Second year down, who knows how many more to go!
Ava, Noah, Jane, Scotland, Cole, Daniel (and Hazel)
We wrapped up Scotland’s second year of preschool at the end of May. Our final class included a talent show and graduation ceremony. When I asked Scotland what he wanted to do for the talent show he quickly replied “Moves!” And moves he did. He adorned himself in his self-created dress ups, and chose to perform to music from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” his latest obsession. (He’s listened to the audiobook of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” around ten times.) When it was his turn to perform he walked out with confidence, a wide smile on his face. He danced around the stage, doing warrior moves, clearly imagining himself dressed like King Peter from the movie. It made me happy to see him so confident in his creativity.
I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but one of my goals as a parent is to do everything I can to assure my children feels safe and confident in smiling. I’ll never forget watching a primary program and noting that the majority of the kids were trying so hard not to smile. Only a few smiled confidently- as I looked at their parents they had wide grins spread across their faces too- and were the type to wave from the audience at their child. My hope is that as I model smiling, and create an atmosphere of support and joy, I can prevent the trend towards forced seriousness.
The first boy to perform was Noah, one of Scotland’s best friends. You’ll likely remember that hey did Tae Kwon Do together. Noah demonstrated his tae kwon do walking motions, and hand motions will skill and precision. I was impressed. Again I wondered if we should have let Scotland quit at the end of March. I composed several posts about this decision in my head, but they never made it to the keyboard. But it was a hard choice and I want to explore my feelings more here.
Scotland started Taekwondo, excited, enthusiastic, focused and determined. He went twice a week from September through March. But around December his enthusiasm started to wane. Noting his stress his instructors moved him to an easier class. (A joke of a class where they ran around kicking balloons.) Disappointed in the quality of instruction, I asked that he be moved into a more challenging class. He was, and the teachers were strict with him, often calling him out in class for loosing focus, or not following instructions properly. One a few occasions their public rebuke brought him to tears (though both times he wiped them away with a hard face, while continuing his hand motions- determined not to let anyone see.) The first time this happened my eyes moistened and I wanted to run out on the floor and hug him, and tell him it was okay, he was doing great. At the same time I was proud of him for taking it, and moving on, for continuing with the class and trying hard. Used to abundant praise, Scotland took the high standards and intermittent rebukes hard. Slowly his enthusiasm waned and his desire to attend flickered out. He threw a fit every time I told him it was time to get ready for Taekwondo, and towards the end, he looked miserable all through class. With a baby due any day, and our contract at an end, after a much deliberation between Tom and I we decided to stop taking. The decision was really hard on me. When should you make your child tough it out? When should you force them to learn the hard way, that sometimes things aren’t fun, but you do them anyway. Looking back I realize that Scotland was getting a lot of pressure from both me and his instructors. Perhaps if I’d let them be the hard-nosed ones, while I was the encouraging supportive one, he would have enjoyed it more. Wanting him to progress I would give him suggestions and voice observations on the drive home. I encouraged him to practice in between lessons, but he didn’t want to hear it from me.
Scotland signed up for Taekwondo hoping to learn ninja moves, and at first he loved it. He learned to kick, block, punch. But as soon as class consisted mostly of set steps and sequenced moves, he lost interest. He’s very free spirited, and prefers creativity and self expression. In class his moves would lack strength and energy, but when he came home and did his self-created “Utah Taekwondo” his moves were impressive- sharp, strong, and exact. Sometimes I could praise his improvement at home, and pump him up enough for him to demonstrate the same skill in class. As a result, on a few occasions he received open and abundant praise. Even being asked on two occasion to demonstrate for the entire class. He loved “sparring,” but he hated the repetition of the same steps over and over. Obviously memorizing those sequences would have been very good for him. And the process of learning technique before performance is common to most activities. (I think of the percentage of time spent at the barre in my years of ballet.) But I had to wonder how that same technique could have been taught to Scotland, in a way that he would have been receptive to. Then I wonder: is it better to mold instruction to the student, or require the student to conform to the style of the teacher? Is it worth it to force a child to continue with something they hate, or find a way to teach the child the same lessons in a way they enjoy? How much does a child really learn when they are being forced? But some children
This leads me to the other dilemma that has been plaguing my mind of late: whether to send Scotland to a public kindergarten, or homeschool him. The question arose when I learned that half-day kindergarten isn’t available in our district. I hate the idea of sending my five-year-old to school for essentially seven hours a day, with transportation. Not only do I dislike the thought of Scotland being gone that long, but I also hate that that would mean that Anders would be without his best friend for the same amount of time. Then if he does extra curricular activities, that is more time apart. The thought makes my heart sick. Yes, my boys have their fights, and there are days when the thought of separating them permanently seems brilliant. (They are such gems on their own.) But for every one period of strife there are three moments of beautiful kinship and joyful play. Hearing them belly laughing and squealing with delight together is enough to “fill my glass” for a day. I can’t help but worry how their relationship will change if Scotland is gone most of the time. And then to think of all that Scotland will miss in Chiara’s development.
From time to time I let my imagination run wild with the potential of homeschool, and it’s grand. I love the idea of each boy taking their backpack full of magnifying glasses, binoculars, sketch pads and field guides for a day of learning and exploration on the beach, or in the forest. I can imagine days spend creating maps, planning out treasure hunts and setting them up for each other. I want the joy and memories that would accompany this sort of learning environment. I love the idea of child-led projects, of Scotland meeting with people in the community to explore his interests. The potential is great. But I worry, would I really do those things? or would the daily minutiae of caring for three children and a home, win out, and would home-school become mundane workbooks, and a harried mother-son relationship. Would I seek out the sort of diverse and dynamic community I want my children to be raised in, or would our homeschooling be insular and isolating.Would the demands and time needed to homeschool being a boon to Anders and Chiara? Providing them with expanded exposure and experiences, or would it leave them on the sidelines? Realistically it would probably be some of all of these.
Then there’s the weighing of benefits. Do I do the most good with my time by creating learning and bonding experiences for my children, or helping in my community, expanding my vocal studio, or serving at church?
I could go on with these questions all day. One day I’ll be super excited about homeschooling, then the next day I’ll start to feel really anxious about it. So the next day I’ll decide I’m going to send him to public school and just pull him whenever I want. I’ll feel really at peace with that for a few days, but then I’ll start entertaining ideas about homeschooling and I’ll decide to do that again. . . and the cycle continues.
In keeping my options open I’m on the “list” for five different schools! I guess you could call me indecisive. It’s hard! Not only am I making decisions that affect my life, but the life of my children! Whew.
In the end it comes down to this: I want my children to be excellent, joyful, happy, hard-working, curious, creative, kind, faithful and close. I’m just not sure how to accomplish that!