Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Supersim's Journal: Day Two

We saw a bald egale and 3 arches. We saw a young, un-named arch. I call it Dragon’s Eye. We nearly ran over a cow! I had a 2 mile hike. The kriptobiatic soil is alive!

Could you spell cryptobiotic on the first try?

The cow story above is highly exaggerated. Parts of Castle Valley are open range, with cattle guards every few miles. This being calving season, there are lots of cute little calves following their Mommies. One large black and white Mommy decided the grass was greener at the edge of the road, but we were nowhere near hitting her. Supersim put a dramatic spin on it for her journal.

We really did see a bald eagle—most likely a three-year-old juvenile, judging from my field guide. He was very cooperative while we pulled over, dug out the binoculars, and took turns arguing about just how much white was on his neck and how much pattern we could see on his tail. He wasn’t quite cooperative enough to, say, fly down from his telephone pole, land on our hood and identify himself for us, but he did politely ignore us while we took pictures.

The new visitors center is great—they have a movie about the area and the formation of arches, and lots of interactive exhibits for kids. Yes, we visited the gift shop, and yes, we came out with a lot of junk we didn’t need, but we also picked up Junior Ranger packets and some good books for the kids.

Then it was time to explore Arches!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dudeman's Journal Entry: Day One

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Today is the day we go to Moab.  We will be tare for 2 nights.  Gitting redey for the trip is so stessful.  I can not wait to get out of hear.

He was right about the "stessful" part.  I know some people who keep a pop-out camper trailer packed and ready to go at a moment's notice.  I wish they were jerks and I could make fun of them here, but they are lovely people, and I can only hope to be so organized one day.  Anyway, after the packing (which required doing laundry first), shopping for groceries, briefing the pet-sitters, squeezing way too much stuff into the car, realizing the cooler wouldn't fit, rearranging everything, and squeezing slightly less stuff into the car, we were on our way.  As usual, only 2 hours behind schedule.

Here are some things that have changed in Moab, since Dad and I were college kids camping around this area.  There are about 8 million new hotels.  Arches National Park has a beautiful new visitors center.  And you can actually get a decent meal in Moab now.

Which is what we did the moment we got there.  Sandwiches, schmandwiches!  We wanted a hot dinner at a real table, so we went to Pasta Jay's.  After all, we'll need our strength for the rest of this trip, right?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Unit Study We Will ALL Enjoy

I know it's only been a few days, but what do you think about homeschooling so far?

"Well, it's not as boring as school.  But it's a little boring."

It's boring?  Really?  What do you mean?

"I'm tired of studying Utah."

So, we've done enough Utah history and geography?


If you could study anything you wanted, what would it be?  (Please don't say Clone Wars.)



"Yeah, like how they grow, the different climates they grow in, weird and interesting plants..."

OK, no problem.  Let's study plants!  So you're interested in pollination, photosynthesis, rainforest and desert plants, stuff like that?

"Yeah.  And I want to grow some stuff."


"Sure, if you'll stop jumping up and down."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Third "official" day!

It's a good thing I didn't waste too much time making a plan.  And it's a good thing I listened to all the homeschooling veterans who said, "Be flexible!"

Our first "official" day was Tuesday.  Something went wrong with my car on Monday, so I had to start the day by taking it to the mechanic.  My first opportunity to be flexible!  I did pull out a few math sheets, since Dudeman really wanted to do something "schoolish," and it turns out, the ones I chose were too easy.  So I let him pick, and he was happier.

Dad (a.k.a. History Geek) was eager to talk about the ancestral puebloans, (formerly known as Anasazi).  So he got out a map of Utah and some of his favorite books about Native Americans and did a geography/history lesson. We pretty much followed Dude's lead and talked about the details that interested him.  This meant that we skipped around more than a school curriculum would, but we also kept his interest and covered way more information.  

The puebloan conversation led to a general conversation about Native Americans, which led to a conversation about social justice and the way Native Americans live today compared to the past...Supersim has been fascinated with Native Americans ever since she learned about our Chickasaw roots.  Mimi had given her a great book, The North American Indian Atlas, and in it we found a map that showed the bison range of today versus 200 years ago.  Wow--I never knew that bison had lived all the way up into northern Canada and all the way down into southern Texas!  

Then we got the globe and found all the continents, and talked a bit about some of the countries located on each.  We went to the big map and looked at the line between Europe and Asia, and discussed the fact that they are separate continents even though they are connected.    When we told Dudeman this was his geography for the day, he said, "This isn't geography."  Yes it is.  "No, this isn't what we do in school."  What do you do in school?  "Cells." He wasn't satisfied that we were doing geography until we asked him to locate cities and landmarks in map cells on the Utah map.

Later, we played Monopoly and he was the banker.  In the evening, we all watched Nova, a documentary about the polar ice melting.  Before bedtime, Supersim, Dudeman and I read three more exciting chapters of Molly Moon.  Our total time doing "school" was 4 hours and 45 minutes, and he really enjoyed most of it.  In my opinion, it was a great first day and much more valuable than a day at school.  

Our second day gave me another opportunity to be flexible--Supersim came down with a yucky stomach virus.  Dudeman had to fend for himself until I could get something together for him.  So, he went to Kidwings and dissected an owl pellet.  

Since Tuesday's math was too easy, I pulled out the Family Math book and we picked a game called The Value of Words.  He loved it!  I thought we'd use it as a warm-up and then do the "real" lesson, but guess what?  The game WAS the real lesson.  We played for an hour, and then he showed Mimi how to play and continued with her.  

Next, I asked him to pick any book and do some reading with Mimi, while I did what I could for Supersim.  To our surprise, he chose a Nancy Drew mystery.  They read together for over an hour, stopping occasionally to discuss vocabulary, note the clues, and make predictions. 

In the afternoon, Dude decided to make a sundial out of Legos (not sure where that came from) and test it outside.  He also decorated the cover of his new journal.  Our "school day" was three hours long.  And my kid was happy and learned a lot.
Which brings us to our third official day.  Now I have TWO sick kids (flexible! flexible!) but since they are feeling well enough to get in trouble, they are doing a bit of schoolwork to keep busy.  So far they have studied erosion, animal tracks, the food chain, bald eagles, and pumas on www.webranger.us.  They played history bingo, memory, and Kerplunk.  They also watched Planet Earth Deserts.  We read Elephants of the Tsunami, How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly?, and two chapters of Nancy Drew.  

I think they are going to study some video games next.  

I can see why all the experienced homeschoolers advised me to stay flexible!  And I can tell already that we are going to enjoy this time together, and that I'll learn at least as much as the kids do! 


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oh, yeah. We're lame...

This is the kind of crazy, exciting stuff we do for fun around here!  Next, we're going to organize our sock drawers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Update

Sleepover with school buddy.  Pizza, root beer, and Clone Wars.  Did they ever SLEEP?

Built props for the kids' play; costumes are almost done.

TWO visits from the tooth fairy.

Celebrated Mimi's birthday with buffalo burgers and milkshakes!

A Sunday swim. Wow, was it crowded.

Can't form sentences.  Too tired.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is better than doing chores?

There are many ways to earn money here at the Sparklee household.  There is always laundry to be folded and put away, various animals who need care, dishes to wash, floors to sweep, rooms to pick up...

And of course, perpetual pooper-scooping!

So why do my kids prefer to dump out the change bucket and wrap coins until late in the night?

Well, it can be done while watching TV.  The results are immediate.  And according to the kids, it's fun!

It seems tedious to me, but they had a great time sorting, counting, and even weighing the rolls (to make sure they were accurate.)

I was truly amazed at how much change I had collected from our pockets while sorting laundry over the years!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring yardwork

I'll spare you the doggy doo photo.  Seriously, I considered taking a before and after shot just to be funny.  Someone I know calls it "poop lasagna," those lovely layers of ice, mud, and poop in the yard after a long winter.  I really tried to keep up with it, and got out there as much as I could in between snowstorms.  But our pups are prolific!  I love how they come outside with me and watch me pick up after them.  They look so innocent, like, "Who could have made this mess, Mommy?"

