A Year of Homeschooling

June 10, 2015

We wore out this reading book.

We wore out this reading book.

Back in the fall, we started homeschooling Simone for a variety of reasons, many I made clear in an editorial that, apparently, everyone in the world read. So, I won’t talk about how it got started. Rather, I’ll talk about how it went.

At the beginning we started by using a series of books called Everything Your ___ Grader Should Know. Cate was homeschooled on these, and it seemed a logical place to start. We more or less threw out the kindergarten book right away. Simone already knew all of it. That’s going to sound like bragging or something, but it’s really just the truth. There was nothing there we needed to cover with her beyond a few basic social studies concepts. So, it was on to the first grade book.

The first grade material had real meat. You learn to read in the first grade. You start to learn real math and so on and so forth. In the beginning, things went pretty well, we were trucking along. And then James happened.

James spent most of the school year in a phase called, I AM A TWO-YEAR-OLD DEMON. This made schooling pretty hard and a lot of it got put off until after I was home from work when one of us could go over things with her while the other ran interference. It took us a while to adapt and there was a good month there where I felt like we did a pretty crappy job, but eventually we got a system figured out and Simone quickly got back on track.

Later in the year, Simone provided her own challenges. A lot of learning has come easy for her and when something was a little hard, she wanted to quit. Some fits were thrown, but we managed to find a way around. We both knew that was going to be the challenge with her. Most things come easy to Simone and when they don’t, she’s pretty inclined to walk away.

IMG_0695Having reached the end of the year, she’s just reached the beginning of second-grade reading and she’s started working on second-grade math. She’s very deep into lots of science concepts, especially biology, where she’s always on me to teach her about evolution (yes, really). And, she has her own library card!

This sounds more perfect and serene than it is. There are definitely areas where we need to improve. I feel like we could do a better job with her arts education and we definitely need to do a better job with history and social studies next year. I stand by our decision, however, and we plan to continue homeschooling for the foreseeable future. The world is still too testing-obsessed, and we enjoyed being able to adapt ourselves to her interests. It meant that she stayed in engaged in learning the whole year, and even if we struggled at times and even if we ended up with some tantrums and tattered books, it has all worked out for the best, so far.

May Book Log

June 1, 2015

It is about to be summer time, and I’ve managed to stay on track for 100 books this year. It’s totally something I’m trying to do just to see if I can, but so far, so good. Summer broke me last year, though, so we’ll have to see how it does this year. Onward…

1. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov (3.5/5) – I enjoyed much of this, but Nabakov is awfully indulgent in some spots. There was a 20 page chapter that could be cut more or less entirely without losing anything. It was the first time I’d read Nabokov and not found it to be pretty much perfect, which is nice in a way. Nobody’s perfect. Anyway, it was entertaining. Not perfect, but solid.

2. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Expury (5/5) – Sweet Jesus. I hadn’t read this in ages and I certainly hadn’t read it since having children. I read it to Simone and at the end, I sobbed my way through the last five or six pages. The entire thing is legitmately brilliant and not just for a kid’s book. Like, all adults who haven’t read this as adults should read it because you missed a lot when you were nine or whatever.

3. Waterlight by Kathleen Jamie (3.5/5) – This was a collection of poetry Cate bought a while ago and liked. Some of the stuff in here is wonderfully evocative in the way I want lyric poetry to be. Other bits are less exciting, but that’s what you get with most collections. Certainly worth dipping into.

4. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (5/5) – We all have gaps. Borges was one of my gaps. Other than a stray essay here and there, I hadn’t read him. I shall now make a habit of reading him. This collection is an utter masterpiece. Unique in my experience as a reader. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. I mean, it’s probably not for everyone, because it is very strange in spots, but it’s brilliant, so even if you might not like it, you should probably read it anyway.

5. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (3/5) – This is one that had been on my list for ages. I can now say for certain that I prefer Tolstoy who has well-developed female characters and isn’t completely obsessed with religion the way Dostoevsky often seems to be. Much of this is truly brilliant and I’m glad I read it, but it should have at least a third of it cut out. Possibly as much as half.

6. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (5/5) – I recently bought a fancy edition of this and reread it. It’s my favorite Hemingway. The prose is breathtaking and it’s one of the most moving endings I’ve ever encountered. It was completely stunning the first time I read it, and it remains so. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

7. Reef by Romesh Gunesekera (4/5) – This was on Cate’s list for me this year. Cate always does a good job for me and this is no exception. It’s very much a snapshot novel, but it does a great job showing how people are often oblivious to the rapid change taking place around them. I finished it not thinking it was the best book I’d ever read, but keeps bouncing around my head.

8. Aloft by Chang-rae Lee (4/5) – This was the only one of Lee’s novels I hadn’t read and it is also the only of his books to get truly mixed reviews. I found it very enjoyable, but imperfect. There is something about the main character that doesn’t feel quite true. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book. It is very good. Lee does a great job of conveying very delicate and complicated emotions. He just doesn’t do a perfect job.

9. An Illustrated Selection by William Wordsworth (4/5) – I’d read snatches of Wordsworth over the years, but never a concentrated volume. I enjoyed this thoroughly, though, of course, there were some I didn’t love. Wordsworth is often very calming for me. Anyway, legendary poet and stuff, yada, yada, yada.