“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
As a parent, it is so fun to see your child have those moments where they just get things. The algebra equation finally makes sense. An often misspelled word is finally mastered. A long and challenging book is conquered. It is the “aha!” moment.
As a home school parent, we often get to see the majority of those moments with our kids. And even though there may be many, each one is still a joy to see!
And then there are those PARENTAL aha! moments. 🙂
This morning, the kids and I started school time like we normally do. Dad happened to be home because he was scheduled to work later in the day. He sat working on his college classes on the computer and encouraged us to stay in the room with him to do our schoolwork, even though I offered to take the kids upstairs (because I know how loud we can be!). So, there we all are in the same room. Dad is typing away on computer. The kids and I are spread out in the room. The boys brought out every single Megablock we own (somewhere close to 300, I imagine). The girls had coloring books and crayons sprawled out on the table.
Now, I have learned to accept what my children need in order to listen to me read. When we first started the read-aloud times, I forced them to sit still on the floor or couch and look at me, so I could be sure they were paying attention. This did not work. I found out my oldest would get lost in her thoughts about the wrinkles on my face. The boys wouldn’t even look at me and started fighting with each other. And the other two girls cried…a lot…about how boring it was. I decided, after a lot of reading from Charlotte Mason’s books and others like her, that it would be OKAY if the kids did something while they listened.
So, I allowed them to bring Legos to the table or crayons and coloring books. The boys could bring action figures or blocks. We had deflated balloons filled with rice or flour they could sit and squeeze. I let them string beads on old shoelaces to make a personalized string thing. Whatever would keep them in the room and semi-quiet. My only rule was they could not talk to each other while I was reading.
Back to the story…today we had megablocks everywhere. The boys were building. The girls eventually abandoned the crayons and books to sit and build with the blocks, as well. I was reading fine, until Ethan decided to pester a sister, causing her to scream. I had to get after them about being quiet and keeping hands to themselves. Dad had left the room for something and as he came back in, he finally noticed the mess of blocks and children on the floor. Knowing how particular I am about school/mess/crazy 3 year olds, he asked, “How can you get anything done with him(Ethan) in here? And how can they hear you read if they’re playing with all the blocks?”
I could see he was genuinely worried that we were not getting any school work done with the blocks and that Ethan was just irritating everyone. I did not really have an answer right then, so I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. And then our Bible lesson was done, so we moved on to reviewing maps and our Paddle to the Sea book. Not even a minute after Dad had asked me that, Buddy (5 years old) answered my question about the lake in our story and the Great Lakes. When he shouted out “Lake Nipigon!”, Dad turned around and yelled out “Wait a minute! What in the world is Lake Nipigon? And how does Buddy know about it?”
Realizing what was happening, I just smiled again and shrugged my shoulders. And then the kids went on to explain what and where Lake Nipigon was. 🙂 What I saw happening was Buddy had just showed that we were getting things done and that the kids were hearing me while they played with blocks. We have been reading that book for a few weeks and matching up the locations it describes on our own little map. Buddy, while playing with blocks and keeping his hands busy and his mouth quiet, was able to absorb everything I was reading and explaining. He was getting it!
I had my AHA! moment this morning. The methods I had forced on the kids prior to this Summer were not working. The methods I had implemented this Summer WERE working. When I let go of my desire to control everything – their environment, how they learn, how much mess I would allow (!!) – they were able to relax and learn how God created to learn. Through play. Through a relaxed environment. Without pressure to memorize every little fact. We were reading history, science, and other subjects in books with stories that contained the facts I wanted them to learn. Because it wasn’t just a textbook of facts – boring old facts – the information came alive for them and they understood it. They enjoyed hearing more of it, loved remembering it.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had no clue about Lake Nipigon. We have a giant map of the U.S. on our wall, and I really didn’t pay much attention to just North of the Great Lakes…..where our map clearly has “Lake Nipigon” marked. Haha! And yet, now, my kids know of a location that most adults don’t. They can name the Great Lakes because Paddle (in our story) is travelling from Lake Nipigon all the way to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Great Lakes. The kids are absorbing the information about geography and science through a story of a young Canadian Indian boy who sent out a wooden boat on a journey to the ocean!
I have had my AHA! moment. I understand what Charlotte Mason is saying in all her books on education. Children need a relaxed environment. They need good books….LIVING books. They need reading and to be read to. They need to be able to process the information in whatever way works for them – whether keeping hands busy or pacing the room or lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. I cannot expect them to sit in a chair at a desk and stare at me while I read – they don’t all learn that way. Some do, and that is great. But some don’t, and I have to embrace that and give them what they need or they may never take in the information they need. They may never enjoy learning or pursue it on their own.
While I love to see my kids finally get it, I loved that I saw myself get it today. And I love that we are learning…in a mess…on the floor…all together.