All These Things That I Have Done...

While my children are 4.5 years and 3.5 years apart, I did not manage to space them quite correctly for following the four-year history rotation as set forth in The Well-Trained Mind. I did, however, manage to come relatively close. As EG begins fifth grade, FB will begin kindergarten. When FB begins fifth grade, PC will begin first grade, although she will be nearly seven already. Beyond the potential advantages for the history cycle, though, my children are spaced such that I have time to look back and really ponder on the should have, would have, could have. EG ends "grammar stage," just as FB begins to gear up for it, and so forth.

With that in mind, what I wish I had done differently, and a little bit about why.

01. Poetry Memory Work I wish we had been more deliberate about memory work in general, but there's a delight in a small child when she or he finishes memorizing a poem, especially when the poem is more than one stanza. It's not that EG hasn't memorized poems this year (and a few last year), and it's not that she doesn't enjoy it still. It's simply that it's one thing that is low on investment, in terms of time and energy, but large in the payoff.

02. Grammar Memory Work Similar to the above, it takes little effort to memorize, for instance, pronouns (FB can recite demonstrative pronouns just because he's heard EG saying them daily for over a month), but again, a large payoff.

03. History Memory Work Honestly, there aren't that many things about some parts of history to memorize. Does a child really need to memorize the pharaohs? Unless the child is going to be an Egyptologist, probably not. There are some worthwhile speeches and documents worth memorizing though, and poetry about history, as well. We weren't deliberate in this area until later, either.

04. More consistent science at an earlier age To be clear, I'm not saying I wish we had used a formal program. I think WTM-style science or even something less formal is perfectly adequate and perhaps better than a formal program. I wish I had bought science kits earlier, though, and, as I say, more consistently. Grammar-stage science doesn't have to be rigorous or thorough, even for the most science-minded, gifted child. It does need to be present and periodic.

05. Wait on Latin until 3rd grade Pretty much what it says on the box. I will probably pick 50-100 words & chants for FB to memorize during second grade, just to ease the transition, but otherwise, I think the payoff is not large enough for the time expended.

06. More narrations I think I was afraid that narrations would somehow take the joy out of reading. I failed to remember that a narration doesn't necessarily have to be formal or written, either one. Yes, in retrospect, we should have done a few more of those formal, written narrations, too, but you can be sure I will not hesitate to ask FB "What was the most interesting thing you learned in this book?" when we read non-fiction, and "Can you tell me/Daddy/EG/PC about the story we just read?" when it's literature.

07. Less worry about 'perfect' This is an issue in basically every area of my life, to be honest. I have to guard against letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

08. More art, both appreciation and skills So, art. The biggest gap in my otherwise fairly excellent education was art appreciation. I have very little art history. I can remember a few units which were designed to teach us about an artist or school, and then we were to create a project in that style. As a result, I remember a lot about Matisse and cannot tell you in which century Degas lived. Since I knew nothing about it, I threw a figurative blanket in my head, put my fingers in my ears, and sang "la la la, I can't hear you," in the general direction of art history & appreciation. Needless to say, this is not the best approach one can take. Similarly, I do not possess oodles and oodles of artistic talent. Since I was pigeon-holed early on as an academic type, there was rarely any effort to encourage any artistic leanings I might have had. I was an adult before I even realized I had a decent aesthetic sense. This doesn't encourage one to take the initiative in teaching art skills. So I packed EG off to Master's Academy. While I think this still does fill an important role, I wish I had at least incorporate some art into history, and taught her some basic drawing, things I plan to do with FB and PC.

09. Piano lessons in 2nd grade, or 3rd grade at the latest For various reasons, it's worked all right for EG not to have started piano until 4th grade, but ideally, I'd like the kids to be finished with their mandatory two years of piano lessons by no later than the end of fourth grade. I think it's good to have piano experience before choosing any other kind of instrument, and I think learning the basic theory is important, and I can see numerous advantages to learning this "grammar" during the grammar stage.

