Thursday, November 10, 2011

Academics, Character, Life Skills, A Blend of Many

There's been growing concern about the academic component to home education. I understand it. Home education parents feel the weight of the future of their children riding on their shoulders. Will my child have the skill set to find employment? Will my child be accepted at XYZ college? How will my child parent his future children, my grandchildren? All valid questions.

Mothering little ones (and older ones) I decided to conduct a study. A personal observation study. What is the real focus of our days? What gets the most attention? Where do my mothering energies find themselves during the day? What actions do I find myself correcting, reminding, reviewing, and restewing (if that is a word)? My findings made me even more curious. Yes, we taught academic lessons and reviewed skills, but the skeleton of our day contained much more. Much more.

Here's a brief clip of the scenarios we encountered in a three hour period:

We sit to do math (academic). Child one brings a pencil with an inadequate eraser (problem solving, life skill). Child two sits right down and opens immediately to the lesson for the day (character-work ethic). I begin to explain the math lesson (academic) while child two listens (character-attentiveness, life skill). Child one looks for another pencil (problem solving, life skill). Child two solves the math problem without complaining (academic, character). Child one sits, ready to learn and is soon engrossed with a word problem (academic). I remind each child to line up columns in three-digit multiplication problems (academic, character-work ethic). Each child finishes his or her math problem and moves to the next problem (academics, character-work ethic). Child three runs through the living room leading to the tile floor kitchen, chasing the dog. I remind the child about the safety issues of running on tile with sock-clad feet (life skill). Child one breaks the pencil tip and complains about having to get up to find the sharpener (character-work ethic). Child two continues to work on math despite the interruptions (academic, character-work ethic). While finding a pencil sharpener, child one requests a snack and asks for carrots (character, life skill,academic-nutrition). Child two also asks for a snack, requesting chocolate chips instead of carrots (character, academic-nutrition). During snack break child four works on a vocabulary lesson (academic) and becomes curious about mortgages. She asks me about the importance of saving money and how much is needed for a down payment on a house (academic, life skill). Children one and two, having finished snack, argue over a toy, each claiming they had it first (character-selfishness, life skill-conflict resolution). I pause my conversation with child four to help children one and two work out their dispute (problem solving, life skill-conflict resolution). Sock-clad child three runs through the tiled-floor kitchen AGAIN and I remind her of the danger involved (character). Math complete, I encourage children one, two and three listen to a book on tape (academic) while I continue financial conversation with child four and fix lunch (life skill, academic).

Academic? Character? Life skills? One doesn't happen without the other. In fact, had I solely concentrated on one aspect and not the others, one child would not have completed any written work and we may have had an impromptu field trip to the emergency room or vet clinic. My personal observation study proved valuable and revealing, powerfully reminding. As a home education mom, my job is far more important and a bit more difficult than simply presenting a myriad of facts in palatable chunks. My mothering impacts the totality of my children and will resonate with them for a lifetime.

P.S. For those who know me you may wonder "Hasn't she learned this yet? I mean, she has two young adults, high school home education (and one almost college) graduates?" Apparently, I still need reminding. Smile.

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