Category Archives: proud parent moment
When my artistic daughter started experimenting with animations, this was one of her first, and her first success with lip-syncing an animation. She took snippets of her cousins’ voices from various videos and spliced them together to make this very brief story, featuring a conversation that never actually happened, and illustrated it with animations. (I like the VeggieTales-style of handless manipulation of objects!)
Welcome to my favorite comic strip! Okay, I admit … I might be bit biased. This is a 100% homeschool comic strip, brought to life by three real-life homeschooled teens. The author is my 13-year-old son, and the storyline is one he’s worked on for about two years. The sketch artist is an 18-year-old friend. The inking and finishing artist is my 16-year-old daughter. I’ve seen online comic strips published by adults, and receiving lots of attention and praise, that are not half as funny as this comic strip!
When the Beatles were a fledgling band, they went to Hamburg, Germany, and spent several years playing more than 1,200 live shows in clubs and bars, accumulating over 10,000 hours of playing time. When they returned to England, they were a slick, professional band with a startling new sound no one had heard before. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve expertise in any specific field.
Many of us would like to perform as well as the Beatles did at something – but who has the time? We’ve got jobs to work, kids to raise, bills to pay; taking time to pursue a dream is often nothing but a pipe dream itself. How many adults who are now accountants would rather be artists? How many lawyers would rather be authors? For that matter, how many secretaries might rather be accountants or lawyers?
Homeschooling, however, offers the unique opportunity for children to become experts in a field – maybe even more than one – if they have the desire and drive to achieve it, before becoming bogged down in the details of everyday adult life. In particular, unschooling gives the child even more time and space in which to achieve mastery.
At about the age of nine, my now sixteen-year-old daughter began trying to draw seriously. Her perfectionism frustrated her attempts until I got an artist’s light box for her, and showed her how to use it to trace and save the good parts of a drawing with which she was dissatisfied. That tool was the spark needed to light the fire.
Drawing quickly began to consume her thoughts. In less than a year she was drawing every day. She has carried a drawing bag with her everywhere – and I do mean everywhere! – for years. She draws in charcoal, colored pencil, and ink, or using her graphics pad on the computer, or her fingertip on my iPad. Failing that, she sketches on her own skin with a ball point pen! She has an account on Facebook that she rarely accesses, but is on her Deviant Art account (think: Facebook for artists) every day, interacting with her friends and fellow artists, viewing and commenting on artwork and receiving comments on her own.
For at least the past six years she has drawn an average of five hours a day (and five hours is a conservative estimate, I assure you). Even this very low estimate yields well over the 10,000 hours needed to become an expert in her chosen field: illustration.
I think it shows, don’t you?
And I can’t help but look at this and wonder: how would it have been possible if she had been in public school, or even in a school-at-home program that took all her hours and energy?
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My two oldest kids are participating in NaNoWriMo – that’s National Novel Writing Month, in case you didn’t know. Authors attempt to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of the month of November; kids can set a lower word count goal. My 16yo daughter has set a word goal of 30,000 and is currently at 18,500 in her sci fi novel. My 13yo son has a word goal of 20,000 and has written about 5,000 on his fantasy novel, so he’s a bit short on his words per day. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to WRITE – no editing, no proofreading, no going back and reviewing until after the month is over – and hopefully the entire novel is written. Plenty of time then to go back and rewrite.
Young NaNo writers have their own NaNo website where they can buddy up and encourage one another or set challenges for each other. My kids are fortunate to be in a NaNo class with a local group of their homeschooling friends, so they get together every Wednesday and discuss plots and problems and writer’s block and such things.
I asked, but neither of them was willing for me to share an excerpt of their stories. They’re old enough to realize their unpolished work is not ready for publication yet, even though I assured them I’d explain it was a first draft and very unpolished.
November is NaNo month every year … and boy do I wish they had picked January! Thanksgiving and beautiful fall weather and getting ready for Christmas and holiday travel don’t mesh well with writing 50,000 words! Why not pick January, a month just as long, but when everyone is laying around with the after-New Year’s blahs, and most people are held captive by the weather. Why not January?
About seven years ago …
“Look, Mom, I broke my pecan in half.”
“Mmm-hmmm. Does it taste better that way?”
“Now I broke both halves in half. Now I eat them!”
“Wow! Do you know that when you break a half in half, it’s called a fourth?”
“Yeah, look. I’ll break this pecan in half, and then both halves in half. How many pieces do I have?”
“One, two, three, four.”
“Right, four. So each piece is one-fourth. Get it?”
Without responding, she eats the pecan. Okay, maybe it’s a little over her head; she only just turned five. We eat a few more pecans, then …
“Look, mom! This pecan is in thirds!”
Sure enough, there in her hand is one pecan in three pieces.
So does Nova, at five years and three months of age, understand fractions? No. But is she gaining a good basic understanding of real world math? Yes.
Will she remember this tomorrow? Unlikely. But has she gained a concrete experience of fractions that she can build on when fractions show up again in her young life? Absolutely.
Did I set out to teach her fractions? No. Did I use a concrete opportunity to help her put a name to something she is beginning to understand intuitively? Yes.
Will I run out and find some fraction worksheets to help her build on her knowledge? Not on your life. Will I keep an eye out for more concrete, real-world experiences that I can use to help her expand her own world? You bet.
Not bad for a Christmas Eve morning, sitting in your mom’s lap eating pecans, and wearing your dad’s sweatpants as a shawl.