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Entries in homeschooling (55)


4H Youth Show, 2014



Our homeschooling group is a 4H club. In my life before child, before homeschooling, before homeschooling groups, I thought 4H was about raising livestock. I thought it was a club for future farmers, an association that put on a good fair, and the society that supplied good local eateries with fresh meat every fall. Needless to say, I was surprised to learn that our group was a 4H club. I was, perhaps, even more surprised to find myself 4H leader of said club. Since then I have become increasingly familiar with the 4H system and have found it welcoming, if not entirely organized. Their heart is in the right place, even if nothing else is.

Over this past year, in addition to participating in our club, the Homeschoolers of Ann Arbor, Calvin also participated in their summer day camp, will again enter projects into their Youth Show later this summer, and this week he joined the archery club for their Tuesday night practice.

Here's what is really, really fabulous about this organization. On Tuesdays nights, three men who are very capable and very knowledgeable in firearms and such dedicate several hours of their time to teaching archery to kids ages 7-18. They cart all the equipment to the fairground field, where they set up targets at a few different distances and assemble a couple dozen bows for kids of all different sizes. Then they spend two hours gently instructing and guiding. They have the patience of saints, while still being focused enough to keep the kids from killing each other or anyone else. Their great love for the sport shows.

Calvin loves it.


Driveway science

I let him loose in the driveway today.

Earlier in the day, in the car on our way home from nature camp, I asked him what he wanted to do with the afternoon.

"Math, spelling, and grammar," he said, "and then I want to experiment with water."

I asked him what kind of experiments he wanted to do.

"I want to find out what else fizzes like vinegar and baking soda."

Now, we've done the whole vinegar and baking soda thing a couple of times. We did it once when he was about four and totally obsessed with volcanoes so we did the obligatory conical explosion in the front yard. At the time it bothered me because vinegar and baking soda inside a plastic cone painted to look like a volcano have absolutely nothing to do with volcanoes, and volcanoes have no direct connection to the acid/base lesson that is the vinegar and baking soda reaction. So we followed the volcanic eruption in the front yard with a quick lesson on solutions and acids and bases a la The Young Scientist Club.

I'd like to say that I've relaxed a bit since that time when I was afraid to let him explode a volcano lest he mistake the kaboom of vinegar meeting baking soda for the nuts and bolts of a real, honest-to-goodness volcano. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Who was that mom anyhow? But actually, that kind of "science" still drives me nuts. The argument is moot, though. When I asked him if he knew why vinegar and baking soda reacted that way he remembered neither the volcano enactment nor the subsequent acids/bases exploration unit.

Not an entire loss, however, he did know that the reaction itself releases carbon dioxide gas, the culprit responsible for the fizzing. And, since everyone loves a good fizzy experiment, this afternoon he was off in search of more such explosive pairings.

And here's how I know—without a doubt—that I have relaxed in the past four years. When he asked for five glasses, five spoons, a measuring cup, water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, corn starch, and food coloring...I didn't bat an eye. I piled it all up on a tray, asked him to experiment in the driveway please, and delivered the goods. I watched for a while, and let him school me on his methods, but mostly I did laundry. And, when he used all the vinegar, salt, and corn starch in the house, I simply added those staples to the weekly shopping list.

It's a great big learning world out there.


Peter Pan

Yesterday was the final big event of our way too busy spring—our homeschool group's annual spring party, play, and talent show.

Those people that I mentioned recently, the people who think that homeschooling is a lonely, brain-washing undertaking, have probably never visited a gathering of homeschoolers like ours before. Our group is officially described as secular, and is made up of families that homeschool in vastly different ways. The group meets once a week, though the rest of our days are often filled with play dates, field trips, or other activities with friends from the group. And if one counts the very general belief that some children will learn best at home, then I guess I have to admit to surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. As far as the usual culprits for narrow-mindedness go, though, our group is fairly diverse and definitely eye-opening and educating. Plus there's usually excellent food at our pot-luck parties.

This year's spring play was an adapted version of Peter Pan, and Calvin was an excellent Peter Pan.

I can't find my pesky shadow, have you seen it, Wendy?

Sew it on? Oh no!

How could you do it? She was going to be our mother!

You can't have it, fairies like to steal shiny things!

Hook, there is magic on this island that is completely inaccessible to you. You're too old.

Talent show—Peter Pan at the piano


Science Olympiad

There are a lot of people who think that homeschooling is a lonely undertaking. These are the very same people who throw around words like "socialization" and "cult" and "brain washing". I won't say that there aren't homeschoolers who have earned those badges that the rest of the homeschooling community has to wear along with them—I'm sure they exist—but that's not the majority of us, and no matter how often it happens, I will continue to be surprised every time I meet with suspicion.

Calvin participated in our county's Elementary Science Olympiad this weekend. This was a completely new event for him—for both of us—in many ways. Aside from never having taken part in a Science Olympiad before, this was our first experience in a public school event of any kind, and Calvin's first ever actual, written test. He spent the month before the Olympiad preparing with his four other team members. He and his partner built towers that could support tennis balls for the "Mystery Architecture" event, and practiced estimating various things for "Estimania". And the two of us went on many a hike, binoculars in tow, to prepare for the "Feathered Friends" bird identification test. He built with straws, he estimated grams of salt, he drilled bird songs and photos.

The Olympiad was great fun. Calvin loved it. He actually went skipping down the hallway to meet each event. He interacted with the public school kids, and his homeschool teammates, with great cheer and obvious social ability.

But there was one interaction that still has me chuckling. When we first arrived, being new to the event and all, we walked down a long hallway (the same hallway where I had a locker my senior year, walking right past my senior year physics classroom, by the way) to a table with the sign "academic check-in" to find out about, of all things, checking in. Just before we reached the table we were halted by a militant hall guard who demanded that we first check in with our school. I asked her politely if there was a table to check in as a school, but we were each confused by the other, and just as I was beginning to understand that the problem was that we didn't fit into their usual paradigm (I couldn't very well check in with non-existent school's non-existent head coach), a nice lady at the check-in table popped up with the clear answer to all our problems—

"Don't you see? They're homeschoolers! They don't have a school, and they're not used to all this!" (indicating the school with a flourish of her arms).

After that everyone was interested in holding our hands through the hallway, as though they were afraid that, being homeschoolers, we were bound to get lost. Or, being "not used to all this", we were in danger of getting spooked and running away. I was torn between being offended and touched. I decided on something between the two—amusement.