10. More music appreciation I had a little more music appreciation in my own education, though a good portion of that was the history of rock 'n' roll. Additionally, music appreciation seemed so intimidating, with a need for millions of CDs, spilling over. It was one of those subjects where perfect became the enemy of the good. Luckily, we've also discovered the podcast Classics for Kids, which makes grammar-stage music appreciation that much easier.

11. Less supplemental books for history We love SOTW. We love the activity guides. I also love looking at books in various homeschooling catalogs, and reading posts on message boards about great supplemental books. The result can be too many books. When planning SOTW 1 for FB, I've tried to keep the supplemental books to an average of one per chapter. In some cases, this may still be too much, but it's a start. It's no good to feel overwhelmed with a number of books, even if they are picture books, that you feel you must read before beginning the next chapter.

12. Less dependence on the library In the beginning, I thought I would save money by checking books out from the library. The result of this, combined with the problem of too many supplemental books, was annoying trips back and forth to the library and a growing amount of fines. Yes, I have tentative plans to use the library more next year than we have this year, but I'm trying to be judicious. Not every library book is always available, and the library should never become a burden.

13. Less worry about socialization For a time, I worried a lot about her socialization. I knew very few people with children her age, at the time, and I worried a lot about her being exposed only to children who were younger than her. I've since learned that one seeming solution, having her in a Girl Scout troop with girls who are in a variety of school settings, doesn't really work out that well in the end. For other reasons, too, I should have just worried less. Kids don't need groups of friends. That's a modern affectation.

14. More time outdoors I don't think it's really possible to have too much time outdoors, you know? Enough said.

15. Learn to swim earlier Poor guinea pig EG. In one of my efforts to shore up our relationship with Spousal Unit's relatives, she used to spend the day, from time to time, with the older of Spousal Unit's sisters, who lives in the same metro area as we do. On one of those excursions, said sister-in-law took it upon herself to take EG swimming and try to teach her to swim. She wasn't quite three at the time, and we spent years undoing her resulting fear in the pool. We probably should have kept slowly coaxing her rather than stopping most efforts for a year or two before resuming them in the summer of 2008. She can swim just fine now, but I want the younger ones swimming well by six or seven.

16. Learn to ride a bike earlier Part of this was lack of opportunity for EG, and part of it was other issues, which will be detailed somewhat below. Still, we had the tendency not to push her to do things, and some things? Kids needs a little push and encouragement.

17. Worried about the issues of spelling & hand-eye coordination earlier This doesn't apply to every child, but EG was wildly asynchronous with regard to certain aspects of development. Of course, I read enough that said "gifted kids are asynchronous!" that I pushed it from my mind most of the time. There's a difference, though, between "asynchronous" and "working well above grade level except with handwriting and spelling," especially when the latter is combined with hand-eye coordination issues, difficulty riding a bicycle, and other issues. Also, her handwriting and spelling weren't merely "on grade level," but below grade level. Finally, I realized something had to be done, that despite all of our best efforts, there was something still missing. So we had her evaluated by a developmental optometrist and she's doing vision therapy. There's definitely a difference already. Do I wish I'd had her evaluated sooner? Absolutely. Will I hesitate to push with the others, even when my concerns are dismissed by some? No.

As with anything, your mileage may vary. I'll try to post about the things I'm glad we did within a week or two, because there are many of those, too.


adjunctmom said...

I know exactly what you mean about this. Even now, I can look at Ben and see things that I want to start earlier with Katie. I've let some things go that I shouldn't and other things haven't been pushed the way that I know they should be.

Definitely food for thought.

Daisy said...

LOL. And I'm having one of those days where I'm ready to quit now that I have to do this all over again. Sigh.

Don't mind me. I'm in a funk. You have given wonderful advice, especially in regards to too many history supplements and realizing earlier on when you have a child who is struggling in an area (my Lydia = math).

This website was designed by Sam Rushing

"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson