Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back from Switzerland

We had a heck of a week while Einstein was off gallivanting around Switzerland. He had a great, albeit sleepless, time-- traveling, meeting with his potential colleagues and checking the place over. Luckily he remembered to bring back plenty of pictures (over 600 of them!) and the requisite gifts for those of us left behind. It's true what they say-- the chocolate is definitely edible. And it's a beautiful country, though I think the pictures speak for themselves.

The interview went really well, and we should know more in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I've been hard at work sleuthing out the homeschooling situation. We've got a few ideas how to make it work there-- though it would certainly be a bonus if the laws were more straightforward. From everything I have read, it seems that the laws regarding homeschooling in Switzerland are tricky. They differ from canton to canton, and then again from city to city within each canton, and then again depending on who you talk to or what day it is, etc. It's absolutely mind-boggling!

Having vented my frustrations to many people now, I had to laugh when one of them sent me the following Swiss joke:

If you ask a young German boy where babies come from, he will tell you that they come from the stork. If you ask a young French boy the same question, he will tell you that it has something to do with sex. Finally, if you ask a young Swiss boy where babies come from, he will look at you very knowingly and say “It’s different from canton to canton.”

That pretty much sums it up.

Homeschooling aside, it's a huge decision to make. Einstein was sweet enough to take pictures of everything he could think of that the kids and I would find relevant-- from the produce section in the grocery store and the wares at the health food coop to the leaseable garden plots and the farmer's markets. He even managed to find the local library and seek out the international children's book section so he could show us how many books were in English.

It never occurred to me to think "library" in terms of shelves rather than floors.

Like I said, big decision. And I don't do things lightly. I'm not one of those folks that can just jump right into the water to find out how cold it is. I'm much too melancholic for that. I gather the information, plot the charts, and then maybe stick my toe in to test it out. If I decide it's the right plan, then I bravely wade right in... and rarely regret it.

I've spent the last couple of weeks in careful contemplation. Surely I had a few moments where I completely freaked out over the idea of moving, but mostly that was over the whole canton to canton issue. I've come to realize that this isn't one of those things that I can plot and chart and test out. Picking up and moving to another country is a lot like having that first baby. No matter how much we read about it, we can't truly anticipate what it will be like until we do it. We'd have to jump.

They say that if you take a job overseas that if you don't stick it out for two years or more that it's a failed venture. The costs are too high otherwise. I read somewhere that something like sixty percent of overseas positions end up as failed ventures, with the highest reason for failure being family relations-- either unhappiness of the children in school or unhappiness of the spouse who had to give up his/her career. By continuing to homeschool we pretty much take care of both of those issues, and then it just boils down to how strong we are as a family unit. How resilient and adaptive we are. How committed.

We've shown ourselves to be all of those things in the past. So now we're just at the point where we wait and see if Einstein gets the job. By mid-November we should know whether or not they will give us the chance to jump.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

One more reason to homeschool

As if we didn't have enough reasons already... how about the blind-eye turned to sexual predators within our public school system?

When I was in high school we had a convicted rapist as one of our classmates. That was disconcerting enough, let me tell you, but teachers? Counselors? Principals? Apparently some of them took that "Pal in Principal" a little too far:
An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

And right on the tail of that story comes another:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some kind of a pickle

I seem to be experiencing a bit of homeschool/life anxiety of late.

You know how sometimes as homeschoolers we go through these phases of wondering if we're doing the right thing? Wondering if indeed our kids are learning anything, if they are fulfilled, if they are keeping pace with their peers, if we're doing enough to ensure they won't grow up to be complete failures and sociopaths? Wondering if we're actually qualified enough to educate our own children?

Well, it's not that.

But what if someone came up to me tomorrow and asked me to prove that I'm qualified? Asked for my credentials, my certification, my curriculum vitae? Luckily, this is America and I'm not required to have any of that-- land of the free, home of the homeschooled, and all of that. But what if my family relocated somewhere else... let's just take a stab and say some small country in Europe. Then what? Well, that would be some kind of a pickle, because other than faith, fortitude and a creative spirit, I've got nothin'.

