electric boogaloo

Seven things before the first sleep

1. Going in I already can say that it’s medium unlikely that I’ll stay awake long enough to click Publish. That button is really sticky you know, it takes a lot of physical strength to click it. It’s almost three in the morning and I’m an idiot for being awake at all right now.

2. Homeschool! I keep meaning to tell you, there’s a facebook page here
if you’re interested in following what we’re up to.

I don’t keep up with it as much as I should but it’s updated much more often than this blog, that’s for darn sure. Plus there are photos and occasional downloads and stuff.

3. Speaking of school, we’re having a really good year. Technically, that is officially Graham is in first grade this year and Nicolaus is in fourth. But if you ever want to see something hilarious, ask homeschool kids what grade they’re in.

We’re somewhere in the middle of our time together. The kids are now old enough to do projects with more than two steps but still young enough to not realize that doing projects with your mom is lame.

I know there are rigorous academic things that we probably should be doing — I mean we cover academics, but I don’t hammer them. So for now my children are terrible spellers. They write their letters in the most laborious ways possible despite my many brilliant ideas to help them write letters like normal humans. No kidding, we have done dances, written in sand over a light box, used chalk, used every kind of lined/textured/magical paper on earth. They’ll write everything the ideal way as long as we’re doing the exercise, and then five seconds later they’re both back to what is essentially drawing their words.

And math — oh! Some days they know all their math facts just like popcorn popping, and I feel like I should have ribbons and trophies for being so good at this. But other days they confidently shout answers that are so wrong I really wonder why my school hasn’t been shut down by some sort of authorities.

The other night I said something in conversation about evolution and Graham very earnestly asked, “What’s evolution?”

And I immediately killed myself.

We study this every year, and last fall we studied evolution for a month. A MONTH. And we have continued to talk about it and… seriously? You don’t, ugh, agh, kill self.

I started to explain from the beginning then I realized wait. Maybe all he needs? “It’s the process of things evolving.”

“Oh!” he lit up, “Yeah!” Oh thank goodness. I get to live.

So homeschooling is often humbling. And I sigh sometimes thinking about all of the hundreds of amazing conversations and books and museum trips and art projects from the last few years that they completely do not remember. Their brains are little conveyer belts apparently, new stuff goes on, old stuff falls off. That was good stuff, man. Dang it! I have to believe that it all goes in, it’s all rolling around in those brains and it must have shaped who they are in some fundamental way, instilled a love of learning that they’ll carry with them forever. This thought gives me peace.

But by god they’d better remember the stuff we do from here on out.

So that’s the stress of this lifestyle. But oh the good things are so flipping amazing. It’s true that at age 10 if you asked Nicolaus to write a three-page book report, he would melt into a puddle of frustration and disappear, but he is writing a novel and has outlined two others. Lots of world building and character background and thinking about how to start and craft the story. Of course the spelling in the novel is horrifyingly bad like I said. But tonight he ran into the kitchen to tell me that the weirdest thing happened. It turns out that he somehow got a middle-earth fantasy type of spell check dictionary in his brain. He would type a word like half-elf or “dwarf” and KNOW (somehow! magically!) that it was spelled wrong. So he’d change it, trying out a few different spellings until his internal spell checker just KNEW somehow that yes! That’s right!

Oh could it be that reading The Hobbit has secretly planted information in your brain, and that your mother isn’t completely terrible for making you read books even though the world has provided such wonderful audio books?

In other words, every time I start to worry about a skill or experience they’re missing, they do something that makes me realize that they are so getting it. In their own way, on a timetable not created by the state, but it all goes in and mashes together and slowly turns the gears until oh my gosh! Some magic just happened! IN THEIR BRAINS.

Like: We took a long break for the winter and — I feel bad saying this — they didn’t realize we were on a break from school for the first two weeks. They just coasted on their own while I frantically packed orders and did no parenting at all. What are we studying? Packing tape! What’s for lunch? Packing tape, sweetie. Always packing tape.

During the break they continued our (forgettable, apparently) study of evolution on their own. One morning they decided to invent evolution-themed games and let me tell you what, kids’ ideas for games are AWESOME. Parker Brothers should hire a room full of kids to come up with their next game.

Graham’s game involved luck of the draw and scary predators. He made a deck of cards, so it was sort of like Go Fish except you could suffer a circle-of-life tragedy at any time. Highly recommended for parents and teachers who like seeing little children burst into tears.

Nicolaus used a sharpie to draw all different body parts and adaptations onto clear transparencies. Then each player was assigned a character and on your turn you all draw a new body part or change. It’s almost like poker; you were allowed to trade in some of the pieces. You layer them on top of your critter. But every now and then someone would draw an environment card — which changed everything! You were perfectly adapted a minute ago but now poof, the weather’s below freezing for 10,000 years and maybe you’d better do something about that.

After we raved about the evolution games, Nicolaus decided to abandon his dream of being a chemist and announced that we would grow up to be a game designer. He has made 5 or 6 games for us and Graham. So yeah, a lot of their games are too complicated, or too slow or have impossibly tiny game pieces made from q-tip heads colored with markers. Because he wants his prototypes to be playable, he has started caring about crazy things like handwriting and spelling. And figuring out rules for fairness. And probability, math, and all kinds of other big good things for kids to learn like imagining being someone else who doesn’t know how the game works, planning a big project, thinking about pace and timing and what makes a game fun.

4. This did not turn out to be a list of seven things, sorry.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Seven things before the first sleep”

  1. squirl says:

    Sounds like they’re learning just fine. And, most likely without all of the hang ups from classroom-style learning. You’re doing a wonderful job with your boys, Tiffany. :-)

  2. katie says:

    Sounds awesome. I have *all* the same freakouts. And you know what? One day my son just suddenly learned to spell. I wasn’t even trying, but he just finally *read* enough and all the spellings like, stuck in there. (He listens to fiction, but reads way too many Minecraft wikis.)

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