Amateur Hour at Avalon

Amateur Hour at Avalon

One of the hardest parts of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility. Oh yes, it's *wonderful* to enjoy the occasional pajama morning, to organize lessons around a tyrannical toddler's nap time, and to toss the plan for the day to take advantage of glorious weather. I absolutely love it! However, the temptation to abuse the freedom combined with the absence of external accountability can overtax a weary mother's willpower. This makes it difficult to get around to the inspiring, enriching, culture-forming bits: how CAN one, when all one's energy is devoted to basic math facts, snack distribution, and refereeing the squabble du jour? 

The secret, gentle reader, is to hoodwink generous family and friends into providing the accountability factor FOR you. You've all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, but these days you need to give them direct opportunities to help. We recently executed this maneuver to perfection and I am eager to share the results in hope that it will inspire more families to do likewise.

A bit of background: Music has always fallen by the wayside in our homeschooling days. Despite my real fondness for hymns and folksongs, we never seemed able to develop the habit of singing together beyond a few Mother Goose tunes. I rarely have two hands free for picking out chords on the piano, and the incredibly high decibel levels in the house on a normal day deters me from creating additional noise. But the children *love* singing old girl scout camp tunes with my mother when she breaks out her guitar and I knew they would bring enthusiasm to the project: the real hurdle, as it often is, was finding a way to make MYSELF make time for it. 

The solution turned out to be quite simple. In fact, it's the same solution for most will-power based problems: Do you need a reason to clean the mudroom? Do you need to bathe your children? Do you need to get rid of all the doughnuts in the house before you disgrace yourself? Do you need to hide how much you dislike Mr. Elton's new wife? The answer, of course, is to throw a party! Once you have a deadline on the horizon with the threat of real, live witnesses, motivation suddenly appears out of nowhere.

In the case of my music problem, we invited a couple of like-minded families to come over for a Halloween Recital. We agreed on a couple of hymns and folk songs to teach to the children over the first few months of school, and then had each child learn a poem to recite or a song to play on their instrument of choice. A potluck dinner following the performance rounded out the evening with relaxed time together. It took a little coordinating, but with some initial effort on the front end to make a Spotify playlist of the songs and print out some music, it was easy to incorporate the songs into our weekly lessons.

I was a little nervous about the sing-along aspect because, outside of church, we really don't do much singing together as a community. But to my great relief, everyone pushed through the initial awkwardness and--thanks to a few accompanists who kept us all together--we didn't sound too bad! The kids acquitted themselves splendidly, standing up on our window-seat-turned stage to deliver their pieces, which ranged from nursery rhymes to Hamlet's soliloquy.

If this had been all we accomplished with the evening, I would have been satisfied. But the icing on the cake was the incredible contribution from a few talented adult musicians in our community. They came to cheer the kids on, and then delighted us by sharing their gift for music. The kids were clapping, dancing, and singing along with enthusiasm, begging for just one more song. Talk about exceeding expectations! It was one of those moments as a parent when you know a seed is being planted and you get a brief vision into how it might blossom in the future.

So, let this little success story encourage you to throw a party of your own---an art show, a knitting circle, a book club, a bonfire, anything!---and see what happens when people in your village come together to help the children grow.


The Woodshop at Avalon will be at two local craft fairs before the holidays! Come check our our table at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Belmont on November 4th from 8am-3pm, or at Our Lady of Consolation in Rockford on November 18th, 8am-3pm.  If you want to order any personalized or custom made gifts for the holidays, now is the time to start a conversation about your project! 

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