Fruit of the Spirit: My Little Pony Style

IMG_20140731_093529409Summer has been jam-packed with all kinds of crazy weather, traveling, appointments, and some laid back review. And a little experimental lessons. One that worked out really well was to combine six little cartoon ponies with Galations 5: 22-23. Teaching the fruit of the Spirit can sometimes be tricky for little ones. I mean, forbearance? When you’re seven, you are pretty sure that you daily carry a load of suffering.

Enter My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, originally by Lauren Faust. Gasp. Magic and talking ponies means witchcraft and the devil, right??? Things of This World? Certain hellfire and doom??? Slow down, there, everypony.

In the cartoon series, heretofore referred to as MLP:FM, the main character, Twilight Sparkle, has to figure out magic and friendship and what it means. She has five friends, each with a special strength. Rarity’s is generosity, Rainbow Dash has loyalty, Fluttershy’s is kindness, Pinkie Pie’s is laughter, and Applejack has honesty. These are all parts of a whole “magic of friendship,” and are the elements of harmony. Which dovetails really nicely with the fruit of the Spirit.

What we did: Wednesday and I traced pony images from a coloring book onto paper, and labeled it with the pony’s name and element of harmony. I wrote out Galations 5: 22-23 on our chart paper, and a definition for each element, and connected it to an aspect of the fruit of the spirit. Each week, we picked a pony, taped it to the chart, and read various stories in the bible about loyalty and kindness, etc. We also watched episodes of MLP:FM on Netflix service that portrayed clear examples of these traits, and discussed them constantly. We saved Twilight Sparkle for the end, and used the combined elements of harmony to discuss how all the fruit of the Spirit work together to portray the love of God through us.

I consider it a win. Wednesday and Pugsley were both very engaged, even Capstone memorized the verses, and we still are able to pull “kindness” and “generosity” into the discussion, weeks later.

The Best Laid Plans

So this morning, the original plan was: breakfast, do some multiplication flash cards for fours facts, as Wednesday is trying to master all of the multiplication facts, do the Singapore placement assessment to make sure we start in the right spot in June, and then see where the day took us. 

And then Wednesday put on the itchiest, tightest dress she could find in her closet. I reminded her that it was a little small on her, and she wanted to wear it anyway. Okay, then.*

Breakfast: check. Calendar: check. Recitation of “The Caterpillar:” check. Flash cards: this is when things started to fall apart. By this point, Wednesday was scratching and wiggling and shrieking that her back was itchy. Offered a chance to go change into a comfortable dress, she scornfully declined. We got through many of the cards before she started getting too distracted, and we stopped. I don’t force issues when it’s clear that no learning is taking place. We do discuss stretching our brains and pushing forward when things are tough, but there’s “stretching,” and then there is hopelessly tossing spaghetti at a wall to watch it slide down and not even sort of stick. I showed her the placement assessment for Singapore 2A, which was basically a review of most of the things she has just done in Saxon 2, and she started. Before long, she was not even following. I sent her off to her room to get changed, and she angrily pronounced me the meanest mom ever. 

Once she felt better, however, she decided to read Pugsley an informational book about Egyptians and brainstorm making Egyptian dress up dolls. 

So, yeah. Singapore can wait. 

* By the way, you will notice in my posts that we don’t use punitive or coercive or retributive methods of child wrangling. We don’t find them useful. I find them appallingly harmful, and striking or hitting or hurting a child has no place in a homeschooling home, in my frank, blunt opinion. I am not raising my children to follow orders or to fall in or to immediately snap feet together and salute. Is it a smoother day when they are compliant? Well, sure. Expecting compliance just because “I said so” is intellectual sloth and parental laziness on my part. They are in the looooong process of learning to do what they are doing by example and repetition, not by my harming them when they do it the wrong way. Just as I’m not going to sit them at the table with some calculus and whack them every time they do the problem wrong, I’m also not going to wait until they behave in an inappropriate way and then haul off and harm them. No learning is done in either situation. And before I get a comment that tries to equate non-punitive parenting with giving every kid on the no-tackle football team a trophy just for smiling at the camera, or with giving Ferdinand a lollipop every time he runs naked through the neighborhood, torching the neighborhood, I’m going to intercept that right here and now by saying: non-punitive discipline is very real, it’s very active, and involves a lot of parenting. A great place to start is Jeff VonVaderen’s Families Where Grace is In Place and a website called Get Off Your Butt Parenting. 

