Thursday, September 02, 2010

Our Plan for the Year: Physical Development

Yesterday's blog post title hinted about being frazzled and sady lacking in the "serenity of a Madonna." No, I do not mean the pop diva but the Madonna painted by the masters, she who "no matter out of whose canvas she looks at you, is always serene" (page 34). Always!

My state of frazzilty had nothing to do with our ambitious school program--at least that is what I keep telling myself. Unanticipated events and idiotic scheduling have conspired to squeeze every last drop of time out of the day. Somehow, I scheduled dental cleanings and orthodontic tweaking, two meals on wheels, wanted guests, unwanted guests (escorted by the dogs), meetings, and two desperately needed laptop repairs. On top of all this, my truly wonderful (I really do mean that, no tongue in check intended at all) gave me an early Christmas present--a beautiful, sweet Mac of the snow leopard species. It is going to make my life so much easier once I make it through a humongous learning curve.

Charlotte Mason suggested that decorating our walls with Madonna masterpieces might calm the heart, which just would not mesh with our decor very well. Yesterday, we tried her Plan B with a few modifications, "Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents."

I can't really manage half a day, much less three. Mt. Laundry would hit the ceiling and Mt. Dishes would spill over into the back porch. The nearest art gallery involves a 150-mile round trip. The only time I take to my bed is when Mr. Flu pays a visit. Too many books and things and screens already tax my eyeballs, so reading is out. With trips looming in October, I really need to stick to my plan for the school year.

So . . . on the way to the dentist yesterday, we carschooled: doing our audio work (composer study, songs, Spanish, hymns, recitation), copywork and studied dictation, and drawing on the road. Instead of sitting in the waiting room trying to block out the dent-fomercials and squeeze in a few more books, we headed to Swan Lake, whose luscious scenes renewed mind, soul, and body. And, we checked P. E. and nature study off our list!

Over a decade of homeschooling has taught me that we are not superhuman. We cannot do everything nor do it perfectly. We live in the real world and juggle multiple grade levels and/or manage special needs, which means letting somethings go is a must, or have other demanding issues. I believe that every family must adapt to their unique situation. Pamela has autism and aphasia. She needs thinkspace and downtime to be at her best.

I spent last summer pouring over the curriculum plan and dropped many things to make room for Pamela's dynamic thinking curriculum (RDI): dance, drama, grammar, handwriting, Latin, musical instrument lessons, physical education (except for walking), and reading lessons. I omitted books that she had already read and did not replace them with suitable books. I substituted a couple of extremely wordy books with less wordy ones that were no less living. I ignored all of the beautiful, tempting books recommended for the class library. I watered down P. E. to walking.

Pamela has never done well in an organized sports setting. When she attended a YMCA class for homeschoolers in her early teens, she did not track people at all. During the hour of game time, she needed heavy support from me and still had no idea what was going on or what to do. She had no problems with free play in the pool because she loved the water and did whatever her heart delighted. Until she is ready for more advanced sports, I plan to walk with her and, if there happens to be a playground near by, encourage her to explore the equipment.

Now, I understand why she struggled. While Pamela is "big" enough, she is not "old" enough in her social development to enjoy structured games. Mason made a developmentally appropriate distinction between the kind of games children enjoy playing. In fact, Laura Berk quoted research supporting Mason's opinion in Awakening Children's Minds. Mason wrote,
Cricket, tennis, and rounders are the games par excellence if the children are old enough to play them, both as giving free harmonious play to the muscles, and also as serving the highest moral purpose of games in bringing the children under the discipline of rules; but the little family we have in view, all of them under nine, will hardly be up to scientific games. Races and chases, 'tag,' 'follow my leader,' and any romping game they may invent, will be more to their minds. (Page 83)

Don't get me wrong. I am all for organized sports and carefully taught instruction. I benefitted from a fantastic P. E. program in high school that motivated slugs like me to run 200 miles in one school year. Not only did our teacher make sure we learned the basics of organized sports, he set up a conditioning program that allowed anyone willing to work hard to get an A. As long as we met the outlined daily benchmarks in P. E. (run two miles and do a given number of situps and pushups) we got a grade of A for the day. All we had to do after that we to improve our fitness test scores from the previous semester. That is not hard to do if you are out of shape from the summer and put forth consistent effort.

The author of our natural history book, who foresaw many concerns we face today, wraps up the importance of physical development nicely,
The circle of nature's seasons and the discipline of seasonal routine were once signals for individual activity, but the seasons of today involve group activity. With the addition of competition and spectator sports, we now specialize in group sitting and group watching. The benefits of watching a three-hour baseball game on television or at the ball park, can never equal a few minutes of play at the game yourself. Theodore Roosevelt, who was one of the last of America's great individualists, said, "It is far more important that a man should play something himself, even if he plays it badly, than that he should go to see someone else play it well."


That means people like me, who play most things badly, no longer have an excuse!

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