Update On My Bread Baking Project

I’m long overdue to tell you how my bread baking project is going. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that after watching the documentary Cooked, I decided to try capturing my own wild yeast and learning how to bake bread with it. (See my column Capturing Wild Yeast.) Actually, I had been wanting to learn how to bake bread for a long time before that, but this was the motivation I needed to get me started.

How did it go?! Well, I captured the yeast, and I did learn how to bake bread with it. Over a matter of months, I made a lot of mistakes, but I got better at it. I finally figured out how I often and how much I needed to feed the yeast to make it really active and capable of making bread rise.

Opps. There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to baking bread, especially with a sourdough culture.

Some of it was quite tasty too. My husband enjoyed every loaf I made, but unfortunately, my boys didn’t care for the bread that was made with the sourdough culture (i.e., the wild yeast). And to be honest, I didn’t always love the bread either. After awhile, I started to wonder if it was the sourdough flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

My first really good loaf with the sourdough culture: Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. It was delicious!

I experimented quite a bit. When I had a hard time getting the bread to rise, I tried using part sourdough culture and part store-bought yeast (dry active yeast). That worked well. I also tried just using store-bought yeast so that I could compare the results.

Oh boy. The bread with the store-bought yeast was sooooooo delicious. And it was sooooooo easy to make. AND, my boys loved it!

Even though it might not have as many health benefits, it was a no brainer for me to ditch the sourdough culture and keep using the store-bought yeast for now. Using the wild yeast was a lot of fun, but it’s very time consuming, and it was very hard to plan when I was going to bake bread. We get very busy, and I don’t always know what we’re going to be doing on any given day, so having to prepare the culture two days in advance is not practical for me right now. It’s much nicer to wake up and think, “I feel like baking bread today” and have the whole process done in half a day.

One of my experiments. Using store-bought yeast, I made two loaves. One of them had a single rise (left), and the other a second rise (right). Conclusion: It’s worth it to do a second rise.

I may attempt using a sourdough culture in the future because it was fun. I’d be curious to see if a new culture (one that I’d know exactly how to care for from the get-go) would taste different, and/or I wouldn’t mind buying a kit with the San Francisco sourdough culture, which is so famous for its taste. But that will be far in the future when I’m not so busy homeschooling.

Ultimately, I feel my project was a huge success! The bottom line is that I wanted to learn how to bake homemade bread, and I have learned how to do that. Now I’m teaching my boys how to bake bread, and that makes me very happy too.

And even better, we have wonderful bread to eat!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (at the nine-year-old’s request) and a regular loaf. Yum Yum.

Project-based Homeschooling: Piano

If you told me a year ago that my son would be taking piano lessons now, and not only that, but he would be showing talent, dedication and a deep interest in classical music, you could have knocked me over with a feather. This has been the most surprising development in our homeschool for me, and I am not sure when I’ll ever get used to it. As I wrote on the home/school/life blog, I thought music would be one of those gaps in our boys’ education.

(Note: After writing this post, I remembered this post: Music Appreciation with Beethoven. How could I have forgotten the year and a half he was obsessed with Beethoven’s 9th symphony?! I suppose music has always been with him, but it remained quiet for a while.)

I have to hand it to my husband when it comes to fostering my son’s love of music and encouraging him to continue. While my husband doesn’t play an instrument, he loves listening to all kinds of music and has much more knowledge about it than I do.

A while back, I wrote a post titled The Power of Time and Materials, which is my plea to parents that in order to mentor your children and find their deep interests, you must first provide them with the time and the proper tools. I referred to a good space to work in that’s located in the heart of your home, good materials such as quality art supplies, a good stash of recyclables, and time spent creating with these items. I would, of course, extend this to other areas of learning, if it were in the family’s budget.

Little did I know that my husband would naturally go with this line of thinking when it came to my son’s piano practice. When my son expressed interest in taking piano lessons, my husband spent time researching what kind of keyboard my son would need to practice on. (Granted, “research” is my historian-husband’s middle name!) At that point, we bought a digital keyboard with weighted keys, and we found a piano teacher nearby to begin lessons. We told each other that we’d be happy if our son kept taking lessons for a full year because we both agreed that music education is a part of a well-rounded education.

But our son loved taking lessons, and he loved practicing. He also seemed to have a natural talent for knowing where to place his fingers….I mean, I would have to spend a year memorizing the notes, the letters, and where to put each finger! I have never been musically inclined. But my son seemed to get the piano easily, much like my mother did, though she didn’t play piano seriously. I guess the talent skipped a generation!

