Friday, February 27, 2009

rainy day

Seriously rainy. Just coming down, and down and down. I don't even want to take a peaceful walk through the neighborhood with Cricket the dog in this weather.

It's a day for spinning, and building forts in the living room.

A really good day for hot cocoa, as it turns out.

I'd love to tell you I'm full of inspiration for all sorts of ideas for blog posts, and that I'll be back on the blogging horse soon, but I'm afraid it's just not happening. I've become an occasional blogger. I do miss the connections I had with other introspective homeschooling bloggers, and I miss that moment after noodling around with some idea about kids and learning for a while, when it crystalizes into a position worth writing about.

The good news is that a lot of my educational blather is less in the realm of theorizing and chit-chat, and more in the practical world of teaching. Our little homeschooling playgroup is gaining momentum as a co-op, and I now have regular opportunities to work with other people's kids. It's really good to be working again.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

big fish, small pond

One of the more interesting aspects of having gifted kids is that you get a chance to see yourself through the eyes of your parents and former teachers, as you realize that your kids' giftedness didn't come from nowhere. The kids and I are all what I call garden-variety gifted, while Joe is more in the "yikes-scary-smart" category. We are each curious and articulate, and school work comes easily.

As a teacher, that was most salient feature of the needs of gifted kids. When school work comes easily, you get one of two problems: either the kid skates through school, never having to muster an ounce of effort for good grades, or the kid is totally bored, acting out and (sometimes) failing. I've done both. When I had kids like these in my classroom, I worked hard to provide challenges for them. Homeschooling makes that aspect of modifying curriculum really easy, because it just doesn't matter what other kids their age are doing, we just do what makes sense for our kids now.

But I had very traditional schooling, with zero modification of the regular elementary classroom for my giftedness, and just a tiny bit of enrichment from time to time. As a result, I am accustomed to doing all the ordinary things easily, and I encounter my own significant resistance when I attempt something more challenging.

So: I knit. Mostly I knit things that aren't too hard for me. I've been knitting a long time, and it takes a lot of determination for me to steel myself to learn something new. There are people around me in real life who are impressed with my knitting, but I know better. Because of my constant trolling of the internets for knitting patterns and blogs, I know that my knitting is serviceable at best, but nothing to brag about.

I haven't blogged about this (although others have) but I went on a weekend spinning excursion in December. I rode on the train overnight out to Michigan so I could take a class from the very famous and fabulous Abby Franquemont at Beth Smith's very fabulous and famous shop, The Spinning Loft. I knew I would encounter knitters far more competent than I on this trip, and I did.

I came home determined to try something a little out of my comfort zone. Not crazy hard, just a little more challenging than the repetitive lace scarves, stockinette stitch sweaters, and ribbed socks I knit most of the time. I settled on this pattern: Juno Regina, by Miriam Felton. It's a symmetrical lace pattern scarf, with a long simple section sandwiched between two large diamonds full of diamonds. It's cool. I really like it. I'm knitting it in a fabulous two-ply black alpaca that is squishy and soft, and I know I'm going to love love love this scarf when it's finished.

I've been working on it about three weeks, and here's how far I've gotten:
The reason for this pathetic progress is that I've ripped it out three times, all the way back to the beginning. And the reason for that is because I refuse to use life lines. (Just in case there is anyone still reading who doesn't know about life lines in this context, it means threading all your stitches through a length of contrasting yarn, so that if you make a mistake later and have to rip it out, you can rip back to the yarn holding your stitches, rather than all the way back to the beginning.)

And the reason for that is my own stubborn arrogance. I get going on the thing, and I get excited that it's going well, and I don't want to stop to put in a piece of ugly string that's going to be hard to knit around, so I don't. And then I make a mistake, and I can't figure out how to fix it, so I rip it back to the start and cast on again.

I'm not giving up on this scarf. I think I'm going to have to use life lines.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ok, i'm awake now

So I've given a lot of thought and writing to the ways in which homeschooling is different from teaching school. And really, it is way, way different. Coming off six intense years of teaching made moving to homeschooling feel like a warm bubble bath after coming in from the cold. Fun! Relaxing! Easy!

I haven't thought much about how teaching at home is the same as classroom teaching, I think mostly because the similarities were so obvious--teaching kids how to do stuff--that they didn't bear articulating.

I just discovered a big similarity, and I'm sort of shocked about it: the need for professionalism.

Teaching school requires that you focus on the kids, and tune out things like your headache, your pants that don't fit quite right, the parent who wants a conference after school, the bullshit politics with other teachers. And so on, ad infinitum. There's so much going on in a school of any size that you hone the skill of tuning it all out so you can actually do your job. There are times when a pinpoint focus on the children and their work comes to feel like a relief, because all those other things are distracting noise: less important, less interesting. And you have far less control over how all those other things go.

And you have to be on time.

And you have to make sure you're prepared.

And you have to have eaten breakfast, and planned for your lunch.

And you have to smile and get through it, even when it's hard.

I pretty much let go off all these things when I started homeschooling. They seemed like the trappings of a professional life, not necessary anymore, like a pair of uncomfortable shoes or a good suit: something I needed to put on for a job, but at home, I could wear my slippers and robe.

Last week, we had a major mutiny. I had some deadlines unrelated to homeschooling, and a few too many personal crises, and we just didn't do much formal school. Little was also sick, so we missed out on every one of the social opportunities we usually have with other homeschoolers. There may have been a time when Big One would have reveled in a few days of freedom, but he's pretty much over that. He wants to feel like he's accomplishing something, like he's learning something, every day.

Also? He wants lunch. Every single day. And he wants to see his friends, as much as possible.

And last week, he decided that the best way to get all these things was to go to public school. He decided that we would have one last day of homeschooling and then he'd go off to school on Monday.

I asked him to give me one more chance, and we drew up a list of agreements. He doesn't want this list to be made public in any way, so I will summarize:

I now have a job. It feels pretty good.

Monday, February 02, 2009

monday in pictures, with feeling

Today was a sweet day, because today was the homeschool day that very nearly wasn't. Today might have been the day that my big boy went off to public school for the first time. Instead we have pulled ourselves together, thought about what's really important, and come to an agreement. More soon, today just pictures.
As an added bonus, dinner is planned and done, although still simmering and not quite ready to eat.