Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Walking and Chewing Bubble Gum

There are days where it’s all I can do to get Punky to understand how to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.  If I’m honest, and I try to be, those are the more common days for us.  She is a 5th grader – by governmental standards.  She will be 11 in a month.  She is a bit of a late bloomer in some areas and yet her intuitive knowledge scares me.  She has little to no desire or patience in participating in or learning about those things for which she has no interest.  Punky is a good kid.  I’m blessed.  She has a sweet, kind heart along with a fierce sense of right and wrong.  Her dad and I love that and foster that daily.  She does not have that one subject or topic that she loves or with which she is obsessed.  She’s not a voracious reader (which I have to say as a voracious reader, it kills me that she’s not).  She loves movies, television, and performing.  That’s it.  She is on a swim team because her father and I believe that it is good for her to have a physical activity to participate in weekly.  She’s actually a ‘natural’ athlete.  She gets that from her dad – totally.  I can dance – as in, keep the beat and rhythm in such a way as to not embarrass myself on the dance floor.  I have ethnic friends who tell me I’m ‘not bad for a white girl.’  I take that compliment and move forward.  Hmmm, I’m digressing (I do that).  Despite her natural athleticism, she doesn’t have all that much interest in sports.  Sigh.

So, getting Punky to ‘do’ academics is a bit of a challenge in our house, okay a large challenge, on some (most) days.  Many days it seems that walking and chewing gum at the same time is too much of a challenge.  I have a fairly loose mindset about academic education.  I believe in it – I just don’t think it’s required all that much until around age twelve or so. 
Just in case that horrifies you and you are racing to the end of this post to leave me a scathing comment about how important academics are no matter the age of the child, let me be clear.  I believe that children need to learn to read and read well – but at whatever age they show the desire and gumption to do so.  Along the way they are learning their letters and numbers, in the same way they learn the colors and whatnot, because they are curious.  They ask questions.  A parent would have to ignore a child for a child to NOT be learning.  Then I believe children should also learn to write, both the physicality of writing and the prose of it.  They will get better with time – all the grammar and nuisances – but free flowing creativity is what should drive them as they set out on that particular journey.  Math.  The dreaded “M” word.  Yes, children need it.  They’ll learn it in the timeframe that works for their brain.  We have no control over when the light bulb goes on in a child’s mind and all we can do is facilitate different ways to introduce concepts to a child until the light goes on.  It will happen.  I also don’t believe that every child needs to be able to perform advanced math.  I think that’s one of the great myths we perpetuate in society and especially in the homeschooling community.  All children MUST finish Calculus by the end of the high school career!  Sheesh.  I didn’t.  I didn’t even come close.  I limped my way through the required math in college as well.  It didn’t hurt my career prospects one bit, because I wasn’t trying to be an engineer, doctor, Math Professor, or any other profession that required higher math.  I had no interest.  I survived.  I graduated high school.  I even graduated college.  I became gainfully employed.  A child loving math, or being a natural at it, will determine more than anything else, whether they will enter a math driven profession.  So I say, just breathe and enjoy letting them learn about the world in their way, at their pace, at least until they are capable of higher functioning processing and abstract, complex thought.

Having this mindset then allows me to play fast and loose with what we MUST accomplish during the course of a day, week, month or school year.  However, I do want things to be accomplished; things that are beyond just what she is interested in learning.  This is the challenge and we face it almost daily.  One thing or another gets in our way, so to speak.  Real life stumbles and stirs and detracts us some days.  A lousy attitude toward academic pursuits (hers or mine) gets in the way some days.  Opportunities arrive that are WAY cooler and more interesting and we get (allow ourselves to be) distracted with those.

I’m still working on not letting it bother me that we don't look like any other homeschool family I know or read about.  I strive against letting the doubts creep in because my child doesn’t perform at the same level in the same category as other children her age.  

What really helps though, if I’m honest, is when I see one of those kids trip while walking and chewing bubble gum.

~Mari B.

1 comment:

  1. I'm cheering! I fully agree on the math and the creativity. Your thoughts on education are radical compared to what I've heard all my life, yet I feel this is the most reasoned approach to education I've ever read. Honestly, I barely remember much about the history & science I took in high school & college. I've learned more about history at least since I've been a working woman.

    I will freely admit that the amount of math I'd have to take influenced my major in college, moreso than my thoughts about a future career. And it's never held me back, either.

    I wish that more parents & schools actually thought about how individual students learn & what information would be most USEFUL for kids to absorb, rather than a list of should's that go in one ear & out the other.

    Also, we'd be a lot better off if life skills had been part of either high school or college curriculum as far back as when I was in school. Budgeting, cooking, conflict resolution for families & couples, basic car maintenance . . .

    love reading your thoughts!


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