Meanwhile, my husband continued reading about the piano industry, proper piano playing technique, and what you need to do, if you’re a serious piano student. One of the best resources he has found are the videos created by Robert Estrin on YouTube.

(I should note that in project-based homeschooling, it’s more proper to let the child do the research, if they want to. If they are motivated, then they will continue to learn about what interests them, and they’ll do it at a pace and level appropriate to them. We don’t always go along with this line of thinking. To be a classical pianist, you have to start early and do it the right way, and there is no way that at nine-years-old, our son would even think about these things. In his other projects, it didn’t matter so much, but in this case, we need to be pro-active and guide him. We still, however, give him the option to stop playing piano, if he changes his mind about it. I would never push my child to do something unless he seemed pretty motivated to do it. There is a big difference, in my opinion, about pushing a child through a temporary lag and pushing a child who isn’t interested at all!)

As time went on, my son showed us that he could advance quickly through the material. His teacher told me that in her 20+ years of teaching piano, she never had a student move as quickly as my son.

I’m not saying he’s a genius at piano. Far from it. It doesn’t all come easy to him (of course). There are times when he’s tired and would rather not practice. As with anything a person pursues, there are ups and downs. But he continues to say he wants to play piano, and he’s striving to play the hard stuff. We realize he has the potential to take this very far, if he wants to, so we feel we need to give him the right tools and opportunities.

I think what also motivates him is our support. My husband or I (and many times both) sit with him while he practices twice a day. Each practice has been anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour (and now getting longer), so it’s a huge commitment on our part. We love doing it, but it takes a huge chunk of our day. We also help him find music to listen to online, listen with him, read about composers, etc. (Again, I credit my husband with doing most of this.) Basically, we’re as excited about music as he is. 

And not only that, but because he progressed much quicker than expected, we advanced to an upright piano, and it wasn’t long after that that we traded it in for a grand piano. When we were shopping for the grand piano, we also met a teacher whose knowledge and focus were in line with the goals my son has, and when this teacher offered to teach our son, we felt we couldn’t pass up the offer. I’m sure plenty of people think we’re crazy, but they don’t know our son like we do.

I told my son that DISCIPLINE is when you have a goal and you work to get that goal even when you don’t feel like it. I told him he has discipline, and I’m very proud of him for that!

Through my husband’s research, we’ve learned that if our son ever decides to pursue a career in music, it’s essential that he starts very young and does it right. He’ll be competing against the best pianists that started playing at much earlier ages. Some of them are already well ahead of him. So, we encourage him to keep going because we see a talent and potential, and because of that, we know he might pick this as his career when he gets older and more mature. We don’t want to think that we didn’t do everything we could to help him, if he does.

Of course, we’re fine if he doesn’t pick music as a career. After all, music is a difficult career path, and most musicians make little money. But there are many ways to use music in one’s life, and there are other careers that a musical training can lead to. If nothing else, it will enrich his life and connect him to other people. This makes me happy.

A big part of project-based homeschooling is observing your child to see where he puts his energy. This is because sometimes actions speak louder than words. So with this in mind, here are some other ways we know music has become a deep interest to our son:

  • He loves watching classical music on television. He’s watched countless classical music videos on YouTube. With his father, he is slowly watching the entire 2015 Tchaikovsky piano competition This is at his request.
  • He doesn’t seem to mind hearing about the tidbits his father learns in his research on music and piano playing. (Which is quite remarkable, if you ask me!)
  • Most of all, in the last few months, my husband and I have started taking turns taking him to the free classical concerts at two nearby universities. He’s been to 10 this year! Faculty and student recitals are always free and open to the public, and some of the other concerts put on by the university are very inexpensive. Watching my son’s eyes sparkle with excitement whenever we go to a concert is such a joy, and a great testament to his love of this music. I mean, how many kids would be patient enough to sit through classical concerts?!
A selfie we took at a concert.

This has been a long post, so thank you if you’ve taken the time to read the whole thing! I am always so happy to hear your thoughts and learn about the activities your children are doing. Please leave a comment, if you have a moment.

Thank you, Wild Republic

Something really neat happened to the six-year-old this week.

As I’ve mentioned before, he loves birds, and he has a huge collection of Audubon birds — those stuffed birds that make the real bird sound when you squeeze them. He was saying he wished he could get a golden-crowned kinglet because that’s his favorite bird, and they didn’t seem to make one.

My husband suggested that he write to the company and ask them if they could make a golden-crowned kinglet. Well, six-year-old liked that idea, so one day, he and I sat down, and I wrote out a letter for him. He told me what I should say, and then I had him sign the letter. We also included a photo of him with his bird collection and a picture of a golden-crowned kinglet.

About two weeks later, he received a package in the mail. I thought the company might write back, but we weren’t expecting two new complimentary birds — a great blue heron and downy woodpecker! They also wrote and said they would keep his suggestion in mind as they are always expanding their collection.

It really made our day! The six-year-old was so thrilled to have two new, beautiful birds to add to his collection, and I greatly appreciate Wild Republic for their generosity.

Here’s the letter we sent:

Waiting for Brother

An evening I’ll fondly remember when the boys are grown.

This little guy will sigh and ask, “How much more does he have to play?” Older brother used to have more time to play, and quite honestly, he still has lots of time to play, but that doesn’t make it any easier for a six-year-old to wait patiently through an hour (sometimes hour+!) of piano playing twice a day. And he needs to remain somewhat quiet.

But he’s so good. And really, he is patient. He steals my heart.

He used to sit on the floor playing with his dinosaurs, and while a little noise doesn’t hurt, the banging and roaring of dinosaurs was a little too much. So then he began to draw on the art app on our iPad while his brother played piano. After months of that, he grew tired of it, so he moved on to other things. When the weather warmed up, he decided he’d  go outside to swing and play with our dog, and he still does that often. Sometimes he sits in the kitchen and looks over our Calvin and Hobbes books. Sometimes he just curls up with me on the sofa and waits.

Sigh. “When’s he gonna be done?” (After the first piano practice, the boys get to play games on their digital devices, so it’s especially difficult to wait for that.) But he does.

I was kind of sad when he stopped drawing because for the last few years, he loved drawing and coloring, and he often occupied himself doing this. But then he stopped, and I wondered if that interest was fading.

But the other day I suggested we color together in his bird coloring book. (I had suggested it in the past, but he always said no.) This day, he said yes, and ever since, he’s been coloring in that book on his own every time big brother plays piano. I snapped this photo the other night because I wanted to remember the moment, and I love his expression as he colors. He takes his work very seriously, as you can see.🙂

I love this photo also because it nicely wraps up the boys main interests right now: for the nine-year-old, piano, and for the six-year-old, drawing/coloring and birds.

I know someday they may move onto other things, but I hope not. I hope whatever they choose to do with their lives, they’ll always love classical music, and they’ll always love birds. And maybe the six-year-old will continue drawing too, even just for fun.

Today, the six-year-old brought me his coloring book to show me which birds he had colored, and he told me that for now on, he would color in it while his brother plays piano. Then he hugged the book to his chest and said, “I love this.”  He steals my heart.

(And then I went and ordered two more bird coloring books.)

On Becoming a Birder

20160115_114140My six-year-old’s painting of a yellow-bellied sapsucker. My six-year-old loves birds, and because of that, it’s become an interest for the whole family. We watch them, identify them, draw them and paint them. It’s a great project!

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 3, 2016.

I’ve always liked birds, but it wasn’t until my youngest son became enamored with them that I started to pay more attention to them. Children have a way of making the world new and exciting for you, and what’s more, they teach you how to relax, if you let them. Birding is not only infectious, it takes you away from all your troubles.

Now everyone in my house is a “birder,” and for me, I think this hobby will outlast my son’s interest in it. But you never know – he may never lose interest in the birds either. Birds are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures to watch, and I’ve learned that we get quite a variety of birds in our wooded subdivision.

Some of the most familiar birds I already knew the names of – cardinals, bluebirds, blue jays, tufted titmice, and Carolina wrens. Carolina wrens are small brown birds, but they aren’t like the sparrows you might find in the grocery store parking lot. They are a reddish brown, and whenever I hear birdsong in the morning, it’s usually a wren signaling to the other birds right outside my window.

When I hear the wren, I know it’s time to get the binoculars. On more than one occasion, if a wren is outside, other birds soon follow. Cardinals might appear in the tree, and as the male watches, the female will fly to the ground to forage on seeds in my flower garden. The tufted titmice might arrive to forage on the ground too.

These are birds that we see here year-round, but lately I’ve seen some winter visitors too. My whole family was thrilled to find a pair of golden-crowned kinglets in the yard one day because that’s one of my six-year-old’s favorite birds. He thinks it’s so cute that when we came across its picture in our bird app, he wanted to have a picture of it on his bedroom wall.