Homeschooling laws are exceedingly more strict on the other side of the Atlantic. In some places homeschooling is so outlawed that the authorities will fine you heavily, take your children away, and send you to prison. To prison! In Germany, they don't care about your ethical reasons, your religious faith, or your fancy teacher's certificate. Their primary concern is to prevent a parallel society, not to nurture the parental freedoms of their own individual German citizens. So if they imprison their own citizens for homeschooling, what about American citizens in Germany? They might as well begin and end their children's spelling lists with the word "deportation."

Germany aside, what exactly are the rights of American citizens homeschooling abroad? Honestly, it's not something I have ever thought about, nor a quandry I would have placed in my personal path. And yet. Here I am, pouring over websites, joining e-groups, and groping for a loophole in a foreign system that perhaps will have an issue with my lack of certification. And my curriculum? Oh yeah, that may be a problem, too.

Einstein has been invited out to interview for a very appealing job in Switzerland-- a position that would transport this very alternative American family overseas for 2 to 6 years. The last week or so I've been in a perpetual state of anxiety about it. Home education is up there at the top of our list as far as priorities go. It's a commitment we made long before any of our children became school-aged, and obviously not one I'm willing to forgo for a trip down the Rhine or a gander at the Eiffel Tower.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of spending a few years living and exploring in Europe fills me with giddy excitement. But the idea of going to prison? Not so much.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More recalls: toys and more

This is getting to be ridiculous. There are not only wooden toys on this list, but drinking cups, journals, and bookmarks as well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wanting Michaelmas

I've been sitting here for a while now trying to decide what to say about Michaelmas, when I remembered this passage from a tiny book I recently picked up at a book sale.

"It is certainly not easy to say much about (Michaelmas), as this festival has generally never been celebrated, as thus there is no tradition to pass along. We must try to create it, and above all to want it, and then in time it can become that which it should truly be."
--Friedel Lenz, Celebrating the Festivals with Children, 1973 (English translation 1986)

So with that in mind, I'll say that we've tried a few different things over the years to capture the essence of Michaelmas. This year Michaelmas looked something like this:

MMmmm... dragon bread. A standing tradition for several years now. I tell the Michaelmas bread-making story from All Year Round while we prepare the dough. This year we used a recipe from May All Be Fed called "Ocean's Bombs of Love Bread." It was the best dragon bread we've devoured yet.

These are dyepots of goldenrod and marigold. This year I decided I would tell the lovely tale "The Michaelmas Story of the Star Children" by Corinne Batzell, from the outstanding book An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten, and at the end, present the children with golden capes.

For my dying recipe I used a combination of some instructions given to me by the lovely and crafty A., and the beautiful book by Rita Buchanan, A Dyer's Garden. We dyed three silks in the goldenrod bath and one in the marigold. The marigold, which I had very little of-- maybe two dozen flower heads, turned out to be a fairly strong dye. The goldenrod? Not so much. We harvested plenty according to the instructions. I even tried overdying two of the silks in the leftover marigold bath, but they didn't absorb much more color. The girls were plenty pleased with our results, though. And they are anxious to try dying with other plants.

1. goldenrod dipped in marigold leftovers, 2. marigold, and 3. goldenrod.

To round out our day of goldenness, I surprised everyone with an extremely golden bed of rice under our thai curry seitan dish.

The bloopers reel for the day would have included Kitty Bill dumping an entire cup of flour into his face, Kitty Bill running off during the goldenrod harvesting, and me accidentally pinching Moonshine's helping fingers with the scissors during the goldenrod harvesting.

Our Michaelmas attempts are always far from perfect. They don't yet have that same reverence as Martinmas or Advent... but we do our best. We want Michaelmas, and for now, that will have to be enough.

