Thursday, June 23, 2016

As life has progressed to a point where I am beginning to see the fruits of our homeschooling labors, I've decided to start compiling some thoughts to start the process of writing a book.  This seems like the best place to start publishing them.  We have had an amazing experience following this path and if I could help even one family decide to travel their own path, then all this writing will be worth it.  I will update a new essay each Thursday.


              “Give it another try.  Come on, honey.  You can do this!” I cheered as our daughter tried to run up the slide.  The smell of lilac hung thick in the air while large, fluffy, white clouds danced through the azure spring sky.  Maya had seen a bigger kid run up the slide and she wanted to try.  Screams of glee sounded in my ears as other children ran around playing tag and enjoying their time at the park, but Maya was oblivious to anything but that slide.
                Her little chubby legs would take her a few steps up the steep incline, but every time she would slide back down.  After about her tenth try, my husband and son came over from the swings.  She kept trying as Tom and I shared a smile and kept encouraging her.  She wasn’t quite 3 years old yet, but she oozed determination with each attempt.
                We chatted and chased her younger brother around while she kept going.  After about 15 minutes I realized she was not going to quit, and I started actually watching her.  Each time she would start a few feet away from the bottom of the slide, take a big deep breath and then leap into action. She would get about half way up before sliding back down over and over and over again.  Sometimes she would get a little further, but pretty soon tears began streaming down her face.  She would just wipe them off and try again.  My husband and I were in awe.
                Soon we started discussing in hushed tones how to help her.  Should we just give her a hand?  All it would take was a little pressure on her back and we could help her get to the top, but she had not asked for our help.  She hadn’t even acknowledged we were watching.  This was between her and the slide.  Who were we to interfere?  Somehow we understood that if we helped at this point it could do more harm than good.  So we started cheering-- chanting her name over and over and encouraging her.
                Closer and closer she came to the top with each try now.  She was SO close!  It was heart breaking and somehow uplifting to watch her persevere.  As a society we preach the idea of perseverance, but they never tell us about how hard it is to watch someone in the process.  When you’re the one doing the work you know why and you get to enjoy the outcome.  My husband and I stood as bystanders watching the pain of failure after failure; seeing how close she was coming each time and somehow trying to will her to the top.
                She never once gave up.  She never even took a break.  She spent over 20 minutes and 100s of attempts to get to the top of that slide.  Pride and relief flooded us when her little legs finally landed at the top.  She had done it!  She stood at the top doing her victory dance and squealing in delight.  Her dad grabbed her up in a giant hug and spun her around as we all clapped and cheered. Her face floods with pride and happiness even now when I mention this story.  I don’t know if she remembers it or if her memory is based on her dad and I telling and retelling the story, but it doesn’t matter.  The lessons and effect are the same for all of us.

                This experience taught us all so much.  Even now when things get difficult as she takes her first college course at the age of 14, we remind her of the slide.  She has learned not to give up, and that hard work pays off.  We have learned that even though it may be excruciating to watch, letting her fail is more powerful than any hand on the back could ever be.  It is so hard to know when to help and when to let our children fail.  I would argue this is one of the single most difficult things of parenting once they get past the infant stage.  Ultimately, we decided not to help because she had not asked for it and it wasn’t a matter of her safety.  I am so glad we made that choice.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Deep Timeline
This week we've started studying evolution.  We've begun with the history of our planet.  All week the kids did research to find when each of the events on our timeline occurred.  The only place we had big enough to put this timeline was the driveway.  I'll be sad when it washes away!

They were amazed at the amount of things that happened after the Cambrian explosion and how long it took for organisms to evolve to become aerobic.

This was a perfect activity for them.  They had to measure the space, mark the years and do the math to figure out where each event should be placed.  All of that occurred after doing the research to discover when the events actually happened!

This week also marked the last day of JET.  Unfortunately, this is ZoĆ«'s last year in the program.  She is very sad to be reaching the end, but has decided to make a stepping stone for the outdoor classroom in order to leave a little piece of her there.  I guess we're evolving and adapting too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Practice makes it easy

Lately I've been watching videos from the Suzuki Association of the Americas in order to gain some motivation to improve our practices. It seems like everyone is in the middle of that phase where you don't feel your effort is paying off, and you can't figure out why you continue to do all the work. So I'm trying to find ways to spark new ideas and make piano practice more enjoyable.

Starting in two weeks we are going to begin the Sunday Night Concert series at our house. Everyone is going to play a piece for the family, and sometimes we will have other guests join us. I'm hoping this will help the kids realize why they practice enjoy music together. It seems like we've lost that joy.

I'm also thinking about how to incorporate a 100 day practice challenge with them. The hardest part about this idea is deciding if there should be a reward at the end. I'm familiar with all of the work done talking about external rewards, but I'm not sure is it a such a terrible thing to reward a huge effort. I think this is something I will discuss with their instructor.

Ultimately I realize that their lack of progress is due to my magical thinking that they will just begin to enjoy practicing, and that they have all the skills they need to make practice efficient. Sometimes it is so hard with gifted kids (or any kids for that matter) to know when they need your help and when they don't. I'm certainly no tiger mom, but I can see the value in continuous work. Thus begins another assessment and brainstorming about how to improve things.