The male golden-crowned kinglet has a bright yellow and orange stripe on the top of its head. The female looks exactly the same except her stripe is yellow minus the orange. It’s a very small bird, almost as small as a chickadee, and it never stops moving, so it’s hard to spot without binoculars.

We also spotted what we think is a pine warbler. It doesn’t come through our yard often, but when it does, it gives us a welcome splash of color because its feathers are a beautiful greenish-yellow. The phoebe is much more plain with its brown and pale white feathers, but it’s still an elegant bird. It gets its name from the sound it makes: “FEE-bee!”

Very occasionally, we get to spy woodpeckers. We’ve seen downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and once, long ago, a pileated woodpecker, which is very big and gorgeous. Most recently we’ve discovered that a yellow-bellied sapsucker has claimed one of the trees in our backyard as a regular feeding station.

Larger birds do travel through our area, but we rarely see them in our yard. Once when I woke up my eldest son in the morning, we looked out his window to see a red-tailed hawk sitting in a nearby tree! My husband has taken our dogs outside during the night and heard owls, and once he heard something large take off from the ground in our backyard, but it was too dark to see much.

There was one night my husband heard a pair of owls, and he quickly woke up my eldest son. They stood on the back deck for several minutes and listened as two great horned owls spoke to each other from either side of the woods.

We so easily forget that the wilderness is right in our backyard. We’re lucky to glimpse the flash of a wing or hear their elusive calls, but as my sons have taught me, if I take just a few minutes each day to pay attention, I am always delighted by what I find.

If you like watching birds, you might enjoy participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a citizen science project which asks you to count the birds you see for just 15 minutes over the weekend of February 12-15th. (It starts today!)

Making Time for Project-based Homeschooling

Projects and creativity are a natural part of a child’s life. They can be big or small. They may last a few minutes or many years.

Project-based homeschooling seems to be changing for us, and on one hand, it’s made me feel like I’m not doing it right, but as I sit here writing, which is how I work things out in my brain, I realize maybe it’s just growing and looking different as my child grows. If you read my last post, How do you balance supporting your child’s interests while also achieving the academic goals they need?, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with balancing our academic goals with his many interests. This is a follow-up to that.

It was very easy to see how building the titanic and a rocket and learning about carnivorous plants and everything else my son has done is project-based homeschooling. They had a clear starting point and ending point, though occasionally he goes back to those subjects, adding more to his knowledge. That is how I felt a project should be. It should be something I have to make time for in the mornings when I’m available and alert, and it’s something I need to actively be helping my son with.

But now I realize there are many things going on that could look like projects, and we are indeed supporting them in many ways. I’m just not as hands-on anymore, and many projects have become part of our daily or weekly routine, which is ideal, when I stop to think about it.

  • My son has always been interested in science, and I guess you could say we’ve done lots of things to support this interest. There is no beginning or end to it. Now he’s interested in learning about engineering, especially robotics. Aside from buying him a robot, we’ve been able to support that by enrolling him in some nearby classes. He’s taken some STEM Club classes, a robotics summer camp, and right now, he’s taking a homeschool Chemical Engineering class, which he loves.
  • He likes working with clay, and we still do that at home on occasion with air-dry modeling clay. But now my son has taken several classes at a local pottery studio, and he can’t really work at the same level at home as he can at the studio. So this project depends mostly on our budget – when we can afford to let him take another class.
  • He is also taking piano lessons once a week, and he practices twice a day. This has become part of our daily routine so much that I tend to forget that it’s my son’s major interest right now, i.e. his project. My husband and I usually make time to sit down and be his audience, and we try to help by telling him when it sounds good, or if we notice a mistake. Our son seems to like the attention and feedback. We also watch a lot of YouTube videos of the songs he’s playing, which he requests so that he can get to know the music, and in the evenings right before bed, my son is watching pianists compete in the Tchaikovsky Competition with his father. His dad started watching it for his own pleasure, but my son wants and asks to watch it too! (You can watch the latest performances online.)
  • My younger son’s major interest seems to be birds (and dinosaurs), but as with anything, his active engagement comes and goes. Mostly, he just likes playing with his toy birds. He’s not so interested in the books about birds, though we’ve looked at a few, and he’s stopped wanting to look at the bird app every night, which he wanted to do for months. I asked him if he’d like for me to sew him a little toy bird, and he was very excited about that, so we did that, and he helped as much as he could. He hung them on our Christmas tree. We’re also planning to go out looking for real birds whenever we can, but that’s something we have to work into the whole family’s schedule.