ENFJs and Their Big Ideas

As it turns out, having three small children makes it really difficult to blog. I get these great ideas, think to myself, “Hey! I have a blog for that!” And the next thing I know, I’m brushing the trimmings of pom pom balls from the dog’s fur, or asking ridiculous questions to the nearly four year old, such as, “WHAAAAAT…HAPPENED…TO…THE…BATHROOM?” (The answer to that question is almost always that someone left the conditioner in his reach). And, let’s face it. Homeschooling, especially when a small toddler is in the house, is time consuming. Time needs to be really flexible. Plus, we need to squeeze in periodic trips to places where people can squint at my six year old and ask her, “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

Let’s meet the scholars, shall we? Because this is the internet, and I’m already pouring enough funds into my children’s “Future Therapy Fund Bucket,” I’m going to give them blog names so that they can find gainful employment someday.

My oldest daughter, Wednesday, is six and a half. Currently, very six and a half. She’s amazing in many, many ways, and has forced me to really dig deep when it domes to homeschooling her. Her story is complex, and I’ll probably touch on it further as time goes by, but she’s very self-motivated, experiences the world very differently than many people, and happens to have been born without a right cochlear nerve. Which, we only found out about this past summer. Between her left cochlear nerve interpreting signals that made it through her head from the right middle ear organs, and her amazing ability to lip read and follow social and contextual cues, she pretty much had us all fooled.

My son, Pugsley, is just days away from four. He is very, very four. Hey, want to know why I keep referencing their personalities by their age? Read any of the age specific development books by Ames and Ilg, and I promise you, you’ll be looking at the pages thinking, “They have totally met my kid.” Or not. He marches to the beat of an insane drummer, jumping out of bed first thing in the morning with a chaotic plan already in the works, and spends the day thinking interesting thoughts and doing impulsive things. He’s a kinetic ball of snuggly love who learns things by doing, never by listening.

My youngest child, my second daughter, Capstone, is turning eighteen months old. I can hear all of you who have read any of the Ames and Ilg books laughing. We only semi-planned for them to be these ages at the same time, and hey! We’re doing just fine! The trick is to sort of let yourself go a little crazy. I promise, it’s painless. Capstone is hilarious and incredible and in an effort to keep up with her older siblings, has pushed herself to learn a lot of things.

So how do we school? I promise, I’ll put up an “about us” type of page as soon as I can figure out the technology, but for now I will say that it’s heavily inspired by Andrew Campbell’s book “Latin Centered Curriculum,” with a little Montessori, a little unschooling (I know, I know… I’m sorry. It is, you’re right. It’s a total paradox, and I can’t explain it) and a little bit of stuff I used a long time ago in a land far away when I taught (http://clarateaches.blogspot.com is my former life). It works for us, we’re always re-evaluating and changing and flexing, and my oldest two already need two entirely different approaches. We can use the same stuff, but from a different angle. Differentiated education at its finest.

…when you homeschool, you:

– Scrap everything and have a beach day

– Shoot through one curriculum set, and wade through another for ages

– Declare grocery shopping to fit the bill for homeschool that day

– Have a doctor tell you something that screeches you to a complete halt, and then shifts you over again on the same path, a little wiser and a little more focused

– Question yourself and wonder why you’re doing this anyway

– Spend an entire day cleaning up messes, wiping little behinds, cooking food, repeat, repeat, repeat, and you wonder why you went to college in the first place

– Pour through every study on every decision you make, and remember why you went to college in the first place

– Put on some house music during the day and dance like crazy people

– Find a subject or a curriculum or method that really clicks with a child, and celebrate

– Patiently explain to a lot of people what it is you are doing

And a whole lot more. What do I hope to accomplish with this blog? Pretty much exactly what it says on the label: homeschooling my three kids is ushering my days along pretty quickly. Sometimes when you homeschool, you need to stop and assess, record, and look back. Heavily key to my success (?) so far is all of the things I’ve picked up along the way from other homeschooling families, and a bunch of things I’ve discarded, too.

So, let’s do this.

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