Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Boston's Freedom Trail

We spent a day this past Friday on Boston's Freedom Trail, getting to see the places we read about 2 months ago when we studied the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  While the current city buildings now tower over the 200+ years old landmarks, it was great to be able to step where history took place.  We did just about the entire Freedom Trail, starting from Boston common, our country's oldest public park, and where the British soldiers made camp when they came to 'keep order' in the colony, and going all the way through the various sites such as the Granary Burying Ground where Paul Revere and Sam Adams are buried as well as the victims of the Boston Massacre:

 the Old South Meeting House the starting point of the route to the Boston Tea Party:

King's Chapel with its "family pews" which the kids thought were very interesting to sit in:

Fanueil Hall where many town meetings were held to discuss what was to be done about the unfair taxes forced upon the colonists:

 a stop in to get some New England Clam Chowder in modern day Quincy Market:

the Old North Church where the 2 lanterns were lit to let the colonists know that the British had crossed over by sea: 

At this point, the Charlestown leg of the trip remained, but it was already late in the day, and we had been walking the trail for 5 hours. The 2 sites in Charlestown were the Bunker Hill Monument (which we knew we were not going to climb) and the USS Constitution (which is currently being renovated), but Bunny wanted to take a boat ride during our trip, so we walked over the bridge into Charlestown (we took a picture with the Bunker Hill Monument in the distance): 

and then proceeded to the USS Constitution and saw what's left of it (bare bones!):

and boarded the Water Shuttle back to Boston, seeing a great view of the Boston skyline with the lights in the buildings all starting to come on (the photo is weird, it has a reflection from the inside of the boat):

By the time the boat reached the Boston side of the river, it was dark.  It was a very full day-total of about 6 hours of walking and touring around Boston. We didn't go into most of the sites which had museums/tours (and required payment to enter) because if we did, the day would have been even longer, but we did take a tour of Paul Revere's house, which contained some of the silver work he had made and period furniture. It was definitely a worthwhile trip. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Hardest Part of Homeschooling (For Me)

As much as I love homeschooling, there's definitely very real challenges.  Many of the articles on the internet about homeschooling talk about the benefits of homeschooling (of which there are so many!), but rarely is there mention of the hardships. (Kind of like when you become a parent, people generally tell you how great it'll be and what a blessing it is, but they don't mention how physically painful the weeks after childbirth are or how hormones can send you on such an emotional roller coaster or how sleep deprivation can bring out more anger than you've ever felt). It's great to focus on the positives, but acknowledging the challenges makes me feel less alone and gives a more realistic picture of what homeschooling is like. I recently forwarded this article to a friend who is considering homeschooling:  5 Things I hate about homeschooling  and while these do resonate with me (alot! But I've managed to find ways to work overcome these for the most part, and they are no longer among my 'hardest parts' anymore...not saying they are GONE but definitely less difficult now) and I'm so thankful for this post, I realized that my biggest struggle right now isn't listed.

While some challenges may be pretty universal to most homeschoolers, there's also individual challenges based on circumstances, family dynamics, and personality. Also, I think with all major endeavors in life, the challenges will constantly change as the people involved change and as you yourself change.  At first, the hardest part of homeschooling was having a child around 24/7. After getting past that, the biggest challenge was having this huge responsbility of their entire education on my shoulders.  After getting past that, it was getting on the same page for what assignments would be done or not done, battles over refusing to complete assignments and whining about not wanting to do something.  But at this point in our homeschooling journey, I'd have to say the hardest part is something others may find pretty inconsequential...there's no single word to describe it, but I'd say it's something like one of the following:

  • Trusting my kids to get the work done in their own time.
  • Watching my kids be inefficient with their time.
  • Allowing my kids to do other things between assignments.
  • Letting my kids decide when to do their work.
  • Bridging the disconnect of my idea of a school day schedule and their idea of a school day schedule.
  • Letting go of MY idea of what needs to be done when (that that work should come before play)
As much as I read articles about the need to take breaks and for kids to have free play time (and in my head, I do agree with these), I still find it such a struggle to let them space out their work throughout the day, rather than get it all done and then have free time afterwards. It makes me so cranky and irritable to still have work to be finished at 3pm, when we started 8:30am. It's pretty ridiculous actually, and I know *I* need to change, as much as I want THEM change. I end up seeing it as "dawdling" or "distractions from work" or "not being diligent in their work habits".

To some degree, yes, they need to manage their own time, and at some point, I will need to let them do that on their own and trust them, especially as they get older. And also, to some degree, I am the parent/teacher, I certainly could just set the schedule and be done. Unfortunately, with my work schedule they have long periods of 'independent time', which I cannot be on top of them for schoolwork, so I often have to leave them with a list of assignments to complete at their own pace. The problem is my idea of "pace" is different from theirs, and it DRIVES ME CRAZY! It grates on me to hear them in the background doing other stuff, knowing that there is a ton of schoolwork to get done. Trying to reign them to get their work done just leaves me feeling frustrated and ineffective.

I've recently learned that this need for me to get things done right away, and check things off a checklist is correlated to my own personality trait: on the Myers-Brigg personality scale, I'm heavily a 'J' (Judging), and NOT a 'P'(Perceiving) personality.  A 'J' is task oriented and likes to have checklists and hates to have to be rushed to meet a deadline. A 'P' is more open ended and works in bursts of energy, and is motivated by an approaching deadline.  Apparently, my kids are the opposite of me (Monkey more so than Bunny). 

So, while this may be a pretty unique homeschooling challenge, specific to me and my kids and our differing personalities, I suppose it points to a bigger general homeschool challenge-which is finding a way to mesh the different personalities/teaching styles/expectations of parent and child.  I think probably in most cases, both sides need to adjust. It's not just the parent forcing their children to comply with the parent's way, and it's not the parent bending over backward to be someone she is not. It takes movement on both sides of the fence.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

History Beyond America

Throughout my own education, all the history was very America-centric. We had 2 years of required World History in high school, but how can you cover the entire history of the world in 2 years, while spending WAY more time on just the 200 years of American history?

With all the emphasis on the American Revolution that we've done for our schooling the past 2 months, I felt we were missing the bigger picture of what was going on in the rest of the world. French was on the verge of their own revolution, and who knows what was happening in Asia and Africa and South America!

Well, we wanted to find out...so to round out our history, I started reading aloud from George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster:

This book is divided into 5 sections-the time periods of whe George Washington was a boy, a soldier, a commander, a citizen, and a presidents. For each time period, it tells the story of what is happening in Prussia, or in Africa, or Tahiti...everywhere else. There's stories about explorers, musicians, kings, inventors, etc, each one maybe 2-3 pages on- a glimpse into the lives of the many people who lived during these time periods. Genevieve Foster also has other books for other time periods, including Augustus Caeser's World, The World of Columbus and Sons, the World of Capt. John Smith, The World of William Penn, and Abraham Lincoln's World, which I have not yet read, but plan to incorporate into our reading in the future.

We also read from Story of the World Volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer:

This covers a much broader time period, roughly 1500 to 1850, so it gives a bigger overall picture of what's going on, and fewer stories about individuals the way George Washington's World does. (There's also Volumes 1, 2, and 4 which cover other time periods.)

I'm really hoping this will give my kids a more global perspective as they look at history, and ultimately to think more globally as evaluate the world of today.