I’ve been attending a fantastic women’s Bible study at my church on Wednesday mornings. They even provide childcare! I sort-of know the kid-minder, as she was in a speech class I taught several years ago. She’s super nice, and both kids genuinely like her. It took some bribery (new activity books) to get Petra to be cool with it, but they’re doing pretty well.
This week, as I was driving them home, Silas said, “Miss Luisa asked me if we do school every day. I told her no, we’re homeschooled. And she said, ‘Yes, but does your mom teach you stuff every day?'”
I waited. And finally prompted, “Well, you told her that you learn stuff every day, right?”
He said, “No, of course not. I told her we just play and do whatever we want.”
He’s sort-of right. We still don’t “do school.” But I’m a bit sensitive about him saying so, because it is super hard for people to understand that it’s possible to learn stuff without “doing school.” It’s also very common for people with only a casual connection to a homeschooling family to call CPS or the school board and report that the children aren’t being taught anything. Not that I think Luisa would do that–as I said, she’s super nice and I’m sure if she were concerned, she’d talk to me first. But not everyone is nice or reasonable.
As an exercise, starting that day (Wednesday) and going through Friday, I wrote down everything I thought could potentially count as “school.” It’s more for my own peace of mind than anything else. These check-ins are a good time for me to get a dose of reality, as I have only two modes: “Oh, no, people think we’re doing nothing but we’re actually doing a lot and I need to justify my existence,” and “Whoops, we really haven’t done anything interesting all week.” Also, when I have to tell our evaluator what we’ve been doing, this list will be nice to have.
So here we go…and remember, this is just three days’ worth and just for Silas.
- Munchkin Shakespeare. We played it and I explained most of the jokes, except the dirty ones.
- Writing practice. He’s writing comics, plays, cards to relatives, “character sheets” for a D&D campaign that probably will never exist, etc. Pretty sure he has graphomania. He fills a notebook every day.
- Reading lots of graphic novels and picture books. Most mornings, I hear him reading to Petra before I get out of bed.
- Learning to make a few different breakfast and lunch foods for himself, including ones that require measuring things.
- Interpersonal skills. This week, a hardcore review of the Golden Rule (with the hilarious book Do Unto Otters), as well as some coaching on working through collaboration complications with friends (not unrelated).
- Multiplication. Out of curiosity, I had him do multiplication problems in his head to distract him while JC dug a splinter out of his finger. He surprised me by being able to do them pretty solidly. We haven’t done this before.
- Endless LEGO play; I’m sure that counts for something.
- Reading about ferocious animals in the aforementioned activity books. They’re from National Geographic, and I got a bunch of them at the Green Valley Bookfair for these moments.
- He asked about the image of JFK on the pin I got in my Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival shwag, so I told him about who JFK was. This included vocabulary words like “assassination” (which, surprisingly, he connected with our MLK-day sing-along to “Abraham, Martin, and John.” #hippies), a short discussion of the moon landing, the succession plan in case a president can’t fulfill their term, LBJ, why dudes in the ’60s went by their initials (because they thought it was cool…?), a listing of other presidents who were assassinated and their successors, which kinds of money JFK’s image appears on, and who gets to decide who goes on the money. This was all literally before I got out of bed on Thursday morning.
- In response to a question about whether the current president could do various despotic things (I don’t remember what specifically): A discussion of the branches of government, the system of checks and balances, the importance of the upcoming midterm elections. This was aided by Schoolhouse Rock, which led to a discussion of why the video only showed men in the various roles of leadership, and how the world has changed (but how far we have to go).
- Typing skills. Silas now gets half an hour of computer time each day, and he’s frustrated by how slow his typing is, so he usually spends at least 10 minutes on a typing practice game.
- Computer programming: Silas is messing around with Scratch, LOGO, and Quest. He’s writing his own text adventure in Quest, and it’s set in Asgard. He’s having to educate me about Norse mythology, as I only know the very broad outlines. He knows this stuff because he’s been listening to Children of Odin, Padraic Colum’s adaptation of the prose eddas or something. In Scratch, he’s mostly making little animations; he’s not ready to explore some of its complexity yet. He is reading the Secret Coders graphic novels and solving the puzzles in those books in LOGO, as well as making massive repeat loops that make the turtle look like it’s on LSD.
- While we were making a grilled cheese, he asked about how the stove makes fire, so we talked about propane and other flammable things.
- Driving around, we’re listening to The Action Bible, and so there are lots of discussions about the events of Biblical history. I love how the kids giggle about some of the crazy stuff in the Bible, because they don’t understand that they’re supposed to be reverent. And it is super funny. I think their favorite story was Esther, because of how Haman literally builds his own gallows. Comedic gold, right there.
- We got a new on-demand water heater, so we had a long discussion about how that works.
- At dinner: “Why do we call cow meat ‘beef,’ and deer meat ‘venison,’ but chicken meat is just ‘chicken’?”…led to a discussion of Anglo-Saxon, early French, class distinctions, William the Conqueror (“I’ve heard of him. Alice says something about him in Alice in Wonderland.”), the Battle of Hastings, how etymology can tell a whole story of conquest and integration or segregation, etc.
I read this list to Silas, and he said, “But that was all interesting and I felt like doing it, so it doesn’t count.” So…I guess we don’t do school?
Reading over this, I do realize that it’s completely disorganized and covers stuff like geometry (LOGO) in the same couple days as multiplication, and touches on at least four historical periods, in different places. At some point, we’ll have to start creating some kind of order, maybe? Just to make sure we aren’t accidentally skipping something important. Or … maybe not?