This morning as I was driving the kids out to the northwest suburb where H lives, thinking over what I was going to teach today, I felt... really, really happy.
Astonishingly, co-schooling twice a week with three toddling babies underfoot has turned out... okay.
This year, the subjects I am teaching actually excite me. I realized that I was looking forward to introducing the third conjugation to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I was pondering which verb to use: I needed a transitive verb that could still be used without an object without sounding too weird, one that was easy to spell, one that could be used with most nouns as an object. Pono, ponere (to put or place)? Ago? Definitely not. I settled on "send."
I am also loving every lesson of the geography curriculum. We are having so much more fun this year than last year, when a couple of the kids (well, mostly my daughter) rebelled against Story of the World. This year all four kids love drawing maps and playing sailing games rolling dice and moving little ships around portolan charts.
Thursday we are going to bake giant sugar cookies shaped like Africa, and paint them yellow and green for the desert and the rainforests, and decorate them with chocolate chip mountains and blue-icing rivers, and then eat them for afternoon snack. I can't wait. The kids will love it. So will I. It is so much more fun to work with kids when they enjoy the material. Which has truly been a learning experience for me.
I use a lot of documentaries for the high school boys' modern world history this year. I learned my lesson two years ago when they were learning about Henry VIII: if my goal is for them to remember the story of history, a well-made documentary beats text readings every time. Text readings have their place, and I haven't given up on them, but whenever I can find a really good documentary, we use those and the text is demoted to "supplement." Thank you, BBC and YouTube uploaders. Today we are starting in on WWII with "The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler." My 5th grader is voluntarily watching along with them instead of taking a break.
The weather is unseasonably warm, though I would still call it "chilly." That hasn't stopped the younger children from going out barefoot.
H's crockpot is full of chicken cacciatore that I brought. It is my turn to bring dinner. Tonight the four older boys (between our two families) have Scouts and the two older girls have American Heritage Girls. I will slurp it down along with the girls before driving them to their meeting.
And bring some planning materials with me, too. High school marches on. I need to get set up for chemistry, and for more Latin.
And somehow figure out how the two of us are going to fit it all into our days, two days a week, next year. This year has given me so much confidence, though. It is really working very well, and I am confident that it will work next year, too.
I started homeschooling years ago because I wanted schooling to revolve around our family life, instead of our family life revolving around a school. It has paid off many times over in that department.
Some days there is real drudgery and frustration in it, especially when I have to deal with the tussles between my 3rd-grade daughter and my 5th-grade son. I detest whining and I have been hearing a lot of it lately. And there is the constant wish that the house would keep itself clean, the constant internal refrain of "I should really be doing more..." ... more reading to the children, more field trips to local museums, more walks to the park; all those things.
But as the years have gone by -- I am a good ten years into it now -- there has also been a great deal of delight and discovery. And challenges that feel good, not frustrating: teaching myself material so I can turn and teach it to others, learning to work with kids who learn in different ways, encountering material I learned a long time ago (meeting it as if it were an old friend).
These days go so well, all together. The kids get English, Latin, social studies, and a bit of math for the high school boys. And they work efficiently! They know that if they finish quickly they get to play with their friends.
My home days never seem to go quite so well for the younger ones. Maybe it's because math and spelling aren't as fun (they do like art and science pretty well). Maybe it's because the dreaded DOUBLE MATH DAY that comes once a week (since we spend two days a week doing no math at all) hangs over everything like a cloud. Maybe it is because of chores.
But my high schooler gets so much done on those days, barricaded in a quiet room with his to-do lists and his syllabi, that I have plenty of hope for the future.
God help me, I am really starting to enjoy this. Everyone eventually comes up with theories of how the young should be educated, because theories of education are only proxies for theories of humanity. We who educate our own children are really putting our money where our mouth is, and finding out if we understand these young humans in our care the way we think we do, and finding out if we understand how to explain humanity to the humans and vice versa, as we go along. It is theoretical and it is empirical. It is exhiliarating and it is frightening. It is learn-as-you-go and throw-out-everything-you-thought-you-knew all at once. It is a life's work that is simultaneously broad and wide, and narrowed to the very dagger's point. I have learned so much. I have so much more to learn. Some of it is sticking, and some is falling away, and at the end the shape will be different for each one of them, and I will be different, too.