Tony Stark Would Be Proud

I KNEW watching all those McGyver and A-Team episodes would pay off one day!

So after an intense few weeks of cutting, painting, cutting, gluing, scavenging, and a few paint fume headaches, we're nearly done with Iron Man Halloween costumes. Of course, the boys didn't want the red and yellow Iron Man costumes you can get at Wal-Mart for $15. Rich wanted the "Mark II" suit which is all silver, and Brennan wanted the New Avengers suit, which is all black and grey. Both with enough cannons, rocket launchers, mini-missile cartridges, and rocket packs that we probably could have gotten Dick Cheney to invest in the project.

The boys loved spray painting, and used glue guns, molded armor from milk cartons, and picked out "found" items that could be re-used as buttons, rockets, valves, fuel ports, etc. They designed their own paraphanalia on the breastplates and helped design the guns based on pictures and drawings. This has been the longest project we've done so far, and I think it's really helped Rich to realize that it looks and works better in the end if you do a little planning first, and take your time. We still haven't figured out how to make the suits nuclear powered. That's for next week.


So How's It Going?

It's the question we hear the most, now that we've been homeschooling for a few months. I think people either expect to hear "It's great!" or "We've made a horrible mistake," but the truth is, we can't say either yet.

Just like teachers and kids in public school we have really good days, really bad days, and everything in between. Some days the kids just aren't with it, other's the teacher doesn't feel like doing much. I *can* say that everyday something happens that would never happen in public school. The most important thing going on here is that the boys are getting to live life, whether that means building a mulch fortress at the park, or helping mom balance the checkbook. They are being introduced to the real world, not spending all day in an artificial simulation of it. Math and reading happen when they happen, just like in real life. They are constantly bombarded with science and history because, honestly, how can you live in the real world and not be? It surrounds and permeates everything we see and do. We're constantly discussing these, and myriad other topics that a textbook would never cover. All day, every day. That's learning.

There may well be a boxed curriculum on the horizon for us, or a more structured approach, but right now, Rich is slowly re-discovering his natural curiosity and wonder, apart from textbooks, florescent-lit classrooms, and worksheets, and that's invaluable if he's to enjoy learning again. In the meantime, he's getting to be a kid, and isn't that what we all complain about - how kids don't get to be kids anymore? Is it more valuable to learn long division at age 8, or play in the rain? To learn the parts of speech, or to build a dragon spaceship out of Legos? I would argue that he's got 10 more years to learn the names of the Presidents, but only 2 or 3 more to lose himself in building a tank out of refrigerator boxes. I would further argue that the Legos and tanks are essential to him working out how to learn the life skills that are relevant to him, that will eventually make sense in the context of a career.

So today, we're spray painting milk jugs to use for Iron Man costumes, going to the Library, and will probably play multiplication games over lunch. It may not look like school, but I'd rather it look like life.


Time Flies...

I can't believe it's already October. I've been out of town and fighting with a little carpal tunnel, plus soccer season started, so blogging has been on the back burner.

There's a lot of homeschool jargon floating around out there that I don't have much use for, but we've grasped onto one of them because we found ourselves experiencing it before we knew what to call it: "De-Schooling"

Homeschool critics jump on that term and imagine it implies that education is being neglected, or that the parents are anti-education. It simply describes a period of time after taking a child out of public school in which the child de-compresses, de-programs, and recharges. It's obvious to us that despite a great public school with competent teachers, Rich has all but lost his love for learning. His innate curiosity is still strong, but not strong enough to motivate self-directed learning yet. Nor is he ready to sit down at a desk to read, write, or work math problems. He's in the process of making up for the time he lost to just be a kid - to play, explore, and to be bored.

We're trying very hard to help him let go of the idea that learning=work, and fun=play. It will take some time, but eventually, those terms will all get mixed together in a big bowl called "life." Fact is, he's constantly learning, whether he wants to or not. It isn't happening in the way the critics, or even myself would prefer. It can't be checked off in little boxes, or assessed by tests or exams. Maybe that will come. Right now, he's resistant to anything that resembles school. He's suspicious that we're going to try to take his freedom from him. I'm not saying kids don't need direction and limits - they do. But if we're ever to recapture the free-spirited, self-motivated learner that lurks somewhere inside him, we have to back off for a little bit and let him live - let him realize that he can learn what is important to him, in a way that makes sense to him.

This is terrifying for me, a book/curriculum oriented person who wants to make sure he "keeps up" with his age group. Part of our adjustment to homeschool is our letting go of every one else's expectations and figuring out what works for him, for our family, and still accomplishes (or even exceeds) what he would get in a public school setting. It's about trusting him, trusting that children are driven to learn, and in fact, can't be stopped from pursuing their interests. He's got years and years to learn all he needs to, and my bet is that giving him the time he needs right now to "de-school" is going to pay off in gold later down the road. The great thing about doing it ourselves is that if we're wrong, we can fix it without getting chewed up by the school system.