Socialization

What’s the first question people have when they find out you’re homeschooling?

“What about socialization?”

There is a wealth of social interactions just within your family that I truly believe is enough for kindergarten- and under-aged kids.

If you're homeschooling your kids, how will they be socialized?

Think about it! When your kid grabs a knife and you don’t want him to have it, how do you model this interaction?

(Toddler translation: That kid has my ball and I want it back. I will do what I see mommy do when she wants something back from me). Do you snatch it away from him, or do you calmly ask him to give it to you with an open hand?

He will be socialized by your responses to him, and when he does get a chance to be with other kids, he will do what you’ve modeled.

This works negatively as well. Ask me how I know.

When you want him to put on his pajamas and he doesn’t want to, how do you get him to cooperate?

(Toddler translation: I want to play superheroes a certain way and that kid isn’t doing it my way. I will do what I see mommy do when she wants me to do it her way).

And once you bring a sibling to the mix, your big brother will know the rules and the baby won’t. How will he enforce those rules? (Toddler translation: The baby just threw my cup on the floor. I will do what I see mommy do when I break the rules.)

There! Socialization!

Modeling works really well and it works all the time. Watching my oldest imitate my behavior on his younger brothers has been like looking into an extremely unflattering mirror at the fun house.

Thanks to that uncomfortable lesson, I began reading everything I could get my hands on regarding positive parenting. My favorites:

The last one, the unschooling book, really helped change my perspective. I began to see my kids as people with legitimate desires–as legitimate as my own. That doesn’t mean I always give in, but it means I’ve started collaborating with them on our daily life plan, rather than just planning a scientifically-approved, developmentally appropriate queue of activities.

It’s a small detail, but a major distinction. Are you planning wholesome healthy activities for your kids, using your super-smart, all-knowing adult brain? Or are you looking at the person in front of you, and taking them into account? Is catching geckos less valuable than making crafts? What about watching YouTube videos about geckos?

I know you want to try that cute paper plate cow face craft on Pinterest, but what is that small person really into?

In terms of socialization, this distinction is huge. At school, kids are learning to follow directions (important in many instances, not saying it isn’t). But that’s not really learning how to socialize with others, or how to collaborate.

If home life is a series of commands and star charts and bedtimes and get-up times, then no, that’s not really socialization, unless you’re socializing them for the military.

When’s the last time you met someone and thought, “Now there’s a well-socialized person!” Are you sure those traits were learned in school?

What does it mean to be well-socialized? What do well-socialized people do? No really, I’m asking. Let me know in the comments!

If you're homeschooling, how can you be sure your kids will be well-socialized?

 

 

I told a story! Getting my feet wet in homeschooling

I’ve been looking into different homeschooling methodologies, from unschooling to Montessori to Waldorf to conventional public school at home.

choosing waldorf homeschooling

After deciding and changing my mind a few times, I’ve settled on Waldorf, and spent money on a curriculum and mom-training to really cement my commitment.

Waldorf concentrates on art, creativity, and storytelling, and delays formal academic instruction until 1st grade, which begins when the child will be 7 for most of the school year.

For us, that means that Leon will start the final year of kindergarten next year, and Peter and Phillip will start K1 next year. Honestly, I’ll probably just do K2 for everybody.

You want me to do what?

My first task as a Waldorf mom is learning how to tell a story by heart. (There’s a phrase I haven’t used since I was a kid. Memorization just sounds so clinical. By heart is definitely more apt for story-telling).

I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I’m so used to reading stories. But after reading Waldorf training all day, I found myself in the car with a few squirrely boys.

I launched into a retelling of the Giant Turnip. I’ll give a quick summary: A man plants turnip seeds (we changed it to carrot) and prays for an extra big harvest. When they finally germinate, only one came up, but it was the biggest carrot anyone had ever seen. When it was time to harvest, it was as big as a house.

Leon hates when I sing, which I love to do, so that’s unfortunate, so I wasn’t expecting him to listen to my story. But I was thrilled to discover that I had his rapt attention at this point. This is especially important since the others follow whatever he wants to do.

So now the boys had settled down and were listening closely.

The man pulled and pulled on the carrot, but he couldn’t pull it out. So he called for his wife. They pulled and pulled, but it didn’t come out. So they called for their son, Leon. Leon pulled on Mommy (changed it up here), who pulled on Daddy, but it still wouldn’t come up. I think you can imagine what happens next. One by one, we called Peter, then Phillip, then Ryan, and finally Rosie.

Here Leon interjected.

“Mama! Que Rosie la rompe con sus dientes!”

“Ooh, good idea Leon!” So along came Rosie and she dug with her claws and gnashed with her teeth and chopped the carrot up into pieces. Then we all put the pieces into the wheelbarrow and made carrot soup.

At this point we had arrived at our destination and we happily disembarked.

Success!!

Wow! It was an encouraging start to this homeschooling journey.

I learned that I can tell stories. I learned that story-telling is fun, creative, engaging, and the pace can be perfectly calibrated so that we finish just as we need to.

I think storytelling will be incredibly beneficial to my boys. They are less eloquent than other children their age and produce very little English (most of their speech is in Spanish, though they understand English).

I think this concentration on storytelling will be help boost their English prowess. And I’m looking forward to a bit of storytelling therapy, where I can help impart wisdom to get them through the struggles of their days through a fun story whose characters they identify with.

How to teach Kids Problem-solving

Today Leon and Peter had a disagreement about a rake. The boys had new plastic buckets and corresponding plastic shovels and rakes. I watched the three of them play in a tight circle, raking and scooping dirt into their buckets.

Suddenly, Leon began glaring at Peter, and Peter slowly backed away and sat alone behind the park structure. Leon kept saying that Peter had broken his rake.  Carlos and I didn’t really see what had happened. Carlos thought maybe Leon had taken Peter’s rake and remembered where another rake was. He went to get it and gave it to Peter.

Peter revived, but now Leon was very upset. He began to cry and said “Peter broke my rake”. He clearly wanted the nice rake that Carlos had just given to Peter and felt he deserved it since Peter had broken his rake.

Peter was sitting on my lap at this point, and Leon approached us, furiously glaring at Peter. He stared at Peter, with one hand clenched tightly in a fist.

I knew I had to intervene because Leon looked like he about to attack Peter. I put into action the skills I’ve been learning from How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 (affiliate link, at no extra cost to you).

“Leon, you look upset”.

Leon: [silently glaring at Peter, gives no response]

Me: “Are you mad because Peter broke your rake?”

Leon: [nods his head]

Me: “You want Peter to give you his nice new rake because he broke your rake?”

Leon: [nods his head, still glaring]

Me: “Peter, Leon wants you to give him your rake because he’s mad you broke his. Do you want to give him your rake?”

Peter: [shakes his head no]

Me: “Can you think of another way to make him happy since you broke his rake?”

Peter: [shakes his head no]

I keep repeating variations on the same questions. Observing (“Leon, you look upset”). Brainstorming (“Hmm, what can we do?”) I’m trying to give them the words so that one day they can resolve conflict on their own. How many times have you seen kids that immediately run to the nearest adult whenever a disagreement arises?

I’m purposely not judging or making the decision for them. I could just demand, “Peter, give him your rake” or “Leon, this is Peter’s rake, leave him alone”, but I want them to learn how to do this.

We’re at an impasse, and I’m running out of different ways to say the same thing. I’m totally out of ideas and wondering how long I can keep this up. Suddenly, with no warning, Leon runs off and grabs a shovel. He presents it to Peter, and Peter hands him the rake.

Wow! Problem-solved! Good work boys! They immediately ran off together and finished the important work of scratching in the dirt.

Preparing for homeschooling, Montessori-style: teaching my kids to work in their own space

Now that I’ve decided I’m going to homeschool, I need to think about how we’ll homeschool. I’ve always been drawn to Montessori. When I was a teacher in a conventional primary school, I incorporated as much Montessori philosophy as I was able to within the constrains of the environment.

In a Montessori school, kids work independently. They choose what they want to work on. They get materials out of storage on their own, work, and put the materials back when they’re finished.

We have a storage cupboard where things are easily accessible to the boys. But we were missing one crucial element: a way to teach the boys not to interrupt each others’ work.

