Friday, January 20, 2012

Keeping up with the Jameses

Most parents who homeschool seem to want one of two things: To give their child all the good parts of a 'normal' education (without wasting their time on the stupid parts), or to unschool them and let them follow their own interests and motivations to in-depth studies of just about anything. These are gross over-generalizations, and we could get into details, but let's not. We are fans of the idea of traditional school - as long as it involves Truth, just in case you were getting worried.

The one thing that both Kent and I struggled with in our school years was feeling bored. There are only so many days you can sit in your sixth grade honors class watching the substitute teacher mispronounce the weekly French dictation. One day I logged over two hours of doing nothing while my teacher tried to deal with discipline issues. I have vivid memories of watching in utter disbelief while she (into her 60's) actually tried to chase down my unruly classmate - a hyperactive 12-yr-old boy. Around and around the room they went. The rest of us got little but entertainment out of many a school day.

(Insert Disclaimer here: I do recognize that social development is not a waste of time, and do not promise to homeschool forever - one year at a time.)

All that to say, one of my motivations for educating our children well is not wasting their time. Childhood is short enough already.

All three of our kids are 'smart' and often I feel it is less my job to teach, than to direct their energy and get out of their way. We've been too easy on them allowing them to answer things orally instead of writing things out (and complaining), so the rest of our year is going to be 'writing intensive'. The first day of school in 'writing instensive-land', James was going to earn a game of chess with his Dad after school as a reward. He happily wrote all morning long.

We came to Greek mythology, and it was time to study the contest between Arachne and Pallas Athena (both good weavers and proud... you can probably guess who lost and was banished to spinning webs...).

"Oh Mom. I already read it."

"Really? When?"

"Last week sometime." (and proceeds to describe every detail of the story)

"So, how far did you read?"

"To the end."

"You finished the Greek mythology book for the year?"

"Yep. And the American history book too."

The speed, voracity and accuracy with which he reads, no devours, history and math books scares me. He has corrected me on the details of Old Testament history! He reads it super fast and then can recall every detail. Freaks me out. I have to remember that God has great plans for these gifts and I need to direct here and there and then just get out of the way! Looks like he also stole the Roman history book off my desk this week and finished it when I wasn't looking.

Not sure what he will do with a head full of history and math, but I suppose we don't really need to know yet... During his Asperger's diagnosis last year, they told us he was "charming and very bright" but his scores (as is normal) were vastly varied. Working memory: 90, Visual processing speed: 135, etc. With the improvements in his diet and the elimination of quite a few distracting sensory issues, came a faster clarity of thought (still pauses before multiplication/division facts) and less difficulty focusing during school.

He finished his afternoon jobs/chores, and curled up on the couch with a book about traps to set for a chess opponent.

At the big match of the day, they enjoyed setting up our new hand-carved African soapstone set. They began playing. I could tell Kent was wanting to go easy on James. At some point, he bailed on that plan and tried to save his game!

James played him well into the end-game and was 1-2 moves from a stale mate when he lost. Kent is no casual chess player; he played on a chess team (albeit years ago). There I admitted it. Kent lettered in chess. James blew him out of the water and challenged him with a real game at age 9!

I think both of us will have to have supernatural wisdom in raising and keeping up with James.


Linda said...

Kim, this is a blog post that will definitely resonate with you! :)

It's written by a dear lady, Diana Trautwein:


Janine the Bean said...

Oh, wow. It sounds like Aidan. I swear, I'm ashamed at how much he knows in comparison to his "teacher" here. He soaks it in and will not forget. Kim, you were on my heart and I came to your blog to check up. Love you, dear sister. Across the miles, we continue to pray for you and your family.