Meet the Slow-Schoolers!

First of all, let me wish everyone a happy early School Choice Week. And speaking of alternative education, you know there’s homeschooling, un-schooling, after-schooling and many other innovative options for a diverse population.

But I think the 3 Amigos and I have invented a new mode of learning. It’s call slow-schooling. See, most of the homeschoolers I know who have kids around the same ages as mine usually tie up their schooling by lunch.

Houston, Zeke & I hang w/ two of my oldest & dearest friends, Shelley & Ashley, during a chill Sunday afternoon get-together @ Gramsey & Papa’s.

Sure, many of those moms are morning people, which I am admittedly NOT, so we normally get a late start by comparison. If we get rolling with school by 9 a.m. (which is my goal), that is a momentous occasion for us.

First of all, the dudes are just some dawdling diners. Even when there’s excellent behavior, meals rarely take less than an hour. Now, the kids are usually hardily eating most of whatever I put in front of them, which I know is a huge blessing. No picky eaters around here!

Sometimes we even manage to incorporate learning into a meal, like listening to memory-work songs, reviewing Bible verses for Awana, reading CC history cards, or watching cool videos that relate to our current studies. That, of course, leads to talking. And more talking.

While in Richmond, Kara entertained the 3 Amigos with many creative & wild diversions, like this game of playing indigenous backyard tribesmen … and tribe-gal.

And questions. And more questions. And then further discussing the new learned info mixed with a healthy dose of inquisitive and creative “What would happen if?” queries.

There’s never a dull moment at the table. And I know I should appreciate our mealtimes since that’s actually the way eating is supposed to be: lengthy and engaging affairs, not hurried and quiet tasks.

And it’s at the kitchen table that we do about half of our schooling, while the other half takes place at desks in the living room — a house setup that includes no door between rooms. So even when teaching is going smoothly and the kids are working diligently, the mere volume of our school day is often be booming!

Needless to say, the dudes aren’t always as focused as I would like. Yes, that’s to be expected per the ages and gender (and human nature) of my kids, but their drifting ways can be an irritating time thief nonetheless.

Another dear pal, Angela, & my sweet cuz, Matt, strike a pose w/ Shelley, Ashley & Stephen during our hang time over the holidays.

To deal with Houston’s dilly-dallying, we make a list of his daily lessons on a white board. As he crosses off the completed tasks, the hope is that this visual tool will aid in motivating increased efficiency.

Houston also recently began using a timer for his independent work. I have to tread lightly on this one, though, since I certainly don’t want him to make mistakes or do poor-quality work because he feels rushed.

I haven’t seen a dramatic change in performance yet, but these efforts are still in the early stages. My hope is that these visual tools will simply lead to better time management as Houston matures as a student.

In his defense, Gabriel and Zeke’s loudness can surely be an impediment to concentrating. I mean, I’ve never been known for being soft and quiet, so I suppose much of this is in the genes. Then multiply is times 2, and school is quite often an ear-splitting affair.

To counter this, I’m now have Houston listen to classical music on the iPod during his solo studies. This genre shouldn’t be too distracting; plus, classical’s mathematical, so that’s a win-win.

Gabriel uses the walkie-talkies Santa brought to communicate w/ brothers during a chilly Liberty Loop adventure on Christmas Day.

Furthermore, Houston loves symphonic and orchestral music. He often requests Afternoon Classics when we’re riding around in the van. See, subsidized public radio does have some perks for the taxpayer.

And Houston and his bros are way into the compositions of John Williams and Klaus Badelt. Sure, it’s music from their respective movie soundtracks, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, but that’s still pretty cool.

In fact, these notable film scores have recently been the backdrop to most of the 3 Amigos’ dramatic interpretations of warfare spanning history, cultures, and even galaxies. It’s quite an intense thing to behold!

But even with some of these hopeful fixes, I’ve finally come to accept our plodding style. It’s just who we are: a first-grader, who is only 16 months older than the two pre-school students (who are actually being taught kindergarten material), and one organized-yet-“organic” home educator.

Embracing our uniqueness has been a gift. It not only refocuses my attention to the fact that doing things my own way and in a manner that meets the needs of each of my kids as individuals and me is one of the wonders of homeschooling, but it also helps me maintain a level of confidence that is essential as a homeschooling parent.

Christmas afternoon, Houston enjoys two of his favorite pastimes: assembling Legos & picking his nose. Boys will be boys!

Additionally, it allows me not to be so obsessed with the clock, thus, unlocking even more doors to those voluminous, but fleeting moments of bearing witness to my kids discovering, exploring and learning. It’s a beautiful thing.

Our slow-schooling style gives me greater opportunity to take part in the kids’ off-the-cuff discussions and debates, help foster their amazing realizations, and appreciate those seemingly little lessons that somehow morph into monumental ah-ha moments.

I thank God for calling me to take my family on the incredible journey of homeschooling and for ALWAYS equipping me for the intermittently bumpy, but always adventurous ride. Our school may be poky, but it’s never boring, and that’s just the way we roll around here!

