Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Day in the Life

My little guy, keeping busy.  :)  This is rarely a problem for William; more the problem is other people messing him up while he keeps busy!

Sometimes literally. Like William
in the above photo...
Never Lacking for Something to Do

There's no lack of things to do here in the middle of the Nebraska countryside, but I suspect our routine of busy-ness is different from most other folks'.  First of all, of course: we home school.  Then, to add to the oddity, we don't do organized sports -- though we are a family of athletes and sports fans who enjoy pick-up games with our friends, or just among ourselves --because there are enough of us to do that. :)  We aren't doing music lessons right now, but depending on Theresa to teach piano to her younger siblings, an arrangement agreeable to all of us.  We don't belong to any homeschool group of any kind, having long ago decided that we didn't like being tied down to other people's interests and timetables (we're kinda selfish that way, I'm afraid), but we do enjoy meeting up with our friends after Mass on Sundays and have already hosted a sleepover with a gaggle of girl friends here in Nebraska.  We don't spring for extra academic classes for the children, either, but follow our own noses down the bunny trail of interests that present to us, using the internet, the library, and local museums to learn on our own.

Adding wood to the woodpile is still sport for these guys
Needless to say, when the weather is good, the children play outside, exploring, and making up new twists on old games (I'll have to get into that some time!). But, wild children though they are, they're not outdoors all the time, and certainly don't turn their noses up at electronic entertainment, limited though it may be.  Our wii is apparently broken, and since we live out in the middle of nowhere, we do have an internet feed, thankfully, but not one sufficient to stream Netflix movies anymore.  We haven't felt deprived, though.  Our cabinets hold a vast store of movies, both dvds and vhs tapes (now usable since we just got a new player -- Woohoo!)  But, we don't watch the tv a whole lot.  Maybe a movie a day?  Unless it's a yucky day out -- then more like a couple movies -- with hot cocoa.  Rainy days also usually end up in card games -- or board games -- or, inevitably...  books.

Of Books and Life, Life and Books

Come rain or shine, at any given time of day, you'll find someone sprawled out somewhere with his or her nose in a book.  During our school day(which generally occurs in the hours between breakfast and lunch), the children learn the basics in a handful of workbooks, receive instruction together from books I read and discuss with them, then write a bit in some of their own books; then, at some point in the day, we read  books for entertainment together, and every one of us has a stack of personal reading material beside our bed.  We are a bookish bunch. I sigh in contentment to say so.

 It's a goal I had, you see, to become a bookish family. As a young homeschooling Mom 22 years ago, I read somewhere that every homeschool family should write up a family mission statement -- regarding its priorities and goals, both specific and general, in the short and long term.  One of my most cherished long-term goals  -- written in the mission statement notebook -- was that all my children would love to read. If we succeeded in raising readers, most of my job as an educator would be taken care of.  (Read the benefits of raising readers here and here) And, seriously, what would we have to talk about if I raised a houseful of people who weren't literate?  A horrifying thought.

But, no worries.  Whether by accident, plan, or genetic predisposition -- I don't know; probably all three! -- all our children are bookworms, the big boys and Michelle, as well as the Littles still at home.  I'm a proud and happy Momma.  No one looks at me funny when I disappear into a book for a spell; they just take advantage of the opportunity to get lost in one themselves.  And then we talk about our books together.  Le-sigh...  C'est si bon!

On the book queue at our house right now:

* Theresa (15) is reading Shakespeare's plays and just finished (among other things) My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard (a lender from June) and is reading a Wilkie Collins:  Woman in White -- Theresa will read anything she can get her hands on, has read almost every book we have, and is always looking for more!

* Cathy (14) just finished Pride and Prejudice and is now starting The Scarlet Pimpernel -- Cathy tends toward mysteries and romances, though she'll read most anything.

* Anna (11) just finished reading Alice in Wonderland  and is starting  Huckleberry Finn -- Anna will read anything and everything, but especially loves a fantastic tale with lots of drama.

* Gabriel (9) is reading a selection of fables and obsessing over the American Boys' Handybook and a tree identification book he found -- Gabe's reading taste gravitates toward
the purely utilitarian.

* William (8) is reading The Great Brain, plus the family's vast collection of Calvin & Hobbes and Guinness World Records books -- William is another voracious reader and will read just about anything -- but gets a predictably boyish delight out of anything gruesome or silly.

* I just finished re-reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, am almost through Wilkie Collins' The Dead Secret, and dipping occasionally into The Little World of Don Camillo  by Giovanni Guareschi,when I want something light -- with a side order of Common Sense 101, by Dale Ahlquist when I want something not so light -- Like my children, I have widely varied tastes in literature...

* Dan has little time to read, and the time he does have, he usually falls asleep.  But he's a student of Abbot
Gueranger's Liturgical Year -- and does all the research and keeps up-to-date on the world news necessary to know...I look forward to the day when he can retire and we can read books together!

* June (our grandma emeritus) reads constantly.  I couldn't possibly keep up with all she's reading!  She loves the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody mysteries and has read the series many times, and I know she just read A Man Born Again, about St. Thomas More.  Other than that, it's anybody's guess...

* Together, as a family, we're reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline (almost finished) and the Vision book, John Carroll: Bishop and Patriot (following the time period in history we've gotten to) and we're enjoying a little squirrel study, reading a little treasure of a book we stumbled across, called A Squirrel of One's Own, by Douglas Fairbairn.

In between books, and sporadically, the children read from our (quite large) collection of saints' biographies, though it is something I suggest and encourage, instead of require.  We want the children to enjoy spiritual reading and make it a part of their lives.  We've found, over 20 years of testing out the theory, that talking often about the exciting and inspiring people who've achieved heaven makes the children want to read about them -- more so than making strict rules about saint book quotas. 

We also try to encourage the children to try out a variety of authors and genres, steering  them toward age-appropriate writing, and always with the caveat that they only read wholesome literature.  That old adage about dieting: "garbage in, garbage out" is true for the kind of things we load into our heads as well as our stomachs.  

Indignant Chicken Momma
All of this is just an idea of the activities that make up a typical day, an overview of what we're "all about," I guess.  I haven't mentioned, because I expect most folks who visit here already know, that the structure of family prayer is as important as meal time at our house.  You eat, you breath, you pray...  then everything else falls into place.  It's all perfectly natural for us, nothing is forced or corset-like.  We all have a pretty darn good time, enjoying every day.  Our 15-and-under crowd are a well-adjusted, well-read, goofy bunch of nuts, and all of our big kids have moved on to happy, productive, gainfully employed, well-adjusted, well-read, goofy bunch of nuts. 

I have to add that last bit, you know.  I'm afraid that there are some who would read this description of our family life -- and picture a group of "unsocialized" nerd children who are awkward and uncomfortable in "normal society."  If you've met our children, I know you're thinking nothing of the sort, right?  Trust me, they're ridiculously well adapted, socially.  Maybe too well adapted... But those who are new to the idea of unconventional (holistic) homeschooling with carefully-planned social interaction might doubt this. (=sigh=)  This is a subject close to my gizzard (not my heart, mind you), as it really gets me right in the jugular when folks jump to conclusions about home schooling -- especially large, orthodox, homeschooling families, those of us who don't follow the "rules" of convention...  As if conventional western society were doing a bang-up job in the child-rearing department, right? Seriously! If I didn't have an exciting chapter in my Wilkie Collins novel to get back to, I'd wax indignant on this topic...

Keep checking back, though.  It's possible that in between teaching children and cooking and cleaning house and doing laundry and making raspberry jam and crafting a moon face for our autumn village and reading novels...  I'll get around to writing that post.  (It could happen.)

1 comment:

Maria (also Bia) said...

I read your posts, look at your happy photos, and know without a shadow of a doubt that everything you're doing is oh, so right.