More pleasant work followed.  The kids and I watered our trees, did a bit of pruning, picked a lot of rocks out of the "grass."  (In quotes because it's not really grass; it's either crunchy brown stuff, or sparse dusty stuff at the moment.)  The kids spotted a couple of honeybees on our grape hyacinth and a robin on the fence.   They earned an ice cream outing, and I got a giant, ice cold Coke!

Then Dudeman suggested a hike.  Because I wasn't tired enough from yardwork!  Supersim said she wouldn't go without The Beast, so we "saddled" him up and took him for a hike.  Even though he didn't deserve it--he tried to steal fish sticks off the kitchen counter on Friday and got into the garbage yesterday.  (And many other days, apparently.  I picked up a yogurt tub, a bread bag, and the plastic from a package of hot dogs in the yard!) But Supersim insisted it was his turn for a walk, so he got to yank my arm off for an hour and a half.  I should probably go take a Tylenol while I'm thinking about it. At least he's useful for pulling me uphill.

Dudeman took his compass and binoculars.  Supersim was in charge of the backpack, which held dog water, poop bags (just in case he deigned to eliminate somewhere other than our property), the camera, and whatever else she stuffed in there.  I wasn't really paying attention when she packed up.  So at one point, Beastie Boy is pulling me up the hill and the kids are trailing behind, and I turn around to say something to them, and I see that they both are holding umbrellas!  "What in the world are you doing, kids?"  "Oh," says Supersim, "I brought us some portable shade."

That's what I call planning ahead!

We saw a couple of hawks circling, and the kids tried to get a view through the binoculars, but it's hard to watch a moving target.  We heard a lot of birds, but didn't see many.  I'm sure the kids would say the coolest thing we saw was the deer bones, off the trail and behind someone's private fence.  The same dog who barked at every bicycle and baby stroller didn't even seem aware of them (thankfully).  Our Good Dog is next in line for a walk, so next time will be easier!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

But I could be wrong...

I have never been one to read a lot of meaning into dreams.  I think they are a lot like horoscopes: people tend to see what they want to see and create their own meaning from them.

But you've gotta hear this:

I have taken a big role in a play.  (Already strange, for me.)  It's the first performance and I'm feeling good about the first half of the play, but a bit shaky on my lines in the second half.  I'm on stage with the other actors and things are going great!

Then it's time for me to exit for a while.  Instead of waiting in the wings for my cue, I wander off and explore the theater building.  I get distracted by someone's baby playing in the hallway.  I chat with people in the lobby.  I find a big empty room and take off my shoes and just run around for a while.

Oh, no!  It's time for me to go back on stage!  Oh, crap, where are my shoes?

Suddenly my shoes are really weird and complicated, with a bunch of buckles and even some strings that I have to tie...  I can't get them to fasten and I start to panic.

Actors from the play are coming into the room asking, "Why aren't you onstage?  We had to cover for you!"

The director shows up and I start to cry.  I tell her I couldn't get my stupid shoes on.  She says, "You should have come onstage without your shoes, then."

Duh!  Why didn't I?

So here's my (non-expert) analysis.  I'm in a play, something that would be really odd for me to be doing.  Something way out of my comfort zone, kind of like...homeschooling.

All is well in the beginning, but I'm not so great with the follow-through.  I get distracted and end up letting everyone down.  I get caught up in things that don't matter (shoes) instead of just getting out there and doing something.  Also, the shoes turn out to be much more difficult than I expected! 

The director, an authority figure (society, my family, accredited teachers, I don't know...) shows up and points out what a doofus I am. 

What do you think?  Can dreams have meaning?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A leap of logic?

So, this is what the teacher said to me:

"We aren't going to call on him anymore this year because he already knows all the answers and other kids need a chance to answer."

