Monday, October 4, 2010

Phlegm, MEAPS, and Cake

I have been sick for almost a week now.  Wait, no, more than a week now.  Late last night the phlegm finally drizzled into my tummy, and you know what that means.... Urp.  There's nothing worse than being up in the middle of the night with your head in the toity for no good reason.  Or at least no fun reason. 

I have been overworking my immune system, running those little defense cells into the ground with nothing to show for it but bags under my eyes.  Well, okay, maybe there have been a few good things to show for it. 

We pulled off a whole unit on Medieval Times, complete with a feast, hand-made weapons, a hand-sewn dress and other various accouterments.  We have been on tons of field trips.  We have baked, cooked, blogged, read Chaucer and Junie B. Jones, learned how to build a camp fire and even done some math and science.  We've gone for jogs and ripped it up at the skate park. 

We've done some stuff.  But as any new home schooling parent wonders.... was it the right stuff?  Okay, when I say "wonders," what I really mean is "worries."  I think part of my fatigue is that I'm constantly worrying about the content of my children's new education.

Enter (the most unlikely player in this comedy) "E," one of Cady's neighborhood friends over for a play date.  In making conversation with this precocious nine year old girl, I asked her what they've been doing in school.

E: Oh, not much.
Me:  Do you like your teacher?
E:  Yeah, she's really nice.
Me:  Have you done a lot of math? 
E:  Not really.
Me:  Really?  Have you done much writing?
E:  No.  We've mostly been getting ready for the MEAPS.  They're next week. Are you guys taking the MEAPS?
Me:  No.  We don't do tests.
E:  (jaw drops)  I want to be home schooled.  I mean, can I come to your house to be home schooled?

Ahhhhh.  I took a deep sigh after my conversation with E.  The public school kids have been spending most of an entire month preparing for testing.  (Thanks, "No Child Left Behind.")  I don't need to test my kids.  I know what they've learned, and often what they've retained comes out in every day conversation. 

For example, Cady retold an entire Canterbury Tale to her friend while we were driving to dance class Saturday morning.  Asher explained to his buddy what a "gong farmer" was in the Middle Ages.  (FYI, he's a dung-digger... searches for treasures in the gong-piles, then sells the human waste for garden fertilizer.  No wonder they considered raw vegetables unhealthy.)  My kids knew that you could pay a monk to pray for your penance, that knights were professional soldiers, and that minstrels often knew many secrets about royalty because they could hear everything from their place in the balcony.

I know if they retain the math or not because I'm sitting next to them, or at least close enough to hear their frustration.  We also don't move on until they completely understand what they're working on, even if it takes a month!

I only have two kids whose progress I need to track!  Imagine if school teachers had that kind of ratio?  They wouldn't need to test either, or do half of the other administrative things that are part of their job descriptions.  What a joy it would be for teachers if they could simply teach?

Okay, so that made me feel better.  Also, I was talking to a good friend Sunday who is the father of two home schooled kids.  He gave me some incredible advice.  He said, "Give yourself credit for what you've done!"  Simple, but poignant.

Asher baked a pie:  Following instructions, sequencing, math (fractions and weights and measures), science, and home economics

Cady wrote a story about princesses, castles, knights and unicorns:  Handwriting, writing, reading, history (myths of the Middle Ages), art, drama (in the reading aloud)

You get the picture.  When I have finally stepped back and seen how much they've done, my nerves are calmed.  Asher and Cady have accomplished a lot in a short time. 

Plus, the relationship skills that we've learned in our short time home together have been more than icing on the cake.   They've been the cake.  And everyone knows that bad cake is bad... No matter how delicious the icing, no-one wants a slice.

But good cake... Mmmm, good cake can stand alone. 

Well, almost.  These two good cupcakes started their math workbooks today!  Sometimes a little icing is what puts the cake in the realm of pastry delicacy, rather than Little Debbie, and lands them good positions in the better bakeries.

Huh.  I think I've gotten my appetite back!


  1. urgh, those damn MEAPs. Saskia has been learning 'MEAP Language' which is basically how they word the questions weird so that apple really means orange. What a waste of time. That's my biggest complaint with the public school system, how much time the kids waste not learning while they prepare for tests, or catch up the slower learners, or deal with discipline problems, or simply allow for 25+ kids to each have their turn! If I could homeschool, that would be why I would do it. You are doing great, I'm happy for all of you.

  2. Thanks Christina. It's really interesting the impact of "No Child Left Behind" on the way teachers have to educate children. You'd be hard-pressed to find a teacher that actually LIKES to adhere to all the beurocracy. But rest assured, Christina, your girls will be fine. You are an incredibly involved parent. As Maureen would say, you "co-school." As long as the pressure isn't on your kids to ace those test (de-emphasize them) they won't be scarred! LOL! You're doing great too!

  3. And now I'm a little freaked out about public school. I think you're right though in that de-emphasizing the pressure on our end may help a lot.

  4. I am just new to your blog and have not had time to read many of the back posts. Bravo for homeschooling. We had not planned on homeschooling but in second grade, our son had a horrible teacher. At Christmas, we pulled both our children out just to get through the year. Well, they never went back.....So, we just graduated our son after homeschooling 10 1/2 years! We are so proud of him and everything he accomplished. It is a proud moment to see your child walk across the stage for you to give him his diploma!!! But, as you well know, it is very hard. I know I cried most nights for three least that is what my husband thinks. In one of your posts you spoke about the meds, doctors, etc. your child had taken and seen. I was a special ed. teacher prior to having children. Boys mature so much later yet we stuff them into classrooms and desks and tell them they are unruly or hyper when they can't sit still. They just aren't ready like their counterparts: girls who relish the structure of school. Our son didn't really read until the 5th grade!!! Something happened that ignited him at that age and his reading skills soared and he 'caught up' in no time. Now he reads all the time. If he had been in a 'regular' school, I know they would have had him in a special ed. class. You are doing a great thing for your kids letting them go outside and move in addition to doing schoolwork. They will still need that outside time when they get into the upper grads. When you get into the upper grades, don't fret or give up either. There are wonderful groups now to help with middle school and high school labs, classes and activities.
    I just wish I had known not to worry about the education part of homeschooling-I don't mean to not have goals, expectations, and discipline to get the work done, but it took me a long time to realize their hearts and my relationship with them is far more important than the schoolwork. Also know, even though you are tired and have bags under your eyes now, the time with your children will fly by. And know that even though you home school them, you will , as they get older, wish for more time to spend with them.

    1. I was just re-reading some of my old posts and found your response here... It overwhelmed me with tears. Thank you SO much for your story and for your support. I can't tell you how much it means to hear these words.