Trudging onwards

Sometimes after a long day of running errands or teaching or volunteering and feeling like my cup is about drained, I think how nice it would be to drop activities, stay home, & focus on selfish desires.  Then I look at my daughter & how she has grown into this fine independent woman.  Afterwards I look at my sons & know they deserve nothing less than the same I gave the oldest.  Oh but how easy it would be to only focus on me & mine while dismissing all others.  How very culturally okay that would be perceived.  The thought deliciously crosses the mind, but for the sake of those still learning I know it is time to trudge on …
#ParentingIsExhausting

Coming up from behind

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As a parent sometimes our kids pleasantly surprise us.  Sometimes as parents we are even reminded to give our kids more credit. Tonight was one of those nights for me. Actually tonight I was starkly reminded that my teens are not clueless, life sucking creatures that never listen & always have to learn everything the hard way.

Okay, okay I’ve never really thought they were life sucking creatures, but I needed a good description to go with the picture. However, as any parent of a teen knows the other adjectives are actually fairly normal thoughts associated with raising a young adult, but it’s the whole raging hormone thing that is usually the culprit.

Tonight hormones can not be blamed for anything negative. That’s because they may have contributed to something positive.  They may have helped create  a competitive edge.

Two of my teens are attending a debate class. I’ve actually been a little concerned about their attention to detail level. Partially because many of the other parents know exactly what is going on at all times.  Plus partially because I know my teens.  Of course the reason their parents know everything is because they attend every single meeting with their children.   I on the other hand sit in my vehicle and quietly wait.  There’s three reasons for my seemingly uninterested attitude.  Number 1, I have my own homework to complete within the scope of my graduate studies.  Number 2, I don’t want my teens to think they have to have a parent with them at all times.  One of these days they will no loner be teens and I don’t want to be viewed as a pacifier.  Number 3 is kind of related to number 2, I simply want my teens to learn how to take notes and relay information to me about their needs.  If they do not responsibly and accurately take notes then they must suffer the consequences.  One of those consequences is embarrassment, another consequence could be a poor grade.  Both lessons teach a form of self responsibility that only a life lesson can teach, and believe me when I say that all of my teens have had to learn these lessons.

Thankfully tonight my teens did not learn any hard lessons.  Instead they excelled.  They attended their first debate tournament undefeated.  Although they did not receive enough points to win, I am still very proud of this first effort.  I was also impressed with how quickly they improved with each debate.  Oh, did I forget to mention that I did attend the tournament? Yeah, I will not attend their lessons, but I will always try to make it to their performances.  And what a performance!  In one debate, of this very traditional European parliamentary procedure, they were the government proposing to increase the use of new technology.  You know I would have thought iPads and computers would come into play, but they did not.  Instead this debate was boxed within a time period of revolutionary France and centered around medical technology.  It was clever and cheap at the same time.  The other team was at a total  loss for how to oppose such a proposal.

I have a feeling my history buff of a son who independently studies all things ancient French was probably responsible for proposing this topic.  Wow!  My teens have learned something and it’s not just entirely education related either.  They’ve learned how to take control and make a situation their own.  I’m impressed.

Recital triumph through trip-ups

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As a child I never really had the opportunity to learn music. Actually I was never able to connect on an educational or personal level with the music teachers in school or the community.

To be honest, our small town provided few opportunities. Plus my parents didn’t have the means to hunt around for a teacher who connected with my unique style. It’s not due to a lack of effort on my parents’ part. When I mentioned that I wanted to learn violin they not only rented an instrument, but also sent me to an inexpensive teacher. A Suzuki teacher. Even today I cringe at the rigidity of those lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this method works. It just did not work for me. Truthfully, I was so young & so resistant to the teacher that I honestly do not know if I quit due to my lack of practice & declining interest, the teacher, or due to the method in general.

However, despite my poor experience I still have an appreciation for music. I also have an appreciation for the educational benefits which music theory provides. This appreciation has been extended to my children.

Over the past 8 years I have spent countless hours encouraging my children to practice, learn, & love an instrument. Personally I don’t care which instrument, style of music, or method my kids learn just so long as they learn. The last thing I want to do is stifle their creative talent & interest by imposing my desires.

This lack of interest in expecting musical prodigies or “efficios” has actually caused a few raised eye brows. Seriously folks! All I want are teachers who are will to work with my children’s interests, know when to push or back off, & be willing to learn with my kids if need be. I do not expect the teachers to be knowledgeable in all things music, but I do expect them to be flexible. For example a violin teacher my daughter had was not familiar with fiddling, but because they had a good rapport the teacher was willing to learn also. She had instructed my daughter in classical for a couple of years so when my little girl had decided to switch to a more folksy sound the teacher was disappointed. Not because she disapproved, but because she wasn’t an expert & thought we would need to find a new teacher. Well nothing could have been further from the truth.

You see I believe that teachers do not have to be experts in everything. They just need to be expert mentors & learners. So I explained that I’d be willing to pay the normal rate if she was willing to learn along with my daughter. As a result their bond was stronger & my daughter saw first had that learning is a life long process.