Weekly particulars

Our little weekly schedule looks a lot like Aleisha's master plan, just what you'd expect from heavily-borrowed goods. Ours is still a work in progress.

I love the music practice in the mornings, directly after tidy time. It gets the job done when Sunburst is still an interested and willing party. She's working very hard on learning to read music, and doing an outstanding job at it, I must say. But it's heady work, and the mornings work best for that.

The other cool thing about our week is that we have so few "scheduled" activities away from the home. I've carved out huge chunks of time that can be "lesson time," which I haven't bothered to define very well on the map. With a nap-defying, self-asserting toddler in the house it's hard to say when the lessons will actually occur. Obviously I try to get started early, but sometimes it just simply doesn't work that way. So we have the freedom to just roll along and fit things in as we can without any time crunch to be anywhere.

We do have to be at our local homeschool park day, however. It happens once a week and we wouldn't miss it-- all the dirt digging, jump roping, and bug watching. And directly from there Sunburst has her horse lessons. We come home exhausted, but often, she still wants to do "school." I know, I know. She's an odd kid. So instead of planning a lesson, we have delegated that time "Old Time School."

I've been instructed that if I'm not going to wear a dress, I at least have to put my hair into a bun. Sunburst, however, puts on her Prairie clothes and bonnet and comes at me with her McGuffey's Third Reader and Speller. Or sometimes she'll surprise me and ask to do a maths worksheet. It's odd how much kids like to do worksheets, so we keep them around just in case.

Our only other exciting planned activity is for Moonshine. She badly wanted to take a gymnastics class, but I couldn't find one for her age group that wasn't in the middle of dinnertime. And so... one afternoon a week, for 30 minutes, we have homeschool gymnastics.

"Welcome. My name is Miss Fiddlesticks, and today we're going to learn how to do a cartwheel."

Now, I can't do a cartwheel to save my life. Especially with my messed up foot, but with a class size of one, I can fake it. Plus, I'm the lucky sort of teacher who has a chief assistant demonstrator, Miss Sunburst herself, graduate of the gymnastics bar of fame. Or something like that. She took gymnastics for a couple of years anyway, and was quite adept at all manner of body contortions. She's fairly choleric though, rising to meet each and every challenge until she masters it. And as long as Sunburst was a helper and not a classmate, she was allowed by Moonshine to be part of the scenario.

We started out with a circle, sort of. I sang a greeting song I remembered from a parent tot dance class back in 2001. Then we did another song/movement game from that same dance class, that goes something like:

"Here we go skipping, skipping, skipping (or running, hopping, jumping, etc.)
Here we go skipping all around.
Here we go skipping, skipping, skipping
Here we go skipping and then we stop.
Give a little clap.
Now we all fall down."

We went on and on until we got tired, and then out came the gymnastics mat. We bought one for the girls to use years ago when I caught Sunburst trying to do front handsprings into the living room windows. There is a reason that there is a "burst" in her name.

So out came the mat and Moonshine rolled down it and did somersaults and asked to learn backwards rolls... and it was amusing. We worked on cartwheels, sort of. It went well. But Moonshine is less about the actual activity than the feeling of the experience. She wanted dialog.

"Miss Fiddlesticks, how did you hurt your foot?" she said, eyeing my still-bandaged foot. "Were you in a car accident?"

"Ah, no, " I said, trying to think up something fast. "It was a dog accident, actually."

She considered that for a moment. "My mom has a hurt foot, too," she said, and her eyes flickered and grew big and bright. I think in her imagination I actually became Miss Fiddlesticks instead of her mom. It was fascinating and weird all at once. And she went on to discuss with me in great detail the car accident and everyone's injuries and how the best part was having a sleepover at a friend's house. If I recall, there wasn't much sleeping involved... but it's nice to know she has processed it and found a bright side.

We ended our class with a goodbye song, and as I waved her off she circled back through the house and yelled, "Mom, I'm home from my gymnastics class!"
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter