Back to Homeschool

On the day when most of our neighbors’ kids went back to school, I was at Directors Lab Chicago, a thousand miles from my kids. They were chilling out with JC, I guess. I heard they caught some Pokemon.

A week later, the city schools started back up, and my Facebook feed was once again filled with adorable pictures of kids with their nicely brushed hair and coordinated outfits and cute backpacks posed on their stoops with signs that said things like “First Day of Third Grade!”

And then I looked at my kids, and felt a tiny twinge of lazy homeschooler guilt.

Because this is what they were doing at 11 am on “back to school day”:

Silas was wearing real clothes, but Petra pulled her dress from the dress-up box. No one had their hair brushed, and I’m honestly not so sure about teeth or vitamins. Their little friends were all off on the road to academic success and we were uhm…not.

Either out of sloth or good sense, I decided not to say anything to the kids about it. I didn’t whip them into shape or try to tackle a big, hastily and guiltily compiled, thematic unit or field trip or millionth attempt to make them understand fractions.

And what happened was that they surprised me.

Petra spent the day writing. She began by making lots of “tickets to hear a Princess Peep” story, and handing them out.

She then got out a book that has some princess-themed pictures in it and told us the (very, very long) story of Princess Peep, and her parents, and her cat (named Petra), and “the former queen and the former king and the former archer.”

At rest time, she decided to make a chart of the letters of the alphabet (not in order) and draw a word that started with that letter.

In case you have trouble seeing what she wrote, its:

  • A for ant
  • M for moo
  • R for rabbit
  • P for Petra
  • C for cat
  • B for bee
  • D for dinosaur (pteranadon)
  • E for elevator
  • F for fairy
  • J for JC wearing a little vest
  • N for nut
  • Evil huppy
  • Yip is a being from oz
  • K for kite
  • L for Lillian
  • T for tea (over flow in)
  • N for nut
  • O for octopus
  • Q for quacking duck
  • S for snake
  • T tadpole

Not bad, for someone who’s technically a year young for Kindergarten.

And then there’s Silas…

I ran across a post I wrote when he turned three, where I excitedly reported that he was reading some CVC words like “bus” and “dog.” That’s kindergarten level, right! Woo, genius baby. And…Then the thing is, he stayed at roughly that level for four years. I’m not exaggerating. I was starting to wonder if he had an undiagnosed problem. I did all my subtle assessments that I picked up in my work on literacy education; but no, he had all those pieces. He can rhyme and recognize patterns, he has perfect letter-sound correspondence and high print awareness, he’s got great listening comprehension. But reading, even very simple books, was a serious struggle. He was headed for second grade, roughly. And I was starting to wonder if my lazy homeschooling was going to mess up my kid and ruin his chances at…you know, all the good things.

And then about four weeks ago, rather suddenly, he started to take off. I heard him sounding out words like “disingenuous” and “complex.” I checked out some graphic novels from the library and he dove into them. On “back to school” day, I asked him if he wanted to read one of them with me, alternating pages. He did. Some of the words in there were tough, and some of the passages were pretty long for a graphic novel. He read without hesitation. If he stumbled on a word, he sounded it out, and then went back and read the whole sentence with feeling.

The book was aimed at an educational market, so it had grade level scoring on the back. I checked it–it was listed as a third-grade-level book.

Maybe back-to-homeschool is going to be okay after all.

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