Realistic Expectations

We were watching an episode of Bob the Builder (a long time favorite in my book), when some of the characters decided to go snow boarding. Bob starts off thinking that snowboarding was going to be easy, and that he would just stand up and take off on the board. He realizes quickly that it is difficult to snowboard, and at one point he asks the lady giving him a lesson, “Is it supposed to hurt this bad?”

One of my favorite things about Bob the Builder is that they showcase realistic expectations. Sure it’s a cartoon, but messes and mistakes abound, and so does grace. The idea of being able to just stand up and ride off on a snowboard is silly – but as someone who grew up in Colorado, and thought snowboarding would be a breeze when I first tried it, I can attest to the fact that it’s a real challenge. While the pros make it look like they are floating down the slope, the truth is, it takes a great deal of strength, skill, and coordination to actually make it down the hill.

Throughout Bob the Builder episodes, the characters face challenges, sometimes the challenges they face are made worse by thinking something isn’t a challenge, or by actions or mistakes of the character facing the challenge. Nonetheless, Bob and Wendy give the equipment room to make mistakes, and help them recover when a mistake does happen. (Maybe it isn’t totally realistic that all of the equipment is self driving and capable of mistake making, but it’s still such a sweet picture of making a mistake, and being helped through it.)

Funny, I always thought I put this cartoon on so my kids could watch something equally entertaining and educational, seems I might put it on so I can be reminded to shout less and offer more grace, a chance to re-do or fix a mess, a chance to grow from a screw up instead of acting like a screw up is the end of the world (which we all know, most the time when a kid screws up, it’s far from the end of the world).

Thanks, Bob the Builder, for giving us something worth watching, for giving us realistic expectations, for embracing the mess and muck that is life, and for showing us to keep trying.

HSF 7: Once the toes have been cut off

I read a great status update from The Libertarian Homeschooler. This is what they had to say:

“Sometimes people struggle as they try to let go of the idea that a child should know such and so by such and such age. Yes. Curriculum. Scope and sequence. It gives us a sense of control, doesn’t it? Life is safer if you’ve checked off the boxes and done what everyone says you should do. If it all goes off the rails, you were walking lockstep with the culture and so you are not to be blamed.

You are a good parent if you do it the way the culture says you should. Never mind that what the culture is producing is a hot mess. Oh…right. Hot mess. You’re walking lockstep with a culture that worships scope and sequence and curriculum and What Your First Grader Should Know and rote memorization and it is producing hot mess. So much for safety.

Why isn’t this working?

Imagine if we applied this curriculum way of thinking to shoes. At age nine months everyone wears a size nine shoe, regardless of the size of their foot. Everyone must try to succeed in their day-to-day activities–learning to walk, run, carry things, climb–in the size nine shoes. Only children who actually wear a size nine stand a chance, of course. There are very few children who fit into a size nine shoe. Those who have problems will be deemed in need of medication, remediation, or disciplinary action. Some will have the ends of their toes cut off for the sake of the shoes. Some will have their feet bound. Others will have them strapped to their feet because their feet won’t stay in them.

This is schooling. This is what following the curriculum looks like. It works for some, but not most. And it is not done with the needs and capacities of the child in mind. It is done for the ease of the adults who make the shoes and the adults who fit the shoes. It is done to the child, not for the child.

That’s why it doesn’t work. Children are aware that this is being done To them. They resent it. And we end up with a hot mess. And we wonder why.”

I have my own thought to add.

Once the toes have been cut off, and you change up the way things have been done for several years, it is hard. It is hard for the one teaching. It is hard for the one learning. Because it’s like teaching someone how to walk again, but harder. Because, I don’t always have the right words, or I can just reach out and steady him by his britches.

I don’t always know how to motivate someone that is so used to “conforming” that he struggles with the freedom. I don’t always know how to communicate effectively what I’m trying to teach him, because he’s used to 40 minute periods, 10 minute breaks and too much busy work. We have good days and bad days. I believe learning takes place all the time, and I used grocery shopping to teach the little boys to count. But I got this one as an instant addition, and he knows how to count. So, I’m being stretched and challenged to find ways to help him stretch out of the box.

I want his toes to grow back. I want him to find something he is personally passionate about. But I don’t always know where to point him because I didn’t expect him to need so much direction from me. I thought he would think freely, but he’s been taught to need directions. His toes will grow back, and he will find the shoes that fit, and I am beyond thankful to be part of this journey!

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Homeschool Confessions 4: Dear Hubby

My husband, who announced in December that we would be homeschooling the boys, thought I was crazy when we got together. He wasn’t a homeschool believer, and was adamant that the boys belonged in school. It worked for us, because they were in school and I was working full time. I didn’t argue much.

At the time, I assumed I’d be working full time forever. The days of staying home were long gone and should be neatly packed away. While I longed to be home again, I just couldn’t fathom that happening. Who takes on a woman, and two kids from a previous marriage, and supports the stay at home endeavor?

(I know the answer to that question!)

I’m not sure if I’m that persuasive, or if he’s just that good hearted (maybe a little of both?) but through a series of events that we couldn’t control, and some that we could, I am home with our crew. I’ve been an at home wife and mom since August. We’ve been homeschooling since December. And I was wondering if my hubby was a believer in all (or most) things homeschool, or if he was simply “along for the ride?”

My answer came one afternoon recently.

I had been carrying on about government funded education options, the pros and cons, and why some homeschool groups don’t let homeschoolers that use K12 type programs participate in their activities. I’m not a fan of exclusion, to be honest. But on that same honest token, I get the concern with the government funded/backed issues and losing our right to homeschool, which is a right I believe in and will fight for.

So, he obliged and listened – and I didn’t sum it up in a paragraph for him like I just did here. I probably talked for a couple of hours, but who knows. He was listening and I was not stopping. Well, I did finally stop. Dear hubby had that “okay, whatever” look on his face. (It’s not so bad as it may sound; it’s more like “I trust you to make curriculum and schooling choices.”)

Some time passed, I’m not sure if it was just a few days or maybe a week or two. I brought up an awesome math resource I found, and was telling him how it’s free and it’s this and it’s that and I am excited to give it try. He nodded, and asked, “Is it government funded?”

Aha! He has been listening.