The holidays in review

On 12/22, Granny came to visit for Christmas, kicking off the countdown to our yuletide celebration. That afternoon, we all attended Houston’s first piano recital. He played Jolly Old St. Nicholas confidently and without error. And considering that Houston was the first student perform makes his presentation all the more impressive!

Houston sits proudly w/ his amazing piano teacher, Miss Julie, after his very first piano recital in December.

This day also marked Houston losing another tooth … literally! This front, lower tooth came out during sleep the night before or at breakfast, but was never recovered. So even though Houston got dissed by the tooth fairy, Santa made up for it a few days later.

The dudes never wavered in their fervent belief in Mr. Claus. Before attending the J-Crew’s Polar Express Party on 12/21, Houston announced that Asher wouldn’t be able to “hear the bell,” thus, signifying his disbelief in in the jolly old elf, according to the movie for which the annual bash is named.

And the 3 Amigos continued unabated in their Santa convictions throughout out the holidays. Houston even said, “He can read my mind, Mommy.” Wow, not that’s dedication! It’ll be interesting to see what revelations Christmas 2014 will bring.

But Christmas 2013 was low-key and love-filled. The kids seemed to have a much greater appreciation of their few, but quality gifts than in years past, and we just had a wonderful time being with Granny, relaxing, and sharing in the joy that is the birth of our Savior!

This photo (taken by Houston) was the best pic we got of Granny during her visit. This shot was taken moments after she & I shagged to Christmas music, which just so happened to correlate w/ our Bloody Mary cocktails kicking in.

Granny left on 12/26 and we headed to Richmond the following day. It was our first time to stay at Gramsey and Papa’s new house, which is within a few-minutes drive of many close family members.

Meredith and Jacob, who live the farthest away, crashed at the new pad during most of our visit. And since Rick lives there, we got to hang with all those wild youngins a ton. Kara spent a few nights, which is always a delight for the 3 Amigos.

Casey and her fiancé, Garret, were in town when we arrived, so we were lucky to get to see them for one night. Dina, Lisa and Albert stopped by here and there, which is always a treat.

Then my folks let me invite over a few choice pals for a get-together one afternoon. It was so lovely getting to see Shelley, Angela, Ashley, and my cousin, Matt. Doing oyster shooters with family and old friends was a nice way to tie up our holiday travels.

Albert & Stephen get silly during our visit to Virginia. Hmmm, I wonder what’s in that cup Albert’s so gleefully drinking?!

My most audacious New Year’s resolution is to get something of substance published in 2014. Whether it’s news, opinion, advocacy or activism, it doesn’t matter to this journalist in need of a byline fix! (Please remind me of this goal next time you see me slacking.)

The next most challenging is to have a family music day at least once a month. Stephen and I haven’t played guitar consistently in years, so this will take some major motivation on our parts. But I think we’re ready to dust off his Martin and my Alvarez and get the jam on. And I know the boys ready to rock!

The easiest resolution is for Stephen and me to get more creative and bold in our home-cooking à la David Chang. Stephen is at the helm of this endeavor, of course, but I do serve an important role as shopper, sous chef, and occasional non-fancy cook.

This resolution came to fruition this past weekend when Lisa and Albert visited. My sister and brother in-law share a penchant for spicy, exotic, ethnic food. So, the centerpiece of their stay was a trek to an incredible international market in town and then preparing the sumptuous foods for an eating extravaganza Saturday night.

Stephen taught the 3 Amigos how to play chess during his Christmas vacation & the competition has been raging between the dudes ever since.

The Saturday-night meal included taro and peanut mochi, tamarinds, guava, sesame porridge, roasted duck with bing pancakes and Hoisin sauce, stir-fried pork bellies and rice … and Old-Bay-seasoned Carolina shrimp just for good Southern measure. Thanks for helping us out on this one, Lisa and Albert!

Other notable outings & festivities 

  • 12/23: Granny took the 3 Amigos to a bounce house called Monkey Joe’s;
  • 12/27: Daddy took Houston to his orthopedic specialist for the 6-month-post-elbow-break appointment, which turns out to be the final visit our well-healed boy!
  • 1/4: We attended Miss Jessie’s wedding to her handsome longtime beau, Mr. Joseph;
  • 1/6: The boys and I had playdate with our neighbors, Miss Shawn and Dixie, who we haven’t hung out with in ages;
  • 1/11: I accompanied Houston to his pal Corban’s birthday party, while Daddy took the twins to the Science Center;
  • 1/12: I had a well-deserved and fun girls-night out with Miss Christie;
  • 1/14: The boys and I celebrated our first day of CC 2014 doing pizza with the J-Crew and some of our other fave homeschoolers, Miss Kristin, and her boys, Eli and Briggs;
  • 1/15: Zeke had his first sleepover with friends (the J-Crew, of course) and all went well. They sure do grow up fast!