Thursday, June 04, 2009

"What is your purpose here?"

That's the question that Davy Jones asked Will Turner when he was found to be "neither dead nor dying" aboard a ship that the Flying Dutchman had overtaken in POTC: Dead Man's Chest. "What is your purpose here?"
And that is a question I have been asking myself repeatedly over the last several months. I'm trying to mindfully plan our home learning for the next 12-month period rather than just following a pre-made plan blindly. It's a challenge for me, because I find myself torn between philosophies that are equally compelling, and honestly... equally effective. Which leaves me to find the answer to that infamous question: What is your purpose here?

It should be simple. It probably is for most people. The problem lies within. And it comes from two distinct deficiencies in my character. The first one has long been a problem, but only fully manifested itself once I became a parent. In fact, my kindergarten teacher warned my mother: "You've got to make Jennifer come to a decision and live with the results! You can't keep letting her have both options." She was ineffective! LOL But I was always a very decisive person, until parenting came along and the ramifications of the decisions took on a new (maybe perceived) importance. The second one stems from the first one, I suppose: feeling inadequate no matter which decision I make (from the perceived ramifications).

We wrapped up this year of academics and I found myself frustrated. I look back and see that we dropped into a very static pattern of learning as the year went on. And things that were critically important (narration, copywork, and dictation), I allowed to slide. Narration I allowed to slide because Austin and Riley were becoming increasingly antagonistic with each other. It was unpleasant to say the least, and cemented my decision that they will be separated in all academic areas. I feel like I've given it my full effort, but for the sake of Austin's self-esteem, it's time to part ways. I was continuing to keep them together this year in an effort to help teach Riley compassion and understanding... but that will have to come in a different venue. Austin shuts down whenever she opens her mouth. Dictation (as a method for spelling and natural writing instruction) is continually frustrating me. So instead of working through it, I just avoided it! LOL Incompetence will do that to even the most typically-developing!

So as I look forward to next year, I decided to go back to spelling workbooks. It is easier. But that beckons the question: What is your purpose here? Is it to get spelling "done" every day? Or is it to learn how to spell so that you can write effectively and not look uneducated?

I also bought a typical grammar curriculum for Riley, even though toward the end of this year she was frustrated with repeating things she already knew. How much grammar does a child her age need? What is your purpose here? I ask myself. She is an eloquent writer already, but does she need more predicate nominatives and diagramming exercises? Will it help her write better?

I could continue but I am certain that I've made my point clearly. I've got to really focus on my purpose. And in likelihood, my purpose will be different from yours... or even from my favorite bloggers! My purpose is to ignite a love for learning in my children, and as much as I can, prepare them to follow the plan that God has for them. Because of the nature of 2 of my children's special needs, I need to be able to keep this process as real and relevant as I possibly can. They are excellent static/instrumental learners, as their mother before them! ;) I can see Riley falling into that same pattern... do the lessons to be done, not really putting your whole heart/attention into it, because you have learned to do the least amount of work necessary. My purpose is to change all of that!! :)

My comfort lies in textbooks, workbooks, doing the next lesson, and planning it all out into neat little boxes. It's a fall sense of control and completeness. It's a longing for sameness, for competence, for the perfect curriculum. I loved the classes in school where we just read the textbook and answered the questions. I was good at that! I remember one class in junior high where we were given packets of worksheets to complete at our own pace. It was heaven for a child like me!!! As an adult (and a homeschool mom) I realized quite quickly that I was great at finding the answers that people wanted, but terrible at really thinking.

What is your purpose here? My purpose is education. Education is an atmosphere, a discpline, a life. I've got to step out of my comfort zone. I've got to trust and stop fretting. I've got to jump in and do it, even when I feel incompetent. I've got to focus on my purpose.


poohder said...

"Dictation (as a method for spelling and natural writing instruction) is continually frustrating me"

Sorry for repeating myself on this, but I think after doing B1 and B2 on
Abecedarian you might be surprised at how it might affect Austins ability to spell. Caroline was an atrocious speller and she made dramatic strides this year. It is a very simple, and low key curriculum that only takes maybe 5-10 minutes a day and is not expensive. Because of this, I now feel my dd has enough spelling foundations that she can begin dictation again next year. I still think some of our children need re visit some simple rules to help with the thinking process of spelling. Abecedarian is a VERY SIMPLIFIED way of learning the rules of the sounds of words. It's not like other spelling/reading programs. As an example think of all the ways to spell the OW (as in cow) sound for instance. There is ou, ow, ough. They teach all the ways to spell about 20 or so combined sounds. OR think of all the ways to spell the "e" sound in feet. There's ee, ea, ei, ie, and e.
UUGH it's so hard to explain, but my dd has made such a dramatic turn around in her spelling and this curriculum was SOOOOO easy. I will mail you the teacher's book and my dd's completed book to look at if you want. Rhonda

poohder said...

Oh and by the way, I meant to congratulate you on such a personally insightful and brave post.
I am still struggling with some of the same things you described. Rhonda

Niffercoo said...

Rhonda, thanks for the generous offer! The frustration with dictation is the fact that I don't follow through with it! Pure laziness on my part. It's embarrassing. It is the first thing that gets pushed aside when we're pressed for time, which is wrong. The only thing that can fix that is me! LOL That's why I was tempted to hand them each a workbook and be done with it.

I will definitely keep that program in mind as Reece gets older if I see that she's struggling, since you've spoken so highly of it! :)