No Cookie Cutter Solutions


This is not a cookie cutter situation, where we can prescribe a common solution to a standard situation. This is Ben and this is me, and when Bean comes into the mix next year, it will be even more exciting. Ben is an artist, so our exploration of all things historical, scientific and literature-related focus on how art fits into these things. Bean is interested in dance, drumming, and weaponry – so the history of the world will look slightly different from his perspective. I’m not at all saying that their interests are the only parts we will study, but their interests will color the discussions of everything we study. It’s what they see anyway, and it’s what I will try to draw out of the vast reservoir of knowledge available to us.

So far, it’s going really well. We are having fun with it. Ben is using his hands all day long to build and create things – not always things related to the time period, but sometimes.

My struggle at this point is coming up with any sort of ritual start for the day. We both thrive on ritual and knowing what’s coming next, on being able to be prepared because there is a rhythm to the day that is familiar. At this point, we haven’t gotten there. So, we sometimes are in misstep, trying to find our beat.

This week, I tried Yoga to start the day, and Ben was angry. He had looked down on the idea as simple, and then was frustrated when the basic stretching poses were more difficult than he imagined, and he was falling over. I tried playing Mozart while I was doing the dishes and getting myself ready for the start of the day. He was in his room blasting something metal. I tried a journaling exercise that we could each do, and his resistance to it and my frustration over what felt like defiance on his part started our day in anything but a lovely way. I tried showing him a relaxing form of art – because his self-directed artistic projects are often quite intense and he’s feeling a need for them to be perfect. He is trying to work out complicated solutions, and he gets super focused and irritable. I thought that breaking away from a heavy-duty project, and just doing some directed scribblings like Zentangle or Mandalas would help him come away from the intensity of his art for a moment, and enjoy some down time of just playing with art. He got frustrated, threw the pen, and started building a car of the future out of paper.

What I would love to have in our daily mix is a few minutes at the start of the day that we each look forward to – that is a calming circle, a place to connect, focus, look forward to our day together, unwind from anything that’s bugging us, and prepare our minds for a day of exploring, learning and fun. And perhaps it doesn’t need to be the same thing every day, but the same thing every Monday, for instance.

I think I could make that happen. We already have some rituals around here that help us look forward to the different days of the week:

Muffin Monday

Tater-Tot Tuesday

Waffle Wednesday

Thirsty Thursday – a smoothie with breakfast or a rich hot chocolate

Fried Friday

We also have fun activities we do at night (or we used to before Bean’s Kindergarten homework started taking all our evening time). We would do some fun project together that usually only lasted about 10-15 minutes, but the kids and I really looked forward to them: Language & Literature Mondays, Math Games Tuesdays, Art & Music Wednesdays, Science Thursdays, and History & Geography Fridays. Somehow, I need to incorporate those back into our evenings. We need to blaze through the assigned homework, so that we can get to the fun stuff.

I’m thinking that I could have the activity for the evening lined up and planned, and that Ben and I could do either a trial run of the deal we’ll be doing with Bean later, and work out some of the kinks, or we could at least have a teaser activity that would peak Ben’s curiosity for the activity to come later that night. That could be part of our Morning Ritual – just looking forward to the evening and our time with Bean involved too – the fun, silliness of some crazy activity we’ll be doing. We have blown things up before, written rhyming rap songs together and performed them for the camera, spun the globe and gone on an adventure, and done some amazing art mash-ups of various artists’ signature styles. Our evenings are purely for fun and for inspiring the idea that learning is an adventure. That definitely can be brought into a morning routine.

Ben actually begged me to quit the curriculum from the district, because it was too many subjects in one day. That was back in January. He wanted to go back to the way we had done it when we were doing it for fun – back to Language & Literature Mondays, etc. So, now we’re doing school our own way, and we are focused on art, and tucking other subjects around the edges. We are getting ready to start Week Three of our own style. In the coming weeks, I want to experiment with focusing on the major subject of the day. We need to have a little bit of math and reading in there every day, I know, but he wants immersion style learning in the different subjects.

And so our Morning Routine for each day can be slightly different, but steeped in the Ritual of the subject matter for the day. Perhaps looking at a Character from the world of our subject first thing… a Character from the world of Language & Literature – a writer, illustrator of children’s books – a brief look into their Study or Studio, their habits, their morning rituals… Oh lovely. On Tuesday: a look at a Mathematician – they are all such interesting and nutty characters. On Wednesday: An artist – a look into their studio or collected works. On Thursday: a look at the life and laboratory of a famous Scientist. On Friday: A historical figure or a person or group of people from a specific geographic area. I could have more fun with this than if I had sense.

I was reading this morning, and came across this quote, “There is a saying in science that ‘chance favors the prepared mind.'”* When I know what the focus for the day is – subject matter seems to flow toward me. It is easier to find great material on the internet to share with Ben, because in the back of my mind I’ve sorted out everything but the focus materials. So, preparing myself for the fun of learning will help me bring excitement to the lesson plan for the day, and a directed approach, where chance will favor us, and things will start to line up and make sense, and the excitement will grow.

Thank you for letting me think this through with you – and think out loud, and come up with a fun plan to implement in the coming weeks – a Character Study for each day of the week as part of our morning ritual.

I am sharing this as part of the Weekly Wrap-Up for Homeschoolers over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

*Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and mary Hartzell, M.Ed.

photo from here

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