(This is what I thought:  Then, why is he there?  If he knows the answer to every question, why is he there?  And if you aren't going to let him answer any questions, why is he there?)

Teacher: "He's light years ahead of the other kids.  He's reading at the level he should be at the end of next year.  He's doing math two grade levels ahead."

(Me: I know!  Isn't it great?  Aren't you proud of him?)

Teacher:  "This is a problem because he's bothering the other kids. He finishes his work too fast and then wants to talk to the other kids.  Could you send in some books and activities to keep him busy while the other kids finish their work?"

(Me:  I'm supposed to find ways to keep him entertained while other kids finish their work?  Aren't you the teacher?)  

Teacher: "We're limited in what we're allowed to do, curriculum-wise.  I can't teach him math two grade levels ahead.  I'm not really allowed to."

(Me: Well, I am.  If I'm supposed to find enrichment work for him, and he's a bother in the classroom, and he isn't going to be called on, and you're not allowed to let him advance, it seems clear that he's better off at home.)

So, we make arrangements to keep him at home.  Then:

Teacher:  "I didn't know he wanted to do enrichment work!  We have lots of extra math worksheets.  He's welcome to do some extra worksheets!  Oh, and his handwriting needs work."

(Me: Nyah! Nyah!)

Yeah, real mature, I know.  At least I didn't say it out loud.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I am freaking out.

What kind of crazy scheme have I gotten myself into?  Can I really do this?  I must have been insane to think I could take on this kind of responsibility.  I'm terrified. Seriously, what was I thinking?

People are going to think we're weird.  The school already thinks we're weird.  I think we're weird!  How do I explain this choice to people who think homeschoolers are crazy?  A few months ago, I was one of them!  People are going to talk about us, I just know it.

My kids will be pariahs in town!  All their friends will forget about them!  And their friends will surpass them in learning and it will be my fault!

There is no way Supersim and I can get along, all day, every day.  There is no way I can get her to do math.  Just doing half an hour of homework is a struggle.  Why did I think I could do this?  And Dudeman will get so sick of me, he'll go into teenage mode early and start rolling his eyes and asking to get a tattoo. 

We'll give up after a month and I will have to crawl back to the school and contritely ask them to re-enroll my kids.  Who, as I said, will be way behind and it will be whose fault again? 

Does this post sound like the ramblings of a person who has lost it?  It is! I am freaking out.  Insomnia! Anxiety attacks!  Is there such a thing as Obsessive Research Disorder?  I think I have it.  Doing research calms me down, because I learn about others who tried homeschooling and survived.

Now I understand why so many homeschooling Moms have blogs.  It's so you can pound out all your fear, put it up here on the screen where it isn't so scary.  It's a storage bin for insecurities. 

And they all join groups.  Groups that tell each other, "Rah! Rah!  You can do it!"  Because we need to hear that!  I so need to hear that!

I need to calm down and remind myself why I started researching homeschooling the first place.  I have a kid who is unhappy and stressed, and a kid who is spending more time on playground soap operas than on schoolwork.  I have 2 kids with very high aspirations, and I don't see them getting there without more challenging and appropriate learning opportunities. I have a smart kid who doesn't think she's smart because she learns differently than classroom teachers teach.  I have a sensitive kid who takes every criticism to heart and is tired of getting yelled at by adults all day.

Don't hyperventilate!  It's going to be OK.  This isn't the end of the world, even if it doesn't work out.
Yes, people will probably think we're weird, but people already think we're weird, so nothing will change there.  I remember mentioning to someone that we had never traveled without our kids, and she said, "You never GET AWAY FROM THEM?"  No, I've never really wanted to.  I guess that's hard for some to understand.  

I'm already known at school as the mom with "eccentric" ideas.  I was the only mother who complained about the candy-for-reading incentive program.  I just didn't think kids should get suckers for reading books.  The reward for reading a book is that you read a book.  Totally blank looks from the other moms.  

