A homeschooling perspective

I homeschool my kids. Steffen PSBN homeschools his kids. Well, technically, we homeschool them all together most days, in a group effort wherein one of us pinch hits for the other when time or temper is running short.

I was very pleased to recently learn that another of our students is being homeschooled, and even more pleased that I learned this by reading a lovely blog entry authored by his mom. Carrie Pomeroy’s blog “Playschool” is a mothering memoir in real time — day-to-day thoughts and questions, tales of pride and admissions of shame. Carrie wrote about a day in her son’s Kuk Sool class that struck her, and she has give us permission to reprint it here. If you’d like to read more of Carrie’s blog, visit www.playschooling.blogspot.com.

My son is lucky enough to take martial arts classes twice a week at Kuk Sool Won of St. Paul, a very family-oriented martial arts school right here in the Midway neighborhood. It’s amazing how much he’s learned in the year and a half since he started. He looks so grown-up and serious in his black uniform and white belt, standing at attention in the line-up of kids, bowing and saying, “Yes, sir!” to his teacher. It is a very different culture than our home culture. I’m glad that he is experiencing it. I trust these teachers. I trust what they are offering their students

Tonight in class, the kids were independently practicing the forms, a series of prescribed movements that are the basis of this style of martial arts. They were supposed to do the forms as best as they could remember them without watching another student or teacher perform them. At times, one of the young students would get stuck–they made a mistake, or they forgot what they were doing, and suddenly, they’d stop and stand there with a deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression, not sure what to do next. Usually a teacher would jump in and help them get going again.

Afterwards, the head teacher asked the class, “What should you do if you make a mistake?”

“Start over,” one boy volunteered.

“No,” said the teacher. “You keep going. You keep going. And what if you forget or get stuck? What do you do then?”

None of the kids responded.

“You ask for help,” said their teacher. “That’s what we’re here for. That’s why we keep practicing–so eventually you won’t make that mistake any more.”

Such a simple exchange, but I found it so moving. I’m so glad my son is getting these messages early from strong, compassionate teachers. You can keep going after you make a mistake. You can ask for help. You just have to keep practicing.

It reminds me a little of a story I read once about a famous modern-dance choreographer–I can’t remember which one now. Maybe Martha Graham? One of her dancers fell flat on her butt during a rehearsal and sat there with a stunned expression on her face, not moving, not getting up. The choreographer swooped over to the dancer and exhorted her, “Don’t stop now! Make it into something beautiful!”

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