoolers who de-cry their parents’ way of socializing them, but we all know social misfits who attended public school. Homeschoolers will have some bad experiences just as public/private school students will have bad experiences.

5. Spending long periods of time with peers does not lead to higher intelligence. Madeline’s eleven peers wanted their appendix out, too. They saw Madeline, a popular kid, show off a scar as a badge of honor. They also saw the dollhouse and gifts Madeline’s papa sent while she was in the hospital. They did not think about Madeline’s pain. They wanted surgery because Madeline had surgery and she got all that. It’s called peer pressure and not thinking things through – the modus operandi of traditionally-schooled children.

While deciding to homeschool, I struggled with many questions, but socialization was not one of them because I had read the Smithsonian Institution’s recipe for genius and leadership from “The Childhood Pattern of Genius” by  H. McCurdy:

a. Children should spend a great deal of time with loving, educationally minded parents;

b. Children should be allowed a lot of free exploration; and

c. Children should have little to no association with peers outside of family and relatives.

Far from producing loners, homeschooling provides a platform for raising leaders and thinkers. Quod erat demonstrandum.

7 Ways to Answer the Socialization Question

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“What about socialization?” If you homeschool, you have been asked this question at least once. And that’s OK.

Here are 7 ways to deal with the socialization question:

1. Congratulate this person for having the courage to ask. Homeschooling one’s child is like wearing braces after 35. Even though it is legal and more accepted than ever, it remains a bit of a stigma. Most people think they embarrass you if they ask questions about it.

2. Ask them to define socialization from their perspective, so you understand their background. It also helps with figuring out the emotion behind the question. Are they open-minded and curious? Or angry and closed-minded? Give information to the curious and don’t argue with the angry ones.

3. Mention your children attend [insert activities outside the home], where they have lots of opportunities to interact with people of different ages and walks of life.

4. Tell them people have socialized their children in the context of home for millennia. Ask, “Do you think American children were ‘unsocialized’ before 1852, when compulsory attendance was introduced for the first time?”

5. Smile. Ask: “What do Jesus, George Washington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Tim Tebow, and Will Smith’s children have in common? Homeschooling. As far as I know, none of them has/had problems interacting with others.”

Too Cool for School

6. Using a meek voice, tell them:  “Socialization in a school environment is self-taught and unsupervised, i.e. children learn to socialize between classes or during recess and lunch. No adult takes the time to teach them the proper way to interact with each other because adults are not welcome in their circles at those times. Adults only intervene when things get out of hand. This type of socialization has more to do with being cool and fitting in than with manners, team work, and being polite.”

7. Last but not least, use this: “Personally, I have a problem with the quality and quantity of socialization that happens in schools. Spending 35 hours a week in a classroom with 30 other children is not socialization. It is over-socialization.”

However you answer the socialization question, be gracious and patient, not snarky and sarcastic. People are on different journeys. The last thing they need is to be snapped at by a homeschooling mom.

Junior Ranger Program

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This summer, DS was finally able to take part in the Junior Ranger Program organized by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One must be at least five to start in one of the age groups available. I have been looking forward to this program for about 3 years. Yes, I like to plan ahead.Jr. Ranger Booklet

We bought the booklet and worked our way through the requirements:

1. Complete eight activities in the booklet. It took us three fifteen-minute sessions over a month. We stretched it out especially because we were busy with family visiting from overseas.

2. Attend one ranger-led program. We attended three. Just because. Plus I wanted my Not-So-Junior ranger badge, which one can get after attending – you guessed it! – three programs.

Our first event was Bear-mania. We learned there are 1,600 bears in the park, 2 per each square mile, which is a really good density. We got to touch a bear skin. I was OK with touching the fur, but my son invited me to feel its paws and claws. I hesitated. Then, I went ahead and touched those parts anyway, trying hard not to shudder. The things we do for our children…

Our second event was Retiring the Colors, a touching presentation on the Stars and Stripes which taught the children how the flag came about, how to fold the flag and what the stars and stripes stand for. They got to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, they all ligned up and folded the flag. And what do you know? My children knew how to stand in line – proof positive that they don’t need to go to school to learn that particular life skill. We practice at the supermarket every week, don’t we? I digress. The good news is that since this program both my children have been spotting the American flag everywhere we go.

Our third event was Yukky Animal Stuff, a hilarious presentation on scat, skulls, and scents. When the ranger asked for volunteers to come upfront and read the Scat Rap, DS volunteered. DS stood in front of the class, alongside six others, and followed directions. What was that question about socialization again? He even read along with them from the laminated piece of paper he received. (He reads on third grade level, but that is a topic for another post.)

In all honesty, I feel the what-in-the-world-am-I-doing-with-this-homeschooling-thing fear now and then. The fear that I am “messing up my children,” “handicapping them for life,” or “ruining their education and their ability to socialize normally” – all words said to me or my homeschooling friends by well-meaning family members and friends. But then I attend events like those just mentioned above and I relax. My children interact well with people of all ages and they are not afraid of public speaking. Breathe.

Picking up litter3. Pick up one bag of litter. We walked around our neighborhood and picked up trash from the ditches or the road itself. It took about 30 minutes. We filled up two shopping bags, especially from the ditches around overnight rentals. People like to party and throw their beer bottles in the ditches – that’s one of the lessons of the day. Besides discussing hygiene and proper trash disposal, we talked about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Again.

4. Take booklet to a Smokies park ranger at any visitor center. DS was so excited to get his badge! He got sworn in and received a certificate, as well.

As we walked away from the Sugarlands Visitor Center toward the car, my son asked me: “Did I earn it, mommy?” pointing to the certificate in his hands. We have been talking with him about how fun it is to receive gifts and how it is even more fun to earn things. I reassured him he earned it and that mommy was proud. Because I am.