Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Classical Conversations, Picasso, and haiku

Three seemingly unrelated topics that do, in fact, relate for us.

This year we joined Classical Conversations, an international homeschooling community with groups that meet up all over the country and the world. We didn't just join; we started a new community and I am directing it this year so it's safe to say that we jumped in with both feet. Or twelve feet, I guess. Is this another "go big or go home" situation? Perhaps it is.

At any rate, I appreciated the philosophy behind Classical Conversations (CC) and the long-term scope and sequence that could successfully see the kids through high school, but had no idea what it would actually look like at home on a day to day basis. Along with a new curriculum, a new friend mentioned and highly recommended the book, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. For my very technical and in-depth book review, I will say, "Hallelujah and pass the guac!" Short, sweet, and to the point, the book was refreshing in its inspiration and practical in its execution.

I have long said that my long-term goal is raising productive humans who care about the world around them, the people next door, down the street, in the big cities, in the far-flung corners, where disaster strikes, when life brings celebration. I want them to be a part of this big, beautiful, tragic world, not arm's length away, but in it, living and loving and learning. Part of that is being able to succeed at the schooling they need to meet their goals, whether the goals are relief worker, pastor, accountant, park ranger, nurses' aide, or parent. So, yes to math and grammar, but also yes to loads and loads of good books, volunteering, nature walks, hot cocoa and poetry breaks when the storms howl, and baseball in the front yard. I don't want them to think that learning stops when they get a diploma. I want them to see the world and all its people, experiences, and books as their curriculum. These aren't just my hopes, dreams, and goals for my children; I'd love to embrace them for myself, as well.

That is what I have said. Then, throwing my best intentions to the wind, I have had the tendency to pick my curriculum, make my checklists, and freak out if things aren't done when I think they should be done. Charming, yes? I had to let a lot of that go with the birth of our Mr. Cuatro and our subsequent move, move, move, move, but I have held on to remnants of that checklist mentality.

Enter CC and Teaching From Rest. Our school day is streamlined, allowing for even more time playing in the front yard and time each morning during our morning symposium to explore artists, poetry, bible verses, inventors, and more. I worry less about the checklist and more about our relationships together and our relationships with God and the world.

Last week we read book after book about Picasso and experimented with some of his techniques, culminating in unrecognizable self-portraits.

This week we've been reading books filled to the brim with haikus and have tried our hand at them. It is a simple introduction to poetry and to the powerful imagery we can evoke with just a few words.

working together on haikus

Isaac chose baseball

Audrey's Thanksgiving haiku

Elliot's haiku on volcanoes
Education is not a checklist of things to get through, memorize, recite, and dump. Life is not a checklists of things to see, do, accomplish, and move on. Many of my best moments in life, parenting, and relationships involve uninterrupted time to simply exist. Be there in the quiet with my favorite book. Be there in the laughter with my best friends. Be there in the moment as my kid learns to bike or read, as we spit watermelon seeds, as we read just one more page before bed, as one of them tells me about the big hit or the big catch or the big error or the big jump on the slopes or hilarious joke or the funniest part of the funniest book or the hurt feelings or the feelings of not being quite good enough. 

Not one of those favorite moments happen if life is a checklist. And that is a tragedy of Shakespearean magnitude.  

Asher, 2 years old and full of snuggles, snot bubbles, and get up and go, is standing at the front door, watching cars and the occasional elk wander past, repeating, "Pax Romana. Pax Romana. Pax Romana." He'll look over every now and again, jump up with arms waving in excitement and anticipation, and shout, "Hooray! Let's go outside!"

I tell him we'll go outside after Elliot reads his haiku and after we find all of our geography spots on the map. He runs over to sit in my lap and repeats the locations after me while the bigger kids show me where they are on the map.

Then school is done for the morning and noisy shoe finding ensues and the kids crash out the door to find bike helmets, bikes, and balls. The sun shines on them. I type on the blog a bit.

Life isn't a checklist. It also isn't perfect. But our schooling this year suits us very well. We have room to grow and learn, room to explore and gallivant, and, most importantly, room to be.


  1. Your kids are so lucky to have you as their mom and teacher. I don't know where you got your obsession with checklists. : ) This is a good lesson for me. I'm a work in progress and I'll work on just being more, reading more and taking in everything around me.

  2. CC is amazing!!! I've watched our mentor couple raise their children on it from K-now 11th grade. They obviously aren't done, but I love what their kids know compared to my students in public school. I so want to use it with my 1 year old son when he's old enough, but I pray that God changes my husband's definition of what we need financially so I can stay home and do it with him!

    1. Good luck as you move forward with schooling for your son. It is a big decision and finances is definitely one piece.

  3. I read Teaching from Rest this summer. It totally changed how we approached curriculum planning this year. What a game changer for us--I still struggle with "all the boxes must be checked off", but feel we are doing more meaningful work this year!

    1. All the people I talk to who have read that book comment on the fact that it was a game changer for them. I am so thankful it was recommended to me and that we could implement some of the things she talks about to make our days more meaningful. Good luck with the rest of your school year.