Enter Montessori! They use mats. Each student rolls out a mat on the floor and does their work on their mat. The mat forms a clear boundary that keeps the working student in their space and other students out of their space.

This is huge! They actually worked quietly and independently in their own space. There was no whining because someone grabbed someone else’s piece. They were are all able to focus and do deep work. Even the baby!


This gives me hope that we’ll be able to pull this off. I’m looking forward to gathering materials, creating our environment that’s child-accessible, and creating the culture that will allow everyone to work side-by-side without frustration.

 

Disclaimer: both before AND after this idyllic Montessori-inspired work-time, I had major mom tantrums. It’s a work in progress.

Child-led learning lets kids learn what they want to learn

As a teacher, and now a mother, and now a mother considering homeschooling, I try to let my kids explore learning on their terms. Since I’ve started considering homeschooling, I’ve been pondering how to support my kids as they explore their passions.

kids learn through imitation

Since their dad is a mason, they’re fascinated by all things masonry: block, cement, building. They spend a lot of time around construction sites and construction materials.

child walking on house in construction

They see the albañiles breaking block with a hammer to fit into a specific space. So naturally they wanted to try it.

child playing with block and making pretend cement

They see the crew adding water to gravel, sand, and cement to make a mezcla, so naturally they wanted to try that.

child playing with block and making pretend cement

And they see the men laying cement on block and pegando block, so they explored that.

child playing with block and making pretend cement

child playing with block and making pretend cement

child playing with block and making pretend cement

child playing with block and making pretend cement

Just fyi, that’s ash on his hands, not cement dust. I wouldn’t let him touch cement dust with his hands.

child playing with block and making pretend cement

I’m convinced people learn best when they’re focused. And I know from my own life that I focus on what I’m interested in. It can’t come from outside of me. I either learn a technique as a tool to get to a desired end, or I’m fascinated by something and I want to figure out how it works.

I don’t know what my kids will learn over the course of their life. But I can help feed their passions right now.

Child-led learning. Encouraging your kids' passions.

Considering homeschooling my preschoolers

I think I’m failing at spending time with my kids at home. I yell way too much. I’m upset and angry too much. I spend too much time resisting my kids and mentally checking-out.

And so I’m considering homeschooling.  I feel called to throw myself into motherhood 100% to be better and really conquer this stage, rather than just letting it slip by and waiting for it to be over.

Now I know we’re not supposed to conquer motherhood. It’s a relationship, not a job. But I feel called to do so much better. Is it just because I’m a product of the times, where a million blogs are promising the secrets to be a better fill-in-the-blank? Continue reading

Too busy? How to slow down and start living: Take time to Make Time

Anyone else out there feel like they have too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it? And when you start feeling like that, do you buckle down and eliminate fun-stuff or less urgent tasks, and try to get all the important stuff done, right now?

I do. When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to want to cut out all the self-care practices that keep my brain-wheel well greased. Making time for friends, exercise, meditation, fun kid crafts, and keeping the home tidy are always out the window when I feel like I need to get ahead.

(ok, truth: the reason I don’t have a meditation practice to cut is because it’s always the first to go, even before it ever gets started).

It’s so funny, what exactly am I getting ahead of? What do I think will happen when my to-do list is crossed off?

(Cue God, descending from the clouds, with a glass of champagne, “You did it Caroline! You’re the best human! NOW you can have some fun!”) Continue reading

A farmers’ date night

A bit of parenting advice I hear over and over again is to keep your relationship with your spouse special: make time for each other, without the kids, and set a regular date night.

Well by night-time, I’m pretty much not fun company anymore, so last week, we went on a date breakfast. We hired a sitter, and went to La Esquina for some quiet, uninterrupted conversation. It really was recharging, and I vowed to do it again. Continue reading

Little chicken farmer

Leon is pretty much the hardest thing in my life right now. If you haven’t had a toddler in your life recently, you have no idea. If you used to have toddlers in your life, you have forgotten how terrible it is.

Now I understand the “terrible twos”. I used to think it was about tantrums and being stubborn, but in Leon’s case, it’s all about GETTING INTO EVERYTHING QUICKLY. Continue reading