Day 168: Where we are now

All homeschoolers are getting asked about homeschooling these days, by friends and strangers alike. Without further ado, I am reviving the 365 day project, in the hopes that showing is more helpful than telling. Because truly, friends, if I can do this, you can do this.

Katydid in a glass jar

So….these days my kids are 13 and 10. Entering 8th and 5th grades. They’ve chosen their own “codenames” this time around. My 13 year-old son we’ll call Towhee; my 10 year-old daughter we’ll call BlueJ. (Those are birds we have in our yard, and if you know my kids, they want you to notice that their codenames contain their initials.)

Like most people we know, we’ve spent the last five months mostly at home (Almost Unschooling: The Pandemic Edition), and, like many, we incorporated additional pets in that time. BlueJ adopted two female rats: Chia and Tailey, and Towhee acquired three chickens: Sassafras (Sassy), Honeysuckle (Honey), and Ivy. We still have our dog, Lucy. My husband has just gotten home after 20 months away, and the kids have had nearly a two month break with no schoolwork at all (except for one excellent online class). In this post I will try to give a quick overview of what the kids are up to and planning these days, and then give you a snapshot of what the day looked like.

Towhee’s days as an early riser are mostly in the rearview mirror, being a young teen. When I’m the first one up, like today and most days, I go out to let the chickens out of their coop and into the small run, and bring out their food and water. When Towhee got up, he ate a piece of toast, made his bed, got dressed, and headed out to spend time with his chickens. This is his every day routine now. While he’s out there, he does whatever coop cleanup he needs to do, and then just hangs out with them while they free range in the fenced back yard. We can’t let them do that unaccompanied because of a family of juvenile Cooper’s hawks currently learning to hunt. Sometime he’s out there for several hours, reading or doing whatever, but today he came in after an hour or so.

Towhee has agreed it’s time to start back with schoolwork, so he’s back where he left off in the spring: Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra (just started the final chapter, though!), some Spanish, and Analytical Grammar. As is often the case, when I write out what he’s doing, it doesn’t seem almost like unschooling at all, given the textbooks. Maybe Child Directed Education (CDE) is the better descriptor, here. Because it’s all things he wants to do. And his textbook work rarely takes very long; he’s entirely self-paced. He’s about half-way through the 42 Electronics Robotics/Electronics/Programming curriculum. He’s currently enrolled in two Outschool history classes: Zinn People’s History and Black History from a Decolonized Perspective; those run through the end of September. And on September 8, the official start to our school year, he’ll begin the Derek Owens Physical Science online class, and start with AoPS Algebra 1.

Towhee had been doing wooden boat-building program for the last two years, and had been looking forward to continuing with that, going to sailing camp, and maybe finally trying swim team. But all of that is off the table until the pandemic resolves. With his dad home, he is starting some physical training and they will probably do some running and maybe tennis, if the city parks are open. That’s Towhee’s year in a nutshell. He’s also got some wood (some nice, some scrap) and he wants to try to build an outdoor worktable, and some kind of a structure for him and his sister. We’ll see what happens with that. These days he helps around the house a lot. He does everyone’s laundry (and folds it and puts it away or puts in on our beds), cleans the toilet and the tub, vacuums the back room (his bedroom) and the entry way, mows the front lawn, brings in the mail, takes out the trash and recycling.

BlueJ, on the other hand, has expressed an interest in starting a multi-year study of geography (like we did when she was very small and can barely remember, going country by country through the Americas, Australia/Oceania, Asia, and Africa). She wants to study Asia this year, Japan first. She currently has several books to read about Japan and Japanese Americans. I told her when she is done with those books to let me know if she wants more, or wants to move on. She has agreed that she should learn multiplication facts by heart before we move on with math study, so I got her some nice cards, and she has agreed to work on that 10 minutes a day. She also will be starting a section of the Outschool class Black History from a Decolonized Perspective; her class starts on Friday. She is also studying Spanish with an app her dad set her up with and…lots of other things. More on BlueJ’s various online endeavors another day. She wants to study architecture and chemistry this year, and we have resources on hand for that, but we’ll see if we get to any of it this month. That’s about it for BlueJ, for now. She draws and writes and does little projects all the time. Her chores include vacuuming the rest of the house, washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the bathroom sink and vanity and floor, and refilling the three birdbaths in the back every day. And the rat laundry which is…pretty substantial and pretty gross.

BlueJ draws all the time these days.

When BlueJ got up this morning, she ate toast, did NOT get dressed, read one of her Japan books and drew for a good long time, then made us all pancakes.

The thing Towhee was most excited about today was this: He worked for a few hours yesterday making a rat palace out of cardboard boxes and tubes for his sister’s rats. A ‘ratitat’ ( = rat habitat) he is calling it. He was SO EXCITED for them to try it out today, so he set it up in the kitchen and then fussed with it for a while. The rats were pretty groggy by that time (being nocturnal and all) but they explored and played long enough for me to get the rat cage cleaned out. Wednesday is rat cage cleaning day. Not my favorite. l let them keep the rat palace set up, so we can get them in there nice and early tomorrow.

Rat Palace!

In the afternoon, Towhee worked on homework for his Zinn class, then watched a Great Course episode in the History of the Ottoman Empire (he is still a lover of all things history), took all the trash out, then played Minecraft with friends until dinner. BlueJ played outside and did her birdbaths, did the rat laundry, called her cousin and talked to him for a while, worked on multiplication facts, worked on Spanish with her dad, and then played online with friends.

After dinner, we watched the Van Gogh episode of Matt Smith Doctor Who (we are working our way through all the seasons a second time), my husband read them a chapter of The Stormrunner, and now everyone is in bed but me. And that, my friends, was Day 168.

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