This is my first year homeschooling my daughter Katie, and though we have both had a bit of a learning curve it's been an amazing experience overall and one I am so grateful the Spirit invited us to. I am using my skills as a college and grad school professor to create a program that is a total win/win: more academically rigorous than a conventional high school, with a shorter finish time by going year round, and also way more enjoyable for both of us!
1. Roadschooling. In the immortal words of Amy Welborn, we're not homeschooling to stay home! We began the year with two and a half weeks driving the gorgeous coastal round trip from my parents' home in Ventura to my BFF's in southern Oregon. For her spring break from Precalculus at the community college ComputerGuy drove us across the bridge from our home in the Detroit area to catch the Windsor-Montreal train and meet up with wonderful spiritual sister. And once we have finished our semester the three of us have the amazing privilege of a three week trip to Europe. We fly into London, Chunnel to Paris the next day, fly to Israel where CG spent a life changing college term, then to Spain where I will trace the footsteps of Ignatius, and then fly back to the British Isles.
2. Personalization, part 1: Nicholas. Totally took a homeschool approach with him though it looked very different. He is very social and extraverted so loved going to brick and mortar school. He had a complete alpha male personality that did not want me to be the boss of him, so didn't want me telling him what to do in even more areas. And that came out in lots of verbal aggression so I needed six hours a day break from that too! So with him we did a lot of early community college--starting with Spanish spring quarter of eighth grade!--and he was able to graduate a year early *with* a year of college credit and go away to the dorm to be the boss of himself! He then spent a semester playing his computer game on scholarship, took one off to work, and is joyfully returning to school with new motivation and focus generously assisted financially by his generous Grimes grandparents. I continue to be his "academic manager" and had a great time figuring out the pre-reqs he needs to take while ramping up his GPA at the community college in Lansing this summer with a goal of transferring to MSU or U of M. He and my mom will both be here for Mother's Day and she will help him move to his apartment and furnish it from thrift shops.
3. Personalization, part 2: Katie. I can tailor both core and elective courses to her passions and interests--above all the culture and language of Japan--and learn both with her and, to her special delight, from her. We study literature by listening to audiobooks in the car while she reads along--another win-win because it's great fun and uses time we'd be in the car anyway but also goes much more in depth because we can hit pause at will and discuss in detail. We started the semester with Pride and Prejudice and are now on to Northanger Abbey, which is a lot of fun. Recent discussion highlights include 1) her comparing John and Isabella Thorpe to the Malfoys; 2) my explaining the meaning of maudlin and its derivation from Mary Magdalene when the reader pronounced the eponymous Oxford College the British way 3) my making a joke about not being Lydia Wickham and her mentioning that she felt like she was in a secret club of people who knew what that meant and 4) her marveling that she heard damn but saw d---. I explained that in Regency England that was a serious swear that no proper lady or gentleman author would include and she quipped that her uber-sensitive-on-that-subject dad is channeling that time period! She takes after my earthier side of the family so we discuss using it like spice--for occasional accent and very respectful of context and people's feelings. I am grateful to have cut down a lot, as befits a woman in public ministry, since the vividly remembered Lenten confession inspired by my son's vocabulary in second grade, which I had to admit was definitely not coming from my co-parent!
4. Family bonding. This is especially precious given the very short earthly stays of her older sister and younger brother. We love spending the days together, coming and going to our different commitments, doing our own work in the living room with laptops--her in a small green recliner and me on the recliner couch--and periodically sharing funny bits from Facebook. My sister-in-law is an all-four-kids, all-twelve-years homeschooler and we often compare notes as we walk her dog up and down Lakeshore Drive. We are theologically very different as she is a conservative Protestant--we laughingly agree to disagree on women's ordination and LGBT issues--but share a passion for girls' education and empowerment. And we've had some wonderful highlights with my mom, who set an example of lifelong learning when she went back for an English MA and then studied a couple years of French just for fun. Fall literature was Shakespeare so she rented the Branagh-Thompson Much Ado About Nothing while we were there and took us to a fantastic production in Griffith Park. And when she and Nick are here for Mother's Day we will watch Bride and Prejudice to help finish up the Austen unit.
5. Inspiration for personal learning. After we finished our marvelous fall semester of seven, count them, Shakespeare plays I have continued to listen to others in the car--probably eight or ten so far. Taming of the Shrew isn't that bad--I totally think Kate is tongue in cheek at the end--but Antony and Cleopatra, which no one talks about, is horribly sexist in making a powerful and effective queen into a hysterical nymphomaniac. And Merchant of Venice is as profoundly offensive as I feared. Though even worse because it's just terribly boring is Coriolanus--its only virtue is making Julius Caesar seem to have a gripping plot in comparison--and it's the first one I am turning in unfinished. I love Katie's thirty second summary of JC: "Should we kill him? Yeah, let's kill him. We got away with it! Uh-oh, people are pissed--here comes a war. Damn we lost...(all fall on swords)!" I've also begun planning a semester of African America Women's Literature down the road which has me inspired to try and start reading a lot of important books I have meant to get around to for too long. Total, total, joy.