talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another day on Schoolhouse Earth

The girls and I were delighted to find ourselves at the library this evening. We wanted to immerse ourselves in books I've been trying to read for our local Mock Caldecott and Mock Geisel programs, and we wanted to play, too. Thank you, Clare and Michal, for setting us up with a tub of reserve books to enjoy together!

While we were there, we signed Fiona up to read to a certified therapy dog. We don't come in specifically for that program but are delighted when we stumble into one during any library visit. We had already situated ourselves in a comfortable wall nook for read-alouds, and Fiona took a turn reading to Sam and her owner one cubby to our right, so I could be nearby without being intrusive.

With Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems tucked under her arm, Fiona took her seat with the volunteer and her dog. When I overheard her inflections and expression, I knew she was doing all right with the brand new selection. I don't usually hear that much inflection the first time through unless she's pretty comfortable with the vocabulary. I was relieved. I hadn't even cracked the book beforehand, figuring her choice had roughly the same vocabulary as the other similar Willems books, which are fun but not terribly challenging. Besides, it's the one she wanted to read.

Once she finished, the volunteer must have asked Fiona about school, because I heard her ask, "Oh, you homeschool. What does your mother teach you when you homeschool?" and "Do you like learning at home?"

Having explained homeschooling to innumerable people who 'know better than we do' how children should be schooled, my hackles were raised-- fairly or not. These seemingly innocuous questions are sometimes the route people take to create an opening to bash home learning. I wanted to go pick up my eldest and begin my well-rehearsed litany of the benefits of homeschooling when I realized that Fiona must get these questions periodically as well, and I should simply give her a chance to answer them. Isn't this, too, a kind of school? I made myself stay still and gave Fiona a chance to reply.

"Oh, she mostly teaches me math," Fiona said. "I love school." I was still turning pages for Nora, but my hair stood on end. 'She mostly teaches me math?!' What about our cozy reading? Or the family piano lessons or ballet and art classes? How about the Science Central, Zoo, and Botanical Conservatory passes? What about the Extreme Helping Hands co-op, or the Early Reader Roundup programs? What about the symphony orchestra or Jim Gill or Justin Roberts? Or helping cook dinner, build a snowman, bake cookies, tend a garden, play chess, make a bed, or assemble a reusable Christmas tree? What about Park Day, or soccer camp, or math games with our neighbors and friends? Or our creative writing stuff we do with Dever, or the plays we see at the Scottish Rite center with Elena and Tessa? What about visiting the nursing home, or buying stuff with cash by herself when we go to the grocery? And religious ed. on Sundays? And play? What about everything else, honey? What about all that?! How can we convince our family, our friends, and our community that homeschooling can be a wonderful way to interact with both children and adults by absorbing all the wonders that Schoolhouse Earth has to offer while thriving with family members and friends if you infer we don't really do much of anything?

Right about that time Fiona finished her goodbyes to Sam the dog, and padded over to politely request permission to go to the Children's Services desk to get a paw print stamp on her hand. As I watched her trot off to get one, I was already feeling a little better. Fiona-- our beloved Fiona who is diagnosed with clinical anxiety-- was completely comfortable getting a bit out of view to speak to request assistance from the staff behind the desk. She is growing, bless her, and perhaps all those wonderful things we do together just feel like what we do together for fun, and not like learning at all. And if that's true then maybe, just maybe, this is exactly the school we've been trying to create all along.

I wondered whether I was just trying to soothe myself. Being a child's teacher is a little stressful, even though technically that's exactly what every parent is-- whether they define the role as such or not. Fiona came back to us to ask whether Nora might also have a stamp, since she'd undoubtedly want one once she saw it. Good thinking, Fi. As we all walked together to the Children's Desk, I asked Fiona whether the volunteer had been inquiring about homeschooling. When she assented, I asked her what they talked about. Fiona said, "Oh, I just told her we do math."

"Well honey," I countered, "you didn't even tell her we do some interesting stuff with reading?" I tried to sound measured. Don't hound her, Jen. Don't nitpick. Just try to find something out, and maybe next time try something more open-ended...

No matter. Fiona cleared it up for me right away. With an open, sincere face she said, "Well of course she'd already know that, Mama. I just read that dog a book I'd never seen before!"


At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a girl! And what a homeschool teacher! Wishing I could be there! Thanks for posting all the fun stories and, Mom

At 2:00 AM, Blogger Jen said...

We're wishing you could be too, Mom. Can't wait till you're here! Our schoolhouse will liven up considerably!

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Teresa said...

I admire your schoolhouse. Here are a two stories that might make you chuckle:

Every day when Dennis comes home from work, he asks Robert, "What did you do today?"

"Nothing," Robert replies, practically every day.

"I can't believe you didn't do anything?"

Robert pauses briefly. "I guess I just can't remember."

My mother has told me this story. When I returned home from kindergarten one day, my grandma was there.

"What did you learn in school today?" she asked.

Releasing a big sigh, I answered, pointing to each named body part, "The arm has a shoulder. The arm has an elbow. The arm has a wrist. The arm has a hand."

"What does your leg have?" inquired Grandma.

My short answer. "We haven't done that yet."

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Jen said...

ROFL! That does make me feel better, Teresa. The whole thing.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger diannaburt said...

Jen, you are a great teacher and mom! You might try patting yourself on the back a little bit more - that's what I tell the kids in storytime - give yourself a clap and a pat on the back! That's for us too! :) Love ya!

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Jennifer N said...

Your girls are awesome, and that's because they have WONDERFUL parents! You should be so proud of all you are doing for Fiona (and Nora). I truely wish that I could have been able to give as much to my children as you are. Keep up the good work.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Jen said...

You are giving to your children every single day, Jennifer, and it shows in their wonderful ways. What delightful children you have, friend!

At 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, see! She doesn't label it school because it is fun! You have mastered the trick of teaching her without her feeling like she is "having to learn."

And, come to think of it, Elena always answers "math" as well.


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