Monday, August 29, 2011

Dan says

Pretending to be...I don't know. Some kind of military freelancer with a vaguely New Zealandish accent (the clone troopers have a NZ accent) and no sense of irony:

This isn't a world where people are always happy, you know. Some of them will try to kill you--destroy you. But I have just the thing for that: deadly weapons.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicago photos

Chicago in July. The middle of a heat wave. Ugh. But it was still fun. The photos are completely out of order, no thanks to blogger. Oh, well.

playing in the backyard

Johnny and Baachan
A quiet moment indoors

The 80-ft. long slip-n-slide, made from materials they had on hand. Who has 480 square feet of plastic tarp-y material? Someone who cut up a 480-sq. ft. plastic tarp that he used to make an ice rink in his backyard last winter: lay the plastic on level ground, turn the hose on, and freeze overnight. Then in the summertime, cut into strips, lay it on a hill and turn on teh hose. Add dishwashing liquid to make it even more slippery. Classic JC (my friend from high school).
watching a regatta on Lake Michigan from the C's beach

The beach. Perfect place to spend a 95 degree day.

Johnny and Jiji
At Homer's for ice cream.

Eating more ice cream at Navy Pier.

School at home

School at home is going well, all things considered. We're only doing about 90 minutes of actual academic work, and most of that is arithmetic drills and cursive patterns. I alternate reading books about Hawaii to get ready for our trip next week, and taking dictation for Dan's blog. I figure all the time he spends reading on his own counts, as well, so if we add that in, it's about three hours or more every day.

Here is an account of his first day up to the moment he sat down (lifted from an email because I'm too lazy to write another one):

Dan was a little discombobulated on Wednesday morning—at least, that’s the only thing I can think of to explain how unbelievably crabby he was. I took the boys to the Pancake House for breakfast to sort of celebrate not having to rush off to school, and Dan complained almost the entire time about the most ridiculous things: Johnny has new shoes and I don’t; you never let me ride in the front seat; I didn’t get a straw for my hot chocolate; the butter is melting on the pancakes; there aren’t enough chocolate chips; the sausage is the wrong texture;Johnny ’s superball is better than mine; (after throwing his superball under the seat in the car) I can’t find my superball.

Once we got home, he said, “Homeschool?” and I replied with some trepidation, “Okay, are you ready?” He cheered and gave me a hug. What a relief. We’re taking it very slowly—just a couple of hours each day of math, writing, and reading so far, and it’s going well. We’ll see what it’s like when the novelty wears off…

He was so cute that first day—he set everything up on the table (see photo): pencil, pen, markers, paper, ruler, scissors, pencil sharpener, highlighter pen, stapler, Scotch tape, and a little silver bell: “We can ring it when it’s time for recess and lunch.”

Dan's first day of school. Note the array of supplies on his left.

Today we went to a Welcome Back to School after-school park day for the boys who would have been in Dan's grade. Two of his best friends were going to be there, but I didn't know how comfortable he would be, sort of barging in on a big group of kids he doesn't see regularly anymore. In fact, he did spend the first few minutes just playing with me instead of joining his friends. He looked like the poster child for The Society of Socially Awkward Homeschooled Children, and I worried what all the other mothers would think--maybe I'm overly self-conscious, but I had a feeling that they were keeping an eye on him to see how well he'd mix back in with the old school crowd.

Exercising superhuman self-control, I asked him gently only twice, "Do you want to go play with your friend? He came right over to say hi to you, so I'm sure he wants to play with you." And I didn't say another word as my insides tied themselves in little knots of anxiety.

Thankfully, he eventually wandered over (or maybe one of them wandered back, I can't remember) and became once more a part of his favorite group of friends. Huge sigh of relief. Two of them even went with him at his invitation to a distant part of the park to climb a more challenging piece of equipment.

What's also fun is Johnny. He was sitting on my lap last week wondering what to have for his after dinner treat. He asked, "How many chocolate squares do I have left?"
"You have three, sweetie."
"Wait a sec," he murmured, and his brow knitted itself into a frown of concentration. You could just hear his little brain whirring away.
After a few seconds, he looked up. "I want two," he announced, "Then will I have one left?"
My little baby just did algebra! I thought.  3 - x = 1. I was so proud.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Midst of the Sea

And also to make myself feel better, one of my favorite pieces of poetry:

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore.
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, shout, nod to me, and laughingly dash with your hair.

from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. Isn't it lovely? Maybe tomorrow I'll quote the rest of it, as it so aptly describes what I feel like we're doing. Or what I hope we will do.

T minus 1

Tomorrow is it. The first official day of homeschooling. Because it’s the first day of Dan’s former school, so why not?

So tomorrow morning, instead of dashing around packing his lunch and snack; instead of pushing him to hurry up and get dressed/eat breakfast/brush his teeth/make his bed/get in the car or we’ll be late; instead of fighting traffic, searching for a parking spot, dragging Johhny  along to Dan's classroom and then to the PTA Coffee after the first few minutes of school,

I will wait until the town has safely parked its cars in the school parking lots and then mosey out the door with my two boys. And we’ll have pancakes and sausage at the Pancake House to celebrate not going back to school.

I didn’t realize how weird this day would seem. How wrenching it was going to be to send my “letter of resignation” to the school, officially withdrawing him. How terrified I would feel, how unmoored when I thought about his name being deleted from the roll sheet. How sad to think that his desk will be empty tomorrow, and that his friends will look at each other and wonder why he is not there.

And yet. His desk, in fact, will not be empty. There will be an un-waitlisted student sitting at it (I know, right?), with her name neatly printed on a strip taped to the top of his (well, her) desk, so each of his friends will simply assume that he is in another class.  Four families know he is homeschooling, and by the time the PTA Coffee is over tomorrow, all of his friends’ mothers will know. In three days, everyone will know.

Which is scary in a different way.

I never thought that I would be scared. I’ve been dreaming of curriculum all summer, thinking of fun things to do, interesting things to study together. I’ve been looking at math curricula, writing curricula, reading websites about whether or not and how to teach cursive. I've written up lists of what I hope to "cover" this year--course of study, what, what? I’ve been collecting science experiment stuff, binders, paper, notebooks. I’ve been reading volumes and volumes of books about homeschooling. But it began to dawn on me yesterday that despite all of this, I am totally, completely unprepared and I am just going to have to wing it. A lot. I am not comfortable with winging it.

I’ve also been realizing lately that there is so much, so much that I want to do with Dan that I can’t start it all at once, no matter how exciting it seems to me. And also that a lot of what I want to do with Dan may not necessarily be what he wants to do with me. And I’m nervous about that, too. It’s hard for me not to drive the car all by myself.

But in honor of my former teacher self, I made a little list of what I want to do this week (in a strictly academic sense). I printed out a couple of little math worksheets because I know he’ll enjoy doing them. I have a tiny little seed of a plan for the very first tiny baby step and I’m not married to it, and I feel a little teeny bit better, even though--not to scare anyone else, but--I really, really don't know what I'm doing.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Talk about the universe being on my side!

Just as I was about to walk out the door, my very good homeschooling friend called me and told me how to withdraw Dan properly, so no one gets in trouble. Wow.

Back from Summer Vacation (sort of)

First day of school is this Wednesday--day after tomorrow!

And I'm off to the school right now to withdraw Dan and declare my intention to (ulp) homeschool. Wish me luck.