Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It is definitely fall now. It came so suddenly I was caught without a jacket. Sunday was hot. We barbecued, played outside, had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.   Monday morning was cloudy and I wore jeans for the first time in weeks. And eventually a fleece jacket as well. It was a very strange transition. We only started summer the second week of August this year. It was hot, but the light was already had a slant to it, and when the wind blew yellow leaves fell through the trees. But we could still pretend it was summer. Until Monday. Now they are predicting rain and we're trying to get one last lawn care day in before the eternal swamp that is our backyard sets in.

We had a slower transition into our school year. We started by doing our end of the year tests which we were too busy, or absent, to get done earlier. Not the best timing as being out of school mode and test taking makes for a rough test day. But we got them done, got the results filed away, and on to the next year.

I was pleasantly surprised with the kids first day of away from home classes. Shane has always had issue with the impressions the term 'homeschooling' conjures up for some people. Mostly people that have not done it.  Fortunately, when you home school, you can define it anyway you like. In the broadest sense, it means for us, we are overseeing all the details of our kids' education: picking and choosing each child's program. Deciding when, how, by whom, and at what pace according to each one's propensities, passions, and preferences. No, that does not mean if they don't like math they don't have to do it. But it does mean if they are better at story problems and mental math, and have a ton of energy, I am not going to chain them to a desk and make them write the multiplication chart 10 times.  It is a bit of detective work figuring out who needs what. And you  havie to adapt every teaching strategy for every child.

When Audrey was little, I thought I had it all figured out- I think most people make that mistake when they have a pleasantly tempered first born. Which is why we should all have at least two. Audrey could read when she was four. She loved books, writing, drawing and when math lessons started she could do read and do her lessons on her own. Piece of cake.

Enter Cyril. We tried reading/writing. Rather, we tried sitting in a chair for an extended period of time.  5 min tops. Still not a success. So I backed off and we waited 6 months and tried again. We waited another 6 months. Ans so it went until he was almost 8. I kept waiting for that 'thing' to click and everything would fall into place. It didn't.  For years. And then it did not so much as click as me holding and hammering it in place. But eventually, he got it. But it was a difficult and tear-laden adventure and I still wonder how I could have, and can do, better in the future.

Kateri is unique as well. She loves to write, is eager to be able to read, but not so much that she will sit and write phonograms patiently. She wants instant results and each lesson asks, 'when are you going to teach me to read?' I have not told her there are 76 phonograms to get through.. I had been considering some kind of therapy for her, but I am finding isolating and practicing the correct forms for making each sound seems to improve her speaking. And I know to sit on her good hearing side and am happy I can work around that and make her lessons work for her.

Pippin, for now, is happy to ride his bike at break-neck speeds. Which, after our attempted bike ride around Barra, more on Scotland later, I am even more impressed by. We did try some phonics lessons, but I think I'll wait another few months. He is enjoying his swim lessons, picked up some knee-boarding and rock climbing skills this summer, and seems on his way to being a very physically adept boy. But he does love mental math and I am always impressed when he comes up with arithmetic problems and answers on his own.

But back to 'homeschooling'.  My own definition has evolved over the years from' it means I have to do everything myself and as the parent I am the only one really qualified to do it' - yes, I realize how snobby that sounds- to 'someone else may have a lot to offer my kids and can do it better than I can'. Which is how we ended up taking art and drama classes at the nearby home school co-op. It was a no-brainer, when all my 'horses' looked like llamas, to find someone else to teach them. As for drama, I get enough of that already so am happy someone else can help them channel theirs, and then charge for tickets to see the results.

This year we added a writing class for Audrey and science for Cyril. As well as piano for them both. which I initially thought I would do myself. But not being a music major, or having a private studio and absolutely uninterrupted time, I was happy to hire someone else to do.

Our fist day was a huge success and I think we will make lots of progress this year. As I took the kids to their classes and showed them where they needed to go for their next class, leaving them to navigate while I took the little kids to the playground- or eventually back to the car when the rain starts-I had a feeling that we are entering another phase with them. That getting through the previous years has allowed them to get to where they are: more independent, self motivating, and capable. Much like when I watched them take their first steps, it felt like the next part of the journey. And it seemed appropriate that the temperatures are changing and I feel ready to move on. When the kids came out of their classes they were both beaming. Audrey says she wishes she could do writing class every day- it is just once a week- and Cyril talked non-stop all the way home telling me about his science class and how he made a new friend and the funny nicknames the teacher gives the rowdy kids and how they learned about surface tension and all the experiments they got to do and he can't wait for the next class. And then he went through it all again when Shane got home.

And Audrey, to whom I offered to be an escort to all her classes but she nonchalantly said, 'just give me the room numbers and I'll find them.' I think of her, not even able to order from a waiter  and Cyril, crying every time he was away from us for years, and I started to really appreciate the space they/we are now in. Last night when turning off the lights, Cyril asked Shane if he could keep his on so he could finish the book he had started that afternoon. And I appreciated the teachers for the opportunities they are offering and the passion with which they do it and how wonderful it is to be able to give my kids an education they enjoy that doesn't kill their enthusiasm for knowledge but makes them excited and eager to learn more about life and the world.

Although I have not found a way to translate the same wonder and curiosity about the three sounds of A.