So, my sons definitely have projects. But I worry that by having such a busy schedule….the lessons and the classes, I am not giving my children enough time for more spontaneous work. Would they dig deeper, if we had more time? Well, right now, we just don’t have the time, but now that I’ve written about everything we are doing, it doesn’t look so bleak. Right now I’m realizing:

  • As for spur-of-the-moment projects and crafts that my older son used to do frequently, I can’t say I’m surprised he’s doing that less when he’s working so diligently on several interests through classes and lessons.
  • I also can’t forget that my younger son still likes to draw and color a lot. Lately he has been drawing a lot in an art app on the iPad while my older son is practicing piano! It hasn’t evolved much more than that, despite my attempts, but at six-years-old, he’s working right at his level. He mostly likes to draw dragons or prehistoric animals that are either real or made-up.
  • My older son will sometimes draw because his younger brother is drawing. When we took a break from homeschooling while my in-laws were visiting, he did a little building project too. So it does happen; it’s just not scheduled. It’s not anything I need to help with…that’s not a bad thing!
  • And before I forget, the most important time of the day to my boys is their tablet time. They get about 1 to 1.5 hours a day to play on their tablets together. Most of the time, they are collaborating on building projects in Minecraft. Throughout the rest of the day, they spend about 50% of their time discussing their plans for what they are going to build on Minecraft and another 10% of their time telling me about Minecraft. There are days when I wish they wouldn’t care so much about screen time, but gosh, I’m forgetting how much they are getting out of it, how interactive they are while playing side-by-side, and how educational most of their games are. This is important to them, so I’m glad I honor it as part of our daily routine.

Our Project-based Calendar. An imperfect solution.

Finally, I’m going to share something I came up with to help me make sure I gave those random projects – not just the ones that are part of our routine now – a chance to come to fruition.

Every month I print out a blank calendar from my computer’s calendar. (I do this in iCal by unclicking all my “calendars.” This makes the master calendar blank. Then I print it.) You could use any calendar though, and you can even print calendar pages from the web.

I keep the monthly calendar page on a clipboard on the table where we do our lessons. At the beginning of the month, I fill out the calendar with any appointments that the boys or I have. Right now, we have appointments three days a week, which only gives me three other days (including Saturday) to do lessons with the boys. So I haven’t designated any day as “project day” because there isn’t much time, and as I mentioned above, most of their interests are part of our daily routine, or either they are taking outside courses, which is on the calendar.

Every Monday morning, I show the calendar to the boys, tell them what appointments we have that week, and I ask them if they have anything they want to work on. If they do, we pencil it in on the calendar. I’ll even offer to skip a day of lessons, if they have something they want to work on.

I call this imperfect because so far this year, the boys haven’t had much they want to do. Either that, or if they do have an idea, by the time the scheduled project time comes around, they aren’t interested anymore. Still, it has worked a few times, and if they are really interested in doing something, they do follow through. Mostly I’ve been prudent enough to make project day that very day – Monday – so as not to lose momentum in their enthusiasm.

So as you can see, I am starting to learn that project-based homeschooling can look differently as my child grows and becomes more independent and capable of working on his projects without my direct assistance!

This and my last post are very long posts, so if you’ve made it this far, I thank you! How have you made time for your child’s interests and balanced that with their academic lessons?

How do you balance supporting your child’s interests while also achieving the academic goals you believe they need?

One of the main reasons I began homeschooling was so I could support my children’s interests. We all learn better and retain information when we are engaged with what we’re doing and we want to learn the subject. I have never seen much point in forcing kids to keep learning about things they aren’t interested in (notice I didn’t say to not teach at all) or forcing children to learn subjects they are not developmentally ready for.

Yet as my son turns nine-years-old, I find myself teaching him more and more, and it’s not just because he’s getting older, and I don’t want him to get behind… I admit that’s partly it. (After all, I never planned to unschool him.) But now I see a more important reason for teaching him. It’s from observing my son and supporting his interests these past few years – key components in project-based homeschooling – that I find myself doing more directed learning with him. I know that sounds contradictory. Let me explain.

There are some career paths in which my husband and I feel it is not necessary to go to college, so we are not opposed to a different path, if that turns out to be in our child’s best interest, but we feel college is still going to give young people the best options in the long run. Most importantly, our eldest son’s interests, if he keeps them, will probably lead him to college.

