Finding Our Rhythm

Now that we have finally been home for a little while, it seems as if our days are slowly starting to find their rhythm.

Not sure what it is this year, but I really feel like things are coming together naturally. Part of this I think is due to a willingness on Jason's part. He really seems much more open to things. Suggestions that would have been met previously with a rolling of the eyes and resistance are now being willingly accepted. He seems to be maturing a bit and entering a new phase. Cindy over at Apple Stars talks about patterns of learning (she calls them Collaborative Learning Stages) that she has seen in her kids. Jason is in the "Exploration Stage" which she describes as "although each child had a style or interest that would be revisited consistently, they would move off of it easily using it to explore other arenas of potentiality." I am definitely seeing a willingness in Jason to explore other arenas of potentiality…including areas that previously would have been fought (like writing and spelling!).

I find it really interesting that if I remember correctly, Waldorf tends to recommend not doing too much formal learning until around 9 or so. As does "Better Late Then Early". I think that somewhere around 8-11 there is a shift where kids (if not pushed too hard when they are younger) naturally start getting interested in more formal learning. At least that seems to be what is playing out here.

Well, on to what has been evolving around here:

Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays are our free days (and most of Saturdays too, although Kyle does have some soccer games scheduled) and I am finding that I am having a strong desire to guard them. I have gathered a lot of resources that I am excited about exploring with the boys and I really want to make sure that we have the relaxed, unrushed time of free days in which to explore them.

Tuesdays we have the NovaUnschoolers park day and Karate. The boys are really enjoying park day…we usually have at least 15+ families with kids ranging from infants up to teens (and a good number of these in the 6 and 9 year old range!). Jason loves it because he can play Magic, The Gathering (a card game like Yu-Gi-Oh) and there are lots of kids to play tag with. Kyle likes hanging around with the other kids and the ice cream truck (we thought that he would stop coming around once summer was over but we think that he has figured out that we are still there even though school has started!). I like it a lot because the Moms are great…it is fun to "play" with my friends too! Plus there is a farmer's market at the park so I can pick up some fresh produce at the same time.

Unfortunately Karate falls right in the middle of park day, so we usually skip out for an hour (luckily it is nearby) and then go back (park day is an all day thing). I had to do a little bit of encouragement at first to get Jason to do karate again…I was surprised because he really enjoyed it last year. In talking more about it, I think that part of it was him worrying that he has forgotten things over the summer. He also said that having to concentrate and remember all the forms was tiring for him. We talked about how this was probably a good thing in that it meant that he was exercising his mind and that the more that he practiced and worked at it, the easier it would come. That seemed to reassure him and he has wanted to do it since.

Karate is good for Jason on so many levels…from a sensory perspective, it is wonderful…it works both sides of his body, crossing the midline and is very methodical and requires thoughtfulness. All things that he used to work on in OT. From a self-discipline perspective it has been a wonderful growth experience for him. His teachers have that wonderful balance of being able to joyfully share their love of the sport while still maintaining a high level of discipline. Jason responds extremely well to them and is eager to master the techniques. From a physical perspective, it is wonderful…working on flexibility, strength and body control. Kyle is starting the regular homeschool class (he was in the preschool class last year) and is picking things up very quickly. But I should move on…

Wednesdays I called our free day, but Kyle does have soccer practice. It does not start until 4:30 though so we have plenty of time to spend at home. There are some interesting things happening with the team (Kyle has been with the same coach and many of the same kids for 4 seasons now) that I will probably blog about in the future when things shake out. Let's just say that it is a case of adults taking things way to seriously and not letting things go when they really should. And forgetting that it should be all about the kids.

Thursdays we are doing science with my friend Kathi and her kids Zak and Kaiya. We are going to use Science 4 Kids Chemistry (Pre-level 1). I love these materials and so far so do the kids. The "textbook" is really well done and fun to read and gets into some really good science…Jason started reading it a bit on his own. We plan on doing the reading at home each week and then going to Kathi's house to do the experiments. Worked great last week.

Thursdays we also go to Games Class at the Arlington YMCA. We have been doing this for 3 or 4 years or so and the boys enjoy it. They play gym type games like freeze tag and the like. They really like the other kids in the class. And then after class it is back to Zak and Kaiya's house for more hanging out. Thursday is also Pizza Night!

Fridays we are getting ready to start a homeschool pottery class at the Wakefield Rec Center through the county. I really think that the boys will like this. We will give it a shot and see what they think. We also have a park day with the Arlington Homeschool Families group, but will probably not make it for a little while because of the pottery class.

We are also doing a lot of one day miscellaneous activities through the various groups that I belong to. One really exciting day that we have lined up is a Primative Skills workshop on October 20th. It is a day long workshop on all sorts of things like fire starting, archery and other neat stuff. Michael, the guy who does the workshops seems to really love what he does and is really flexible and gives the kids a lot of say in what they will be doing. I think that it is going to be really neat. We are starting with a day session, but he has additional multi-day classes that we will probably coordinate if things go well.

We have bought discounted tickets to several TheaterWorks productions throughout the year at George Mason University and will be seeing The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Other Story Books, Seussical and Aesop's Fables. We also hope to take advantage of several Smithsonian Discovery Theater shows.

We are going on a "Jesse James" train ride this coming Tuesday up in Maryland which should be fun and Jason (with Zak) is signed up for a Paper Airplane Design Class at the Dulles Air and Space Museum on October 12th.

And we will be making our annual trip out to Cox Farm around Halloween.

Whew. I will have to save the ideas that I have for what we will cover on our free days for another post. I am really excited about everything. This is really weird for me…I don't think that I have ever had this much planned out at the beginning of the year. I sound like one of those homeschool moms that has their act together. Please do not be fooled! And remember that when you write down everything that you are doing it usually sounds way more impressive then it is.

Honestly, it is just somehow all just falling nicely into place (knock on wood). I have a great support network of three active homeschool groups and plenty of opportunities to choose from. In fact I have had to keep repeating to myself that we do not have to take advantage of every neat activity that comes up. That it's ok (and good!) to say no. And to realize that everything does not have to be done now. We can always do it later. And we will live if we choose not to do it at all.