This same expectation of flexibility has been applied to all of my children’s music teachers. It’s an expectation I’ve developed after being pushed around by a couple of early teachers. As a result I’ve received a few strange looks. Those looks grow even stranger when I explain that I also pay a week early & for missed lessons as long as it was due to my scheduling conflicts. After all, why punish the teacher for something we did? That just doesn’t make sense. Oh, & I almost forgot to mention that my kid gets to decide if the teacher is doing an adequate job. After all I’m not taking the lesson!

As a result I have three children who play what they love & they practice. My daughter is an adult now so she is currently self-taught. As a matter of fact if your a Scout who went through Philmont’s Ponil you may have met her. She’s a ray of Sunshine who improvs on the fiddle & guitar.

My two boys have played the trumpet, piano, drums, & guitar. Currently their interests are centered around the piano & the guitar. The oldest boy plays classical piano while my youngest play country guitar. The result has been a very interesting & joyful ensemble of practice sessions at home.

Tonight was as equally entertaining. The boys performed in a recital & they did it their way. One played & sung a country song while the other fingered his way through Cannon D, Pachelbel, from memory. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out the way my memory player thought it should. I thought he did very well (he certainly did better than I could). However he felt he could have performed better. Actually I think he simply realized that playing from memory at home & playing from memory to an audience is different. Despite a couple of mistakes I think his performance was grand. He persevered through the mistakes & he learned how to perform better the next time. In my book this makes his performance a success.

To put it simply….it’s not how well you perform initially….it’s how you perform overall.

Don’t why wait!  Do what I tell my kids….Play hard…play well!    Hmmmm….I think it’s time for me to do the same.

Finding passion

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One of the greatest things we can do for our children is to help them find their passions in life. Sure it would be easy to sit at home & watch television, or push book work in the hope of inspiring greatness at school, or force our kids to participate in our personal passions, but easy isn’t always right.

There is something to be said for encouraging our children to own what they do. One way to do this is to give up what you want & to let your children lead. In other words, let go of a little control. For example one of my sons loves to fence. He also enjoys exploring the old arts such as tanning his own deer hides & learning how to blacksmith. These are not interests of mine. Actually I find his interests to be messy & expensive, but I encourage him nonetheless. Really, how many moms would allow & yes encourage their children to store the heads of deer in the fridge just to ensure the brains don’t spoil before the tanning process can begin?

Why?

Because I believe that our children are uniquely individual & they are not perfect mirrors of their parents. These young ones which we have been blessed to raise are going to become their own people eventually anyway. So I feel that it is imperative to allow our children to explore their interests under the shelter of home. This way if something goes wrong they will have a safety net to bounce ideas from.

So tonight instead of working on my homework I’m watching my son play with swords. Okay, okay there’s more to it than that.

Tonight I’m supporting my very patient & methodical son learn a tactical sport which may or may not directly benefit him later.

Tonight I’m just a mom supporting her child.

In All Seriousness, We Really are Schooling

A strange phenomenon occurs when a parent decides to homeschool.  It is called the, “Oh you don’t work, so you must be available to do….”  For some reason, people seem to think that because a parent doesn’t work outside the home, that person must have time to babysit, run errands, volunteer and whatever else the so called busy working person doesn’t have time to perform.  It could be safe to imagine that most think that homeschooling parents sleep in every morning, wear pajamas all day, allow the kids to run around or watch TV and perhaps get in a couple of hours of lessons.  Well it is possible that a portion of that image is correct such as the sleeping in and pajama wearing.  It is true that if a person doesn’t have to go anywhere, there isn’t any reason to dress up.  Not true for all homeschoolers, but certainly true for this particular mom.  The other half truth is sleeping in every day.  It is something that occurs occasionally, but not as often as most people would like to believe.  After all, any self respecting homeschooler knows that the amount of hours over sleeping, equals the amount of time spent in the late afternoon and early evening finishing up school work. 

The rest of the assumption about homeschoolers mentioned above can be for the most part dismissed.  Perhaps, there are a minority of parents who disgracefully claim to homeschool, while using the television as the main source of education, but the majority of parents take their children’s education very seriously.  Which brings me back to the initial belief that parents who homeschool have all the time in the world to cater to other people’s needs and wants.  It amazes me when I am asked if I can run an errand, baby-sit or do some other chore that usually has no redeeming quality to the eduction of my children.  But what amazes me more is the shocked reaction when I declare that school comes first and all other activities come second.  After all, isn’t education the most important factor in our children’s lives?  This concept should be true whether a family decides to send their children to school or keep them home.   No parent should be made to feel guilty because of saying “No” when it benefits the education of children.  Instead, these parents should be looked upon as shining stars in our increasingly downward spiraling sense of soundness.

Unfortunately our “Me” culture can not seem to grasp the understanding that there are parents who homeschool for reasons other than for themselves.  Most people who school at home do so for the benefit of the children, which is usually the same reason people go into teaching at traditional institutions.  It is a shame that many do not have the capacity to understand that when a parent declares quality education over play time, it is for the future benefit of the child and not for the short term laziness of the parent.  Most stay at home educating parents would rather go, play and be with other adults.  However, those of us who have decided to make our life’s work our children, understand that when the kids leave as successfully educated adults we can finally run all those little errands and perhaps even have a little time to play.