As a conscientious parent who spends considerable time observing, talking with, and supporting my son’s interests, I have found that he is going down a certain path that I can further support by making sure he is solid in his academic subjects, especially math and science.

***

When I was a child, I wrote poetry. I played with my stuffed animals, and I enjoyed reading books. When I was ten, I said I wanted to be a writer, and I never changed my mind. I’ll also add that I always hated math, didn’t like science, and avoided all those classes as much as I could. Sadly, if I had been introduced to them differently, my appreciation for those subjects might have been different, but I digress.

If I had a child like me, I would be homeschooling much the same way, although my child’s interests would probably make us sit on the sofa reading books more than we are now. I would supply my child with lots of paper, pens, and pretty journals. I would take more dictation. I would want to give my child many different experiences, just as I’m doing with my boys now, but those experiences might look a little different. Maybe we’d be going to more theatre and story times and author readings than science classes. It would depend on what peaked my child’s interest the most.

***

In contrast, my son loves working with his hands. Whether it’s Legos or clay, he’s a natural builder, and now he’s playing the piano too. He also absorbs information about nature and animals like a sponge. He’s always seeking more information on these subjects. Though I read literature and poetry to him, he has only a mild interest in these subjects. He is also not the athletic type. He enjoys classes in which he learns something. He likes listening. He also likes teaching others. My mother-in-law says he’s a little professor.

In the course of his short life, my son has said he wants to be a “snake scientist,” “scientist,” and now “engineer,” specifically a “bio-engineer.” He also decided he wanted to take piano lessons, and he’s doing much better than we ever imagined he would. As many of you know, music uses many of the same skills as you would use in math.

We don’t care what our son chooses to do with his life as long as he continues to love learning and becomes a productive citizen who can make a living. Most kids love dinosaurs and robotics and similar things that my son likes, so he’s probably going to add many more possibilities to finish the statement “I want to be _______” before he becomes an adult.

But there’s a good chance he will go into some kind of STEM career, and if that’s the case, I don’t want to fail him by not teaching him the skills that will help him get into the best programs available. Even if he veers off this course and picks music instead, I would feel the same.

(Let me add here that I’m talking about my eldest son. He has always had a vision for his life. If you ask my younger son what he wants to be when he grows up, he’d say, “I have no idea!” which I love because of course it’s hard to know at such a young age. But my eldest son is more like his father and me, who both had clear intentions early in life.)

***

This is why math is a priority this year even though it’s not his favorite subject (although he does like our Life of Fred curriculum). We will also work on the other academic subjects because all of it is important, if he is college bound.

We are also willing to sacrifice some luxuries in order to put him into classes that support his interests. He takes piano lessons, and occasionally he takes pottery classes. This year, we were lucky enough to find some homeschool classes that will introduce him to the different fields of engineering. If he says he wants to become an engineer, he needs to learn more about it so that he can make an informed decision someday.

I will interject here and add that I wonder, if I had been given more guidance into what it takes to become a writer, would I have stuck with that plan? Giving children a chance to explore their interests at a young age can help them learn earlier what their limits are, what they are willing to sacrifice for, and therefore help them make wiser decisions as they choose their vocations. This doesn’t mean they’ll always make the right decisions, but I don’t believe traditional school helps children learn about the real world or their chosen vocation like it should.

***

But this leaves me in a place where I find it sometimes difficult to balance his immediate desires with my desire to instruct. As I make my child study math and become a more competent writer and reader, I am often tempted when the going gets tough to cut our lessons short and let him play because I know that has great value for a child. Other times I find myself pushing too hard, causing tears, and my husband comes down from his upstairs office and takes over, making the lesson funny and light, and I think, “Why couldn’t I have done that?”

Homeschooling is hard, folks.

But it’s also flexible, and I’m re-learning why I chose this lifestyle. Because we can go slow. We don’t have to do it the same way they do it at school. I can try different things. We can take a break. I have my husband to thank for reminding me of that.

With the holiday season upon us, I’m going to go slower and begin emphasizing the things that are most important to me – creativity, nature, books. It’s a good time to take a break from the harder stuff.

I don’t know if I have it right. Striking the right balance is hard, and sometimes there is no balance. I will keep observing my son, and I will try to make sure he learns what he needs to know so that he’ll have plenty of good options when he becomes an adult. But I’m going to try different speeds and sometimes different resources until I get it as close to right as I can. Learning can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be torture.

 

Stay tuned. I’m going to write about how I am trying – though not always well – to make time for my children’s projects in an upcoming post.