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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Mother, the Homeschooler: Something She Did Right

You might not remember, but my mother's tried in the past to get me to enroll the children in Catholic school, alternating parables of stereotypical homeschoolers she's stumbled across in her life (2 families in addition to ours- the children are exposed to classical music, oh horrors); or fallible pronouncements from her throne as an expert in Canon Law, which she clearly is not. When we last discussed the matter, before communication broke down on another matter, the main problem with my homeschooling the children, besides my age, was that they were not in classrooms with crucifixes on the walls; and they did not have peer interaction for 10-15 minutes after lunch, when the children at the local parish school are allowed to talk and play. As that was our parish at the time, I offered to drive the children to the school for that time period, let them join the others, then take them home. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

My mother doesn't realize that I learned to homeschool at her knee. She wouldn't call it homeschooling. She wouldn't even call it child development. But her activities to keep 6 kids occupied and actually learning something were quite good for the time. Some could be applied today.

  • The Babee Tenda and the typewriter: We didn't have high chairs. We had a Babee Tenda. A Babee Tenda is a seat with table all around it for babies. The 1950s model could also hold small children of various sizes, including first graders. When we fought over my parents' typewriter, or we were too rambunctious, my mother would put ONE of us (obviously) in the Babee Tenda, put the typewriter in front of us loaded with a piece of paper, and put on the timer. The timer was so everybody got the exact amount of time with the typewriter. The Babee Tenda was also a good place to put a child playing with small pieces of anything.
  • Not collages: I don't think my mother knew what collages were until we made them at school. However, she had us not only make collages, but lapbooks as well, although she didn't know they were called that. She had magazines, she had scissors of varying sizes, she usually had glue (Lapage's), and if not, she knew how to make paste out of flour and water.
  • The 1950s Internet, the Encyclopedia Set, Part I: "Better" homes, even one as budget-driven as ours, had at least a set of encyclopedias. I was about 3 years old when the Grolier salesman came to the door. My father took him up on his offer for a complete set, not just the handsome brownish encyclopedias, but the Book of Knowledge, the Book of Popular Science (10 volumes), a set of classics (I'm not sure, but I think our set had blue covers), and a set of children's classics (definitely brown covers). IF we didn't write in or on them, and IF we didn't tear the pages, we were allowed to look at them to our heart's content. My life was so formed by the 1958 Book of Knowledge that, when offered an old set 20 years ago at the local public library sale for $3.00, I bought it immediately, making my son and husband lug all 20 volumes to the car. I still have them, and I incorporate them into our lesson plans on occasion. We recently used them for instructions on how to make a gel printer, or hectograph.
  •   The 1950s Internet, the Encyclopedia Set, Part 2: My mother read to us. My aunt, her sister, read to us when she baby-sat or even just when she came for a visit. My younger siblings probably don't remember that our grandfather, my mother's father, read to us. My mother liked TV well enough, but had no interest in afternoon soaps. The Book of Knowledge had stories galore, as did the Children's Classics. Mom preferred Knowledge, with its variety of stories for all ages, poetry, and articles. Aunt preferred Children's Classics, with the Little Match Girl, the Snow Queen and the tales of Andersen and Grimm. Grandpa didn't do either. He read to us from the newspaper; in fact, he taught me to read from the Chicago American and Daily News, but told me not to tell my mother or the sisters at school when I was old enough for school. 
  • Poetry in motion: My mother encouraged me to memorize poems. From "Bobby Shaftoe" at the tender age of 1, to Elvis' "Teddy Bear" to the Fizzies commercial, I enjoyed doing it, and for a long time, it seemed she enjoyed assisting me to do it.
  • Not just children's television: We got to watch cartoons, especially on Saturday mornings. But we didn't watch strictly children's television. We were NOT allowed in the room when "Peyton Place" was on ( a love/ hate program of Mom's), but we were allowed to watch most TV, including CBS and PBS specials on the war, technology, human reproduction (over 12), engineering, history and the Arts. We were also allowed to watch Dick van Dyke, Rocky and Friends, Have Gun: Will Travel (special treat- it was on past our bedtime), Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, Adventures in Paradise, Maverick and Johnny Yuma. We watched as JFK was buried when I was six, and we watched a man walk on the moon for the first time when I was twelve. We watched as John XXIII was buried, and as Giovanni Montini became Paul VI. We learned a great deal about the world around us, and beyond us in the process.
As for that crucifix on the wall, we have displayed in our home a 19th century French crucifix with a genuine holy water font on the bottom. I think that counts double!