Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Homeschooled Sports Nut

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy nine-year-old homeschooled son loves sports. I’d been feeling challenged with finding him homeschool learning opportunities that deal with sports, other than the sports themselves. I realized that time spent in sports provides chances to learn things like game rules, making new moves and social skills. But I was worried about him spending so much time moving that he would not improve his reading and writing skills. I also started to notice that both my sons enjoyed school work more and worked faster directly after playing hard outside. I realized myself that the best times for writing were right after a long walk or a workout. But still I tried to think up ways to interest Lucas in language skill projects that involved sports. Reading about sports history? No, Mom. Writing about last night’s game or a sports hero? Nope. So my question was how to engage Lucas in a learning environment of his own design, but that which would satisfy my need to know he’s improving his language skills?

While I was planning to write about sports and learning I came across this TedTalks video by Neuroscientist, Daniel Wolpert, where he explains that, “Movement is the only way you have of affecting the world around you. Everything goes through contractions of the muscles.” And he goes on to convince us that brains evolved solely to move. Everything our body does involves series of movements.

I wonder if this works backwards. I mean we all have heard about the links between movement and brain growth. Does all his movement give him an edge in language skills? Or can it only be done by actually practicing reading and writing?

I look at my son, who has learned to read and write at his own pace. I watch him work extremely hard to master movements and strategy in hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer and all the made-up sports that he and his siblings and friends have played over the years. He has found something he loves to do and spends as much time as possible practicing and improving.

This morning I asked him (again) what lessons he wanted to take this summer (his brother and sister take piano and Spanish, respectively). After his initial, negative reaction, I talked to him a little more, feeling bad that they are getting something he’s not. I suggested he could take anything that interested him. He was vehement, “No, Mom. No Lessons. Only sports.”

The thing is, when he’s not doing sports he’s doing things like putting the pool ladder together, without instructions. And building things like this robotic zamboni:

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or this Lego castle:

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So OK. He’s not spending the same amount of time as school kids reading and writing. A typical writing assignment to him may be a condolence card to his grandfather directly after the World Series. And he spends more than the average kid moving because he has more time. His communication skills, social skills and attention span are good. He’s extremely helpful at home and seems happy. Though I still worry at times that we’re not doing enough reading and writing, seeing him in action in life and sports puts my mind at ease.

A Little Extra Care

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long time ago I met a girl who loved children. She loved everybody actually. We became close friends and later roommates for several years. She could be infuriatingly optimistic, seeing the good side of everybody and everything, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Or so I thought back then. When we were roommates she was working as a daycare provider while going to school for Art Therapy. I often would tag along with her to work when she needed help with the kids. She always amazed me by making each child feel special and by treating them so respectfully and kindly. They loved her in return and would literally glow when receiving her attention.

One summer we were living in an apartment in Bangor and she had bought a huge Fuscia to hang on our deck. It was gorgeous but at the time I couldn’t imagine taking the time to water that thing every day. A Fuscia needs copious amounts of water and then it will bloom like crazy. Miss one day of watering and it immediately starts wilting. I thought it was silly to buy something that took so much work. My roomie on the other hand was always on the look-out for things that needed extra care; sometimes I think even me.

Fast forward about 25 years….last month I decided I wanted a Fuscia for Mother’s Day and my family went to a greenhouse and picked one out for our deck. Normally I only grow things I consider to be useful, like food and herbs. I don’t have time for ‘needless things’. But having something beautiful at the entrance to our home, something that needs a little extra care, is a simple reminder to me. I am surrounded by the beauty of children day in and day out. With a little extra care every day they will bloom and thrive.

So to my friend and to all people who give a little extra every day to make a child feel special; to all those who offer their precious time and energy to make a difference in a child’s life, thank you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Emily’s Art and the Neatness of Visuals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince my daughter has attended public school, with her brothers continuing to homeschool, I have missed her presence during the days. I also miss her art. Emily’s art has always been a large part of our home. There are always unfinished projects laying around and her bedroom walls are covered with her art. But with Emily gone during the days, and the afternoons and evenings filled with softball and homework, it is challenging to fine the time she wants to create.

At school she has an art class once a week and I rarely see her work. I’m assuming it’s displayed at the school – I often see walls covered in the artwork of various classes. But somehow they all look very much the same. I’m afraid that art in grammar school has become an assignment with specific guidelines and it makes me pine for the time when Emily would make art with only her imagination and materials laying around the house.

An language arts assignment she is working on right now, due at the end of the week, is to complete two book reports in which she will be answering specific questions, and creating a visual project such as a poster, a diorama or a clay model. The instructions clearly state that the students will be graded on inclusion of required materials, spelling and grammar, and on the neatness of the their visuals. That last phrase tears at my artist’s heart. The one part about this big project she is working on that involves creativity, must be neat?

Emily enjoys school and her art class, and her art teacher is lovely and comes up with amazing ideas for the students. But something deep inside of me cringes when I hear of art assignments resembling something other than a little girl’s way to express her imagination.