Friday, September 5, 2014

That Time Already?


The tide of summer has suddenly turned and everyone is talking about back to school topics. I can't seem to avoid it, no matter where I turn my eyes. Makes me think about how different our homeschool world looks these days.

In the years since I first started blogging our life has changed so much: back then we had more play resources and fewer reference books. More Playdough, chalk, and markers. More fingerpaint paper. Heck, I even had different SIZES of fingerpaint paper. Thomas the Tank Engine loomed large in our world. The kids LIVED for backpacks with their favourite characters on them. We all knew who Mr Frumble was. We spent a lot of time, rain or shine, trawling around the neighbourhood just looking at stuff: diggers, trucks, signs, rain, cats, spiders, friendly shopkeepers. We had our favourite librarians. And many an afternoon we'd sit down at 4pm with a tidy little snack (there's another thing that has gone by the wayside: tidy little snacks!) and watch 30 minutes of perfect happiness with our favourite aardvark Arthur. Then it would be time for dinner and, eventually, off to bed, whereupon I'd plan activities for the following day. I frequented websites like The Crafty Crow and Art Projects For Kids, poured over books like Festivals, Family, and Food or All Year Round, and picked out rituals and traditions to start with my own family. In my spare time I read about Waldorf-inspired playrooms, with wooden kitchen setups, Circle Time, and drifting silk fabrics everywhere.

Nowadays we have way more reference books: Latin, French, Japanese, science, history, and grammar dictionaries fill the shelves. We have Shakespeare anthologies, geology textbooks, philosophy books, and precalculus DVDs. We could open a library with the origami stuff we've amassed. The Thomas table has gone and in its place is a long, flat table. Adult sized chairs. Larger scissors. Larger bottles of glue. More serious glue, too. Less tissue paper and more cardstock. Fewer glittery pencils. Less glitter all round, come to think of it, except at Christmas.

Everyone has an iPod now, a fact which has its pros and cons. The pros being some of us have learnt a ton about exploring the internet, finding interesting apps on learning foreign languages, taking better photos, and fun new activities like geocaching or studying the hundreds of ships that pass through our island waters. The cons are less tangible: less interest in playing or laying out in the backyard being simply and wonderfully idle. More chatter about the games they like to play: Minecraft, Brave Frontier, Modern Combat. I'm not so keen on the games. Mindless entertainment is my preferred terminology for all that, with a special emphasis on the mindless.

There's also way less little kid noise. I used to go about my day to the sound of shrieks, screams, and giggles following me around. Pattering footsteps. Constant chattering. The laundry could be done in one or two loads because all the clothes were so tiny. I spent more time scrubbing stains off the fronts of t-shirts. Meals were simple because they didn't involve much. One can of black beans was enough for an enchilada dinner.

All that's been replaced by skirmishes over who gets the bathroom (or who stunk up/hogged/ruined the bathroom), stereo loudness contests, and arguments (although they call them 'discussions') over who has to do the breakfast dishes (and sometimes, why). I'm conversant with names like Tiesto, Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Kaskade. I'm even knowledgable about WHO they are, and how much money they make in a year (trust me, you don't want to know). We still watch PBS a lot, but Arthur has been replaced by Mystery, Doctor Who, and NOVA. More adult fare. No one goes to bed right after dinner, either, unless it's me.

Perhaps the biggest change in our homeschool world has been the departure of one of the homeschoolees. Nowadays there's only two kids at home instead of three. The eldest is off at public school, doing Highly Complicated Math, and dissecting Formerly Live Animals. Places I decided I was no longer willing to go. That's the thing, you see: when you homeschool you either farm out the academics or you learn them yourself so you can help and teach. Ten years of homeschooling has taught me a lot: I'm much more enthusiastic about fractions now than I ever was in grade school, but I'm no longer willing to put in the long evening hours studying the higher grades stuff. Nowadays I want to put that time into my winter garden plan, dust off the sewing machine so I can finish off that duvet cover I started for FDPG 4 years ago, or just sit on the couch and read. I'm also less gripped by the politics of the homeschool world: when people start discussing terminology and placing themselves in the various positions (unschooler? lifelearner? homeschooler? enrolled? registered?) I find myself losing interest, and mentally adding termin-what-EVAH. All they do is divide us all at the end of the day. If only people could see it.

The youngest two are in grade 8 this year. Instead of Circle Time beginning our day we do math. We still have read aloud time every morning, because none of us wants to give that up (it's also an amazing way to get through a TON of literature), but now we start the day with the tough stuff, leaving the afternoons open for less cerebral fare: art, cooking, science experiments, crafts, museum visits, or history videos. I frequent fewer online homeschool groups, too, but again, I think that's just the way it goes as the kids grow up. I don't need the reassurance anymore. I don't care what someone's interfering mother-in-law said. We have our groove and we're happy with it.

And so it goes. Back to school. How time flies!

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