No getting around it, we're already weird.  We travel with our kids.  We don't pay our kids to learn with candy. We have way too many pets.  We don't let our kids play Halo.  Yeah, weird.

It was probably a mistake to try to explain myself to the teachers and the principal.  I should have just pulled them out and said, "We're traveling," or something and let it be.  I was trying to give them the old "it's not you, it's me" line, but it didn't really work. Of course Dudeman's teacher was offended--after all she has years of training and experience.  I'm guessing she thinks I'm arrogant to suggest that I can do more for my son than she can.

Deep down, she must realize that 2 kids and 2 teachers is better than 1 teacher with 25 kids.  Or maybe not, I have no idea what she's thinking.  After all, we're 2/3 of the way through the school year and she hasn't figured out a way to challenge or even interest him yet.  

The other day I was cruising the education section at the bookstore (Obsessive Research Disorder), and it struck me just how few books there were that actually talked about educating kids.  There were several inspirational books about innovative teachers who had accomplished the impossible with a group of "unteachable" kids.  The usual collection of "what's wrong with the system" theories. Lots of books about dealing with certain learning disabilities.  Several books about phonics, which don't really apply to us anymore. And TONS of books about discipline, classroom management, and keeping a classroom organized.  I counted three books that claimed to inspire kids to be creative and enjoy learning.  (I bought one of them, and it has not yet mentioned worksheets or candy.)

Here's one of my constant gripes.  The school gets them for 6 hours a day (not including the hour it takes to pack up lunches, get ready and get there.)  So why do they need to do 3 more worksheets and then practice math facts at home?  

I only get 4 hours with them before bedtime and I resent the time they spend on homework.  And it's rarely useful work!  Sometimes I suspect that the teachers assign it to prove to parents that kids are learning.  But it encroaches on our family time.  I would tell the kids not to do it, but I hate for them to get in trouble the next day. 

My apologies for this rant, but after all, isn't that what a homeschool mom's blog is all about?  Now excuse me, I have to go find my cheerleaders so we can tell each other just how right and capable we are.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Questions I can't answer

Last night Supersim posed a very interesting question:

"If you mix up bubble bath so it's all foamy, is it a solid, a liquid, or a gas?"

Don't answer too quickly!  Think about it.  I said, "It's a liquid, because if you poured the foam into a container, it would take on the shape of the container."

But, Supersim pointed out that you mixed it up right, you could scoop up pieces of the foam and they would retain their shape.  True.

She also reminded me that all those bubbles would make it a gas.  "No," I said, "Gas particles expand to fill the entire room.  Those bubbles are trapped in the foam."

"Until they pop!" she said.  "Then the gas in them expands to fill the entire room!"

A real live scientist would probably cringe at this conversation, since we're speculating about things that we don't really understand.  There is probably a scientific label for "bubble bath-type matter."  

But I LOVE that she's thinking about these things!  I love it when the kids pose questions that I can't answer, because it's a great opportunity to learn something together.  We'll keep you posted on the bubble bath controversy...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's a bit embarrassing...

to admit this, but my kiddos are learning how to tie their shoes.

Yes, I know.  YOU learned to tie shoes when you were three.  Or maybe, like one little boy I know, you clomped around in cowboy boots, even in the summer, until you started kindergarten.  Then you tied your shoes every day, and so did all the tiny, sweet-faced kids in your class.  As a parent, you had your children tie their shoes as soon as they had the dexterity to grasp those laces.

Well, some of us just didn't get around to teaching this until now.  We LOVED the convenience of velcro straps, or the awesome little bungee strings that sort of look like laces, but your kids don't even have to undo them to slide their feet in.  Get your shoes on, kids, we're leaving in one minute!  No problem!

So now, we are working on shoe-tying as a matter of necessity.  Because my kids have officially graduated into the shoe sizes that don't come with straps or bungees.  And it isn't sandal season yet.  Watching them learn this skill has really illustrated the differences between their learning styles.

Dudeman attacked his new shoes with determination.  He watched the demonstrations, repeated the step-by-step instructions, then set out on his own once he was able to say the steps in sequence.  Cross, bunny ears, circle the bunny ears, pull it through.  Over and over and over, even when he was really too tired and cranky to be practicing something frustrating.  I found his shoe on the bed in the morning--I think he was practicing until he just collapsed from exhaustion.

Supersim approaches things in a totally different way.  I don't know if I can do this, Mom.  I don't know if I'm ready for this, Mom.  Why can't they make strap shoes in bigger sizes!  Who invented laces in the first place!  This is stupid!  Then she quits trying.  But she isn't done learning.  Later, I spy her practicing the moves in the air.  Yes, in the air.  She's not ready to take on real laces, because she might fail.  This kid won't try over and over again.  She waits until she KNOWS she can do it.  Then she tries.

I guarantee, one day soon she will show me some beautifully tied laces, and she will have done it on her first try.  Meanwhile, Dudeman will continue to practice and mess up until he does it just right. Both kids will get it in their own time, they will just get their by completely different paths.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

Social Skills Soapbox

If I want my children to learn how to behave in a way that helps them navigate this world, it seems reasonable that I would want them to spend their time with people who set a good example.  I would want them to see people solve problems efficiently, settle their differences peacefully, and generally treat others with respect.  We call those abilities social skills, and children learn them by example.  

Unfortunately, children can also learn poor social skills by example.  My children are getting weary of spending most of their waking hours with a group of people who argue, curse,  insult, interrupt, throw tantrums, and exhibit complete disregard for the feelings of others.  I'm talking about their peers in the classroom, of course.  Even if my children don't start acting like their peers, they still suffer from the stress and inconvenience of spending their days with rude, disruptive kids.
I have spent many hours as a volunteer in the classroom, on field trips, and at after-school activities, and I'm amazed by the behavior problems I see.  Girls who dare each other to spank boys on the behind.  Boys who solve disagreements by yelling curses and insults.  Groups of kids who amuse themselves by taunting other groups.  Vulgar comments, rude gestures, deliberate exclusion, the list goes on and on.
You might say that my kids need to face these situations in order to learn how to handle them.  I disagree.  I don't let my kids put their hand in the fire to learn that it's hot, so why would I let them get teased and insulted to learn that it hurts?  I teach them to hold themselves to a higher standard.  I try to set an example of good behavior, and when we witness bad behavior, I point it out and talk about better ways to handle the situation.  

Why am I on my soapbox today? Well...

My kids participate in an extracurricular activity that they really enjoy.  But lately, they have been asking to drop out.  I was surprised that they wanted to quit, so I asked them why.  "Because of Todd."  Who is Todd?  "He's the one who steps on our feet on purpose, calls us names, and sticks his tongue out at the teacher."  

I wasn't about to let one mean kid ruin the activity for my kids.  So today, I stayed for the entire session and watched.   To be honest, most of the boys behaved so badly that at first I couldn't guess which one was Todd.  Of 16 kids, about half were able to sit and listen to the teacher's instructions.  The other half ran around the room.  When the teacher was finally able to get the group seated, many of the kids talked over her while she gave instructions.  Then, the same kids complained that they didn't understand what to do!

I found Todd when the teacher reprimanded him for talking and he stuck out his tongue at her.  Another time, he muttered under his breath and used his fist to mimic punching her.  And it turns out, he wasn't the only one ruining the experience for the others.  A girl wandered out of the room and started playing with equipment in the hallway.  When the teacher called her back in, she ran through the room shrieking and then lay down on the floor.  Another girl found this hilarious, so she lay down on the floor, too.  These two were asked to sit next to the teacher. Within minutes, they had found a way to disrupt by rolling on the floor and giggling.

