A couple of friends and family members have been asking us about how-the-homeschooling-is-going. Sometimes, it’s genuine, interested questions (which I’m happy to respond to)… other times, it’s more of an interrogation (which, I’m not so happy responding to).
The most repeated questions go something like this:
- “How’s their reading and writing coming along? Are they at the same level as other kids their age? Are they being left behind?”
- “I know your kids aren’t going to school now… but when do you actually plan on sending them to school?… because… y’know… they have to go to school at some stage!”
- “You were never good at maths. How do you intend teaching your children maths?”
- “What curriculum do you use?”
- “How will they gain entrance into university?”
- “How will your kids learn to socialise in the real-world if they’re not at school?”
- “When are you guys going to settle down? All these travel plans are well and good – but what children really need is routine and stability”.
I decided to type out a FAQ response (which I may consider thrusting forcefully into the hands of the next person who wants to know how our kids will learn to “socialise” without school to teach them).
The FAQ document, however, is quickly morphing into somewhat of a manifesto. Complete with photos, graphs, charts and a super-sized bibliography!
There isn’t much marvellously exciting happening on the education front since we returned to Johannesburg from our 6-week-road-trip. There’s only so many times that one can take the kids to the science museum, the zoo, the bird gardens, the botanical gardens and the lion park. That… and every coffee-shop-with-playground in Johannesburg (and especially those with good coffee) has been frequented with such clockwork regularity by the kids and I… that the staff are treating us like old acquaintances.
I’ve even had a slice of lemon meringue pie and a cappuccino plonked in front of me (without me having to ask for it). Am I that predictable?
All of us want to be on the road again. November can’t come soon enough.
In the meantime though… this is what we’ve been learning:
FLORA & FAUNA
The kids have decided (in mid winter, no less) that they want to grow stuff. At first, I wondered whether this was going to be a phase… and that they’d lose interest in their potted seeds quicker than they tired of their late hamster, Rosemary. But – on the day that the seedlings finally erupted from the potting soil, I was woken up with whoops of undiluted glee…
“They’re growing! They’re growing!”…
And – indeed – they are.
Morgan has chosen to grow broccoli (one of her favourite veggies) and Joah chose tomatoes (because he wants to brew up a special tomato sauce).
Last weekend, while the kids’ cousins were visiting, and while I was curled up in the lounge reading a book… I was startled by an agonising scream that came from the bedroom. At first, I thought that one of the kids had been seriously hurt – but then I heard Joah’s words: “GABI!!! WHAT DID YOU DO??? WHAT DID YOU DO????” – I went into the room and discovered a wailing, inconsolable Joah.
His little cousin had pulled out one of his tomato seedlings. “SHE PULLED MY PLANT!”, he sobbed – pointing an accusing finger at the culprit (who was sitting cross-legged in a corner, glaring defiantly at the floor).
“Don’t worry”, I consoled, “She only uprooted one. You have lots more. It’s okay”.
“BUT SHE PULLED MY PLANT! GABI PULLED MY PLANT! … NOW IT’S NEVER GOING TO GROW AGAIN!”.
“Maybe she just wanted to see the roots?” I offered.
No deal. Joah was gutted. His body was shaking with violent sobs… over one, uprooted seedling! (he didn’t shed a single tear when his hamster was found stiff and dead in her cage)… but the tomato plant! Omigod! The tomato plant: one seedling uprooted and the sky may as well have fallen!
Moral of the Story & Note-to-Self: When other small children come to visit, ensure that plants, pottery, artwork and drying pecan-nut-paper are safely out of reach of inquisitive little fingers.
Speaking of flora & fauna: we really enjoy visiting nurseries. It’s fun to wander the aisles, inspecting interesting plants and sniffing flowers (and prodding cacti). My mother has a thing for plants. You want to give Mom a gift? Just buy her a gift-voucher from a place that sells plants. She’ll love you forever. She has told us that when she dies… she wants her ashes buried under a tree (an oak, to be precise) – planted in her name.
(Come to think of it, I quite like that idea. Maybe I should also have myself planted as a tree…)
(Why was I suddenly thinking of Mom?)… oh – it’s because of the plants.
Anyway – today we were at another nursery and Morgan happened upon a very old pecan tree! There were a number of uncollected pecan nuts scattered amongst the foliage under the tree – and the kids collected a small basket of them. Once we were home, Morgan and Joah set about shelling their nuts.
(Morgan is now very interested in re-cycling and all things “green” since we’ve finished reading a book called “Green Kids”).
Anyway – so I told Morgan that we didn’t need to worry: pecan husks and shells were perfectly biodegradable and could simply be left in the flower-bed. But – she insisted that she wanted to make something pecan’y…. so – without further ado… we made: PECAN PAPER!
(My special recipe)… Here’s a photo:
We’ve been doing a fair amount of counting this past couple of weeks. Mostly – it has to do with counting money. My kids – truth be told – haven’t been trained very well in the ways of Good-Greek-Children. Most Good-Greek-Children can operate a cash register, balance a cheque-book and open their own shop by the time they’re 6 years old. Indeed, Nick – at the age of 4 – was tending the cash register at his parents’ shop (and selling straws – single cigarettes – for 15c each as a profitable under-the-counter sideline).
OUR half-Greek-kids, on the other hand, are still arguing about whether R50 is enough to buy a new Skylander or mermaid tail (answer: it is not enough).
Morgan has arranged her money by currency. (Nick and I had a large jar of “Funny Money” – leftover coins and currency from our travels containing everything from American quarters… to British pounds… to Nigerian naira… to Cuban pesos… to Chinese yuan!)…
Morgan (who has arranged them into neat piles, wrapped in tinfoil) says we should go to the bank – give them ALL the money… and that we’d have enough to buy her the mermaid tail she’s been wanting (like… forever).
PS: Mermaid tails can be purchased from The Mertailor in Florida (at a price).
So yes… there’s been counting.
Money counting… and ingredient counting. Morgan has been churning out cakes again (sometimes yummy… sometimes… uh… not-so-yummy).
Measuring cups and spoons have been doing a great job of teaching her about fractions. Dividing a glazed doughnut between Morgan, Joah and Zahra-from-next-door has also been a great way to learn about fractions.
Morgan has discovered Bill Nye the Science Guy on youtube. Today – she followed his instructions (about how to magnetise a pin)… and she made a little water-compass (and is very chuffed with herself too).
Ever since reading the Green Kids book – there has been much passionate discussion about clean energy (like wind turbines & solar panels) as opposed to “dirty” energy and the burning of fossil fuels (although Joah likes the idea that bits of dead dinosaur power our cars).
We’ve also been talking about litter and why it’s important to respect our environment and keep it clean. I’m amazed at how this message has sunk in! Now – a visit to the park becomes a drawn-out process as the kids insist on picking up every cigarette butt and chip packet that they find… shaking their heads and grumbling indignantly about the “rude people who just drop their rubbish on the ground”.
The human body is still a hot topic. I found a lovely book with loads of photos – and we recently spent 3 solid hours at a coffee shop… discussing bones, genes, blood and various innards. The kids can now tell you how many bones are in their fingers… what’s the biggest (and smallest) bone in their bodies… and that they have 7 bones in their neck.
This is one of their favourite topics. We have an awesome world map with magnets that has done a great job teaching the kids about the world (it’s one of our favourite things to play with).
This has been an interesting month for history lessons.
As much of the world knows, Nelson Mandela is still in hospital – gravely ill and very old. And there has been a considerable amount of media hype surrounding this (much of it unsavoury – especially the family stuff).
To make matters even more grim, it seems like everyone is trying to cash in on Mandela and make money off him. So, suddenly… there’s an explosion of Mandela books, T-shirts, bags, key-rings, posters, charity-drives baring his name, and so on… and so on…
Very little of this has to do with Mandela himself – most of it is about opportunists cashing in on the Mandela legacy – especially since it seems as though he won’t last much longer.
But – all of the current hoo-ha did create an opportunity for me to tell my kids an important story… about this country and about our history… and about the important role that Nelson Mandela played in ridding us of a disgusting system of oppression. I can think of no better way to pass on the legacy of Nelson Mandela than to tell my children about him (and hopefully, one day, they’ll tell their children… and so on).
Another opportunity for a history lesson cropped up in a very unexpected place: while we were watching The Sound of Music! Morgan wanted to know who the “mean soldiers” were… and asked about the swastika (and why the Captain ripped a swastika flag in two). So – I touched on a tiny bit of World War II history… but only enough for her (and for me) to stomach.
This post is becoming long… so I’ll end off for now. Our Joburg Season has been fine. Obviously not half as exciting, interesting and exhilarating as learning-on-the-road – but still, we’ve all been busy and productive (as I type this… Morgan and Joah are busy with an art project).
So… this was a quick update on how the Life-Learning is going… and I’ll end off with a photo of the kids (and their friend from next door) playing lego in my Drawing-Room.
(“Drawing Room” as in: Room-Where-I-Like-To-Draw).