Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 6: Chugging Along, but Questions Arising

Thursdays are my "breathe a sigh of relief" day. I don't have to plan for school tomorrow, as it is co-op day and perhaps we'll do a little bit of catch-up from the week, but typically it doesn't require any preparation. Thursdays are also a long day as DH works late, so I'm usually pretty spent by the time Thursday evening rolls around and the kids are in bed. It's the night I gather all the unfolded laundry that has been languishing around the house and fold away while indulging in some "Gray's Anatomy" and whatever else might be on. And, if I'm really motivated, or if I want to delay the laundry-folding for a bit, it's the day I can start posting about the week that was at Rowan Court. So here goes!

Topics and activities of the week: Jesus is the Bread of Life; the beginnings of New Amsterdam (which became New York City...yet another basic fact from my own history education that I forgot or never learned); science experiments with yeast, and making butter! I do enjoy how MFW/Adventures likes to group related topics and themes together. The yeast experiment--combining yeast, warm water, and some sugar in a glass bottle with a balloon stretched across the top-- was great fun for the boys, especially when they began to understand that what the yeast was doing was consuming the sugar and releasing gas. Boys and comments about "passing gas" go hand in hand and guarantee laughs.

And we had a great time making butter today, in an attempt to recreate the experience of the early pioneers of New Amsterdam, who had managed to transport farm animals across the ocean from Holland all the way to the New World. Our process was simple but made quite an impression on the boys: take whipping cream, put it into a container with a tight lid, and shake away! I took the advice of some fellow Adventurers and used an electric mixer for the first few seconds to get things started, then it was all manual labor from that point. We just used about a half a pint of whipping cream, poured into a clean Snapple bottle (yes, we do like our Snapple around here!), and Harry and Ron took turns shaking for two minutes each. Fourteen minutes later, we had a thick substance coating the sides of the bottle. I wasn't sure what this was; it was too loose to be butter so I shook the bottle for just another 20 seconds or so then became aware that suddenly the previously thick substance had turned into liquid again, which was utterly confusing at first. Then I realized that something was floating in that liquid, and there was our butter! (The remaining liquid, buttermilk. All things that perhaps other normal, educated people are aware of, but it all was wondrously new and fun for us all.) The kids were amazed to see what had emerged and excited to taste it. I added a little salt for taste and we all had some with bread as part of our lunch. The boys said that it was the best butter they'd ever had. =)

Lest I give the wrong impression that homeschooling is all fun and games, let me correct that erroneous impression. Along with the fun parts of homeschooling come, at least for me, tons of questions. I wonder constantly if we're working hard enough or too much. I wonder if my expectations of Harry in particular are too high or too low. I wonder if he is working to his fullest potential or if being home gives him the impression that he can do the opposite. I wonder if being away from other children will lessen his self-motivation to do his best and to excel. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder! These are the kinds of questions that his potential teacher in 2nd grade would likely not have asked; he or she would have the benefit of experience and perspective to know what is generally acceptable or excellent work by a 7 year old. Without that kind of experience and training, I just have to trust my instincts and hope they are good enough. This is the scary part of homeschooling, the knowledge that my son's education is in my hands! But then I correct and remind myself that my son's education is actually not in my hands, but in God's hands, and that I just have to be faithful to do what He has called me to do. Homeschooling has been one big of leap of faith and continues to be so. But so far, the benefits have far outweighed any negatives. We'll hope and see if this continues to be true!


  1. Helen ~ Thanks for being so honest with the nagging questions we (homeschoolers) all face from time to time! I think (at least at the 7 year old level) that as long as we gets the basics (3 R's) down well now, the other will all be fine. Sure we'll leave gaps - that's why we make sure they have a love for learning and can read well! For us, that's why we make science and history as fun as possible and push the other subjects! From reading your blog, I have no doubt that your boys will do great because of your conviction that this is where God has led your family! ;)

    I also know all about the world of boys and their silly bodily process comments! :)

  2. Everything is better with gas jokes. Just ask my kids!

  3. Having taught in a classroom for over 6 years, I can tell you that even in a classroom, you will see multiple ability levels. But nothing beats one-on-one instruction by a parent who cares deeply about his or her child's education. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing all the wonderful activities you are doing with your kids! I may have to try them with my daughter when she gets older.