Meanwhile, a boy and a girl pressed a notebook into another boy's face.  While the teacher dealt with that, the rest of the group lost their focus and began to leave their seats and mill around the room.
The children who were earnestly trying to participate (including mine) needed help, but the teacher was busy with discipline problems.  I felt myself wanting to help her but unsure if she wanted my help.  And if I did step in and help, what could I do?  Actually, I felt very sorry for her--she was trying to do something enriching and interesting with a group of children after school.  Half of her students were eager to learn.  The other half were (I suspect) signed up by their parents for an hour of after-school babysitting.  These kids were clearly not interested in the activity, so unfortunately, they spoiled it for everyone else.  

After the class, I asked my kids if it was always so chaotic.  "Yes."

If I sound judgmental in this post, it's only because I'm being judgmental!  I do recognize that kids can face some very stressful emotional issues that cause them to behave badly.  Divorce, an illness in a family, financial difficulties, even neglect or abuse--I have no way of knowing what these children live with at home.  So I don't judge the kids.  But I do judge the adults who are responsible for them!  

If your child is not ready to sit still in a seat and listen to instructions, don't sign him up for an activity that requires him to sit still in a seat and listen to instructions!  If he wants to run around, sign him up for track!  If your daughter would rather turn in circles making high-pitched noises than participate in a group activity, perhaps she should be in...I don't know, interpretive dance and opera lessons?  The point is, know your child, know what they are capable of, and choose their activities accordingly.  

Some kids are really wound up after a day of school, and they need physical activity.  If they don't want to play a sport, then go for a swim, or get them a pogo stick.  Chess club is probably not the answer.  Maybe your child really needs some quiet time alone to decompress.  An activity with other kids might be more than they can handle.  So, go straight home after school and put on some soft music or read a book together.  You should be tuned in with your child's personality so that you know what helps them settle down.
Now, my kids aren't perfect.  They can be loud.   Sometimes they argue.  Sometimes they interrupt.  They even stick out their tongues occasionally!  But they do have the social skills required for participating and learning from this particular enrichment activity.  We have practiced and prepared for it just by living daily life.  When we sit down and eat together, we gently remind them to be still.  During conversations, we point it out when they interrupt and we ask them to wait their turn.  They learned to be quiet by going to church, and they learned to be polite and respectful by spending time with others who are polite and respectful.

I'll step down off my soapbox now.  But I won't put it away yet.  I'm leading the kids' reading group tomorrow, and I have a feeling I'll be needing it.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Une jeune cavaliere balayee par les vents

Yesterday's crazy spring weather made me think of a long-forgotten lullabye:

Vent frais
Vent du matin
Vent qui souffle aux sommets des grands pins
Joie du vent qui passe
Allons dans le grand vent frais
Vent du matin...

I remember singing this to Supersim when she was tiny.

That tiny baby had a riding lesson today!  She is looking great and making so much progress.  

She did her usual serpentine warm up.  She went over a couple of poles at a walk, practicing keeping her horse in a very straight line.  Walking in a straight line may sound easy, but horses tend to amble from side to side (especially older lazy horses) so going perfectly straight can actually be challenging. 

Then she practiced the half-halt, which is what you use when you are trotting or cantering, and want to slow down to a walk.  You have to have good control of the horse during the walk-to-trot transition, and her horse wasn't taking direction well, so she directed him to halt and back up.  I don't know why, but horses HATE to back up.  So if a horse is feeling rebellious, you can usually keep them in line by stopping and backing up a few steps.  Basically, it's a gentle way of reminding the horse that you are the leader. 

The teacher stood in the center of the arena and had Supersim ride around the wall, changing speeds and/or directions at every letter.  "Now walk...now trot...now turn left...now turn around..." etc.  This is when you really need to direct the horse well, and Supersim did a wonderful job!   From my point of view, I couldn't even tell you what she does with the reins and what she says to the horse.  It's very subtle, but the horse understands and complies. Then her teacher asked her to practice small circles, then wider turns, and finally, the wide easy turns required for riding fast.  

Finally, Supersim did several laps around the arena at a trot.  When her teacher let her take the poles at a trot, she looked so focused, and she did it in perfect form.  She really does look graceful and natural when she posts, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mother!