Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Country Heard From... or What Thing One Thinks.

Another two days, and a month will have gone by since Thing Two wrote her most recent post, the one with the opening paragraph her older sister described as "the single greatest argument for home schooling I've ever heard." As a professional writer, Thing Two's sister doesn't kid around about writing. Well, actually, she does, she can be very funny about what it takes to write day after day. Having my impression that Thing Two is a hard act to follow confirmed by that particular powerhouse helps me feel that bursting with motherly admiration is actually warranted.

Much as I have enjoyed Thing Two's daily presence at home, I want her to make the choices that make sense to her. I know that the company of her peers is important and good intentions on having friends over regularly don't fill the gap... in fact those particular good intentions seem to be the ones the road to hell is paved with... a little bit of information my boarding school gym teacher has left in my brain, along with deep knee bends being the best cure for menstrual cramps. Apparently, other than those two nuggets, grade eleven phys ed was never written into memory.

But there is a field hockey stick in the attic, and I sometimes long to be out in my bloomers and tunic -- is that really what we wore? -- running down the field with that stick. A couple of years ago when I went to the decade of the 60s reunion I realized that I wish I had stayed at school longer. And kept in touch with the people from that bit of life better. Let this be a lesson to you, young readers! It seemed like a good idea to me at the time to rush on to university, not that I had a realistic sense of what that meant, but because I could. Pause and reflect? No, I had no pause and reflect button then, as far as I know.

So, yes, Thing Two has made her decision, written her report, shared it with us and gotten on with enjoying summer. We went up to Halifax where she went to a digital movie making, animation and claymation course at NSCAD. She happily zipped back and forth on the city bus on her own every morning and afternoon and enjoyed the downtown during her lunch break. Seeing her on the go in the city, coming in with her bike helmet in her hand, full of news about where she has been, who and what she has seen -- delightful! Something like watching a rose bloom suddenly. She ditched dance camp in favour of swimming for hours at the Commons pool. It's outdoors and she can get there on her bike. Good summer magic!

Me? Summer is my high gear season for attacking the most midden-like parts of the house. We've already dedicated one room to be the study room, with a hook for the school bag and virtually nothing else in there but school supplies and a table, with a good view out the window. The other downstairs guest room is nearly ready for the August visit from Aunty Canterbury. We've done it up as a sitting room, with tons of mirrors and a great backdrop for doing photo shoots. We know it works because Thing Two's friend came over and they did fashion, fashion and more fashion.

Yesterday I defrosted the fridge. I had to. The freezer door had frozen shut and all the coffee was inside. It was a long job which I faced by playing lots of scrabble online in between shoving pans of boiling water into the fridge. Getting to the stage where I could open the freezer door took a few games right there. It took ages because I wasn't wearing my glasses when I started and discovered later that the little letters I thought said OFF actually said MIN... and the darn thing was working hard to freeze the water as soon as I put it in there. After a while I realized that if I was going to sit at the computer I actually had work to do.

I had made a start on Monday writing my comments to send in with Thing Two's report to the Department of Education. It was unsatisfying, it didn't reflect the way I feel about Thing Two. Instead I was wandering around looking over the last six months, re-thinking the decision I had made to expel her, wondering how our winter might have gone if I had stood by the schedule and figured out how to make it work for us.

This is one of those roads you have to look over on your personal internal map from time to time, the road not taken. I'd like to imagine that you could choose your time, to keep yourself from being late for the immediate destination. I'm not sure it is possible. What I do know is that the road ahead of you is always different from the road you didn't take back then. There are things to be learned from studying the map after a journey, but sometimes if you get too absorbed in the map it is hard to get to your current destination. Yesterday, thanks to the slow melting freezer ice cap I finally managed to get back on the road marked Thing Two, Now. There the rest was relatively easy.

I finished and called her on Skype. She told me about her last couple of days, swimming, playground, swimming, goggles, diving for rocks, going to Clay Cafe and painting a cereal bowl, what she hoped and imagined the two glazes might do, how the dog was breathing, which grandchild was standing on the stairs on the way to bed, and eventually she went and got her ipod and checked her mail. The pause while she read my comments was long, very long. I wanted to fill it up. I reread the comments and started thinking about things I might change.

Finally I heard her draw breath and say, "Oh Mom, it's perfect!" The delight in her voice was the best payoff of the day.

I said, "Do you think so? There's a couple of things I just noticed. I was thinking I would change... just a word, or two, here or there."

Thing Two laughed. "Mom, when I say it's perfect, you can believe me!" So, I decided to believe her. It feels like the right thing to do! Now, here it is, not what I learned this term but what I see these days when I look at my young partner on the home school journey.

Thing Two has grown wonderfully over the first sixth months of this year. I am extremely pleased with her progress.

She has made great strides in her confidence in herself, in her ability to make sensible choices and in her willingness to consider information on all sides of a situation before making a decision.

She has demonstrated an impressive ability to set a goal for herself and stick to it. She has shown determination in meeting her own needs. She has behaved responsibly about sharing her energy, both at home with household work and at the community hall by helping out in the setting up, serving and clean-up at the monthly breakfasts.

She is a good worker and has developed a strong understanding about the difference a “get it done” attitude makes to successful and timely completion of the many tasks she has been expected to do in the house and yard.

Her decision to explore cooking has allowed her to develop a strong sense of competence, not just in the kitchen but in other aspects of her self.

She has participated fully in writing a blog about our experiences as a home school family. Her entries are concise, witty and well-written.

She has consolidated her understanding of the benefits of accepting or setting limits for herself, especially with regard to healthy and safe lifestyle choices.

She recognizes that being prepared requires forethought and an ongoing effort to maintain focus on her short and long term goals. She realizes that learning requires practice and that asking for help and clarification is a useful skill.

Thing Two’s natural rate of speed through the world is one of relaxed, attentive wonder. She takes in enormous amounts of information at this pace, observing and reflecting on what she sees and encounters.

I applaud her decision to return to the company of her friends at school, refreshed by her many experiments and experiences while home schooling. I look forward to seeing her practice her growing ability to meet the world as she finds it and especially to make the necessary adjustments to her rate of travel to achieve her goals and to meet the expectations of others in such a different environment.

I know, as does she, that her determination to be focused and work hard will be exercised every day. I am delighted she has taken the time she needed to find her own inner strength for the task and have no doubt in her ability to handle it.


  1. Thing two wishes to note that she actually said "mom, when I say it's perfect, shut up in case I find something wrong with it", in response to mom's dilly dallying about the report.

  2. :-) This is the first part I've read...I love it so far!!! Can't wait to read this whole thing...