Saturday, August 9, 2014

What Students Can Do in the Summer, Part II

      The first week of our summer break a salesman appeared at our door.  A satellite dish salesman to be exact.  My husband politely explained to him that we don’t have, or watch television, or cable, or satellite or whatever it is they call it these days.  The man was very surprised, and intrigued.  He asked my husband some interesting questions.  One of them was, “What do you do all day?”  My husband explained to him that we spend time with our children, mainly.  

      That same day he and I had to go up to the school and take care of a bit of after-school business.  When we returned home, this is what we found our three school-aged children doing:

chemistry experiments, 

reading a missionary biography (I always give all my students an educational gift at the end of the year and this was hers this year),

and our youngest son took apart a vent-a-hood and then wired the fan and light and hooked it up to an extension cord.  It makes a really annoying noise when you stick cardboard in the fan blades while they are moving.  I didn't get a picture of this before he recycled all the metal, but here he is trying to put a chain saw motor on a moving dolly to make some sort of vehicle.  

      So, there begins our list.   In a way, they all three were essentially doing the same thing:  feeding their interests.   This all didn’t happen by accident.  Ever since they were very little we’ve been trying to figure out what interested each of our children.  And that changes, of course.  Our seventeen-year-old was crazy about volleyball and carpentry when he was ten years old.  Now it is chemistry, physics, and memorizing pieces by Franz Liszt on the piano.  
       I heard a fantastic series of lectures at a homeschool convention one year when we were homeschooling.  It changed my world, and my children’s world, for the good.  
There were two main points.

1.  Don’t force your child to read before their mind is ready.
2.  Feed your child’s interests.

          I listened to those at a very good time, because my special-needs son began reading at age six and progressed pretty well in that area.  And my normal, bright, son still couldn’t read at age eight.  I still worked with him every day with phonics and sight reading, but we didn’t get much accomplished until the end of third grade, when at the age of nine, he finally began catching on.  He’s taking calculus, physics, Spanish II, and trigonometry next year.  He loves to read and he loves learning.  I’m so glad I didn’t force him to read before he was ready.
       The second piece of information, “feed your child’s interests”, has also proved invaluable.  For our family it has included music lessons, hours spent in Radio Shack, animals, and research, lots of research.  Research is free, fun, and fabulous.  We have learned how to wire dimmer switches, make kites, shear sheep, build rockets, play oboes, sew large pink tents to cover girl’s beds, and many other fascinating things.  
      We “feed” what our children want to do.  If they read a book about something and want to dig a huge hole in the back yard, we dig with them.  If they want to go visit a castle, we find one and plan to go on a vacation there.  If they want to hear classical music concerts, we find free ones at the local universities and attend. 
       This year our youngest son was really interested in ducks--mallards to be exact, so we now have a breeding pair swimming around in a kiddie pool in our backyard right now.    We also research and build kites with him, and carefully allow him to take apart just about anything-- fans, clocks, vent-a-hoods, and weed eaters.  This week he is trying to build a go cart using an old chain saw motor we got for free from our lawn mower repair man.  Our daughter loves to sing, so we got her voice lessons, and after the Anabaptist Orchestra Camp last year, we bought her an oboe as she wanted to learn how to play that.  One of our sons wanted to learn piano, so after someone gave us a free piano, I taught him for about a year until he had advanced enough and proven to us that he was serious about it, then we found him a good teacher.  Our oldest son loves electronics.  We have always inexpensively provided him with gadgets that he could reconnect, build, construct, etc.  Now he loves to ride around our little town on his bicycle taking pictures.  He edits them on his hand-me-down computer and helps me with the webpage for his syndrome, Floating Harbor Syndrome. 
       This all didn’t happen just by accident. Before they were old enough to do all these things, we talked, read, went on walks, and did lots of puzzles.    Which brings me to the next post . . . .