Yesterday I referred to Elizabeth's post about her preschooler, and the similar (if still vague for me) goal I have for mine: to relish this age, and to not relegate Ramona to the back burner, leaving her to feel that she's merely a tagalong to the activities of "her girls" (as she calls them.)
(An aside: you must visit Elizabeth again today, as she has a wonderful bookmark-worthy post full of delicious -- literally, in some cases -- art ideas. And you get a peek into her art supply shelves.)
One of the things that got me thinking about this was the American Girl club that we participated in last school year. My friend, Linda, Organizer Extraordinaire and Super Craft Mom, started the club as a fun way to survey American History with her daughter, who is Betsy's age. Since I already had some history plans of my own for my girls, I viewed the club as just a fun supplement. We were already familiar with all-things-American-Girl, so instead of re-reading the books before each meeting, I was a bit lackadaisical about it, looking forward mainly to the creative and delightful craft projects with which Linda would wow us.
And, overall, my approach worked out just fine. But I realized something a character or two into the school year. Somewhere after Kaya and before Addy I discovered that while I was familiar with all-things-American-Girl, and Anne was steeped in AG-ishness ... Betsy's familiarity with all the stories? Not so much.
Our first year or two of homeschooling revolved around American history by way of American Girls and pioneers (Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her ancestors Martha and Charlotte, to be exact.) Anne remembers it all, too, as she had immersed herself in all of those series for an extended time. But Betsy? She was four years old the first year we homeschooled. She was five our second year (See? I can teach math.) So, although she loved making butter and yarn dolls and being read to outside under the oak tree, after putting the AG series aside for a few years, she didn't really remember every detail of every book, as Anne did.
And it struck me: I was so focused on homeschooling Anne back then, and I reasoned that whatever Betsy absorbed was just icing on the cake. But here I was, a few years later, expecting that the icing had stuck. But we all know how hungry we get after some sugar. Much of our AG and Little House study had been delightful sugar for Betsy, but now she needed to be fed again, with more substance. And I hadn't been doing it, because I assumed she "already knew all this stuff."
Guilt. Oh, the guilt. So, I wallowed for awhile ... not very long (I think some chocolate may have helped me get over it) and decided that I should be grateful for the wake-up call. How many other things had I assumed Betsy had merely absorbed? In what other areas had I cheated her a bit? Where did I need to play some catch-up?
It was a great wake-up call, and it woke me up to Ramona's age and stage, too. When Ramona was born, I knew that we just needed to find ways to get through the tougher stages to keep our homeschooling plans in place: the sleeplessness of the newborn days, the high-maintenance and mischief of an 18-month-old, and so on. But now ... oh, my goodness ... she's almost four! It's time to think of her as another one who needs her own kind of nourishment.
Not that there's anything wrong with the "they'll absorb so much from the older ones" philosophy. I firmly believe it's true. They can and do learn a lot from their older siblings' studies. I'll continue to include Ramona in read-alouds for the older girls, as I always have and I'll adapt things Anne and Betsy do for Ramona's little hands. But, it's good to be reminded every now and then that some adjustments might be in order, to make sure everyone is getting what she needs.
Sometimes, perhaps the absorption principle (or the "trickle down" as Elizabeth called it) needs to move in reverse: take something that a younger or middle child needs to learn, (or would love to do) and adapt it for the older children, too.
Could just be that Anne and Betsy will be giddy over the prospect of more painting, too.