A few weeks ago I had a dream that Kitty Bill was in school, and he had brought home pages and pages of math homework. It was so much work that it took him hours to complete it all. There was even a page of long division! No one in this house is focusing on long division at the moment, least of all Kitty Bill, so I don't know where that came from. But then, he proudly took it to school the next day and his teacher couldn't even be bothered to check that he had done the problems correctly. I marched in there, unmarked papers in hand, and demanded to know what the point was. And his teacher responded that she simply hadn't the time nor the interest. I was outraged, to say the least.
Luckily, my husband Einstein showed up in my dream just then to remind me that we're a homeschooling family. Our ideals were still intact. We will just educate Kitty Bill at home. It will all be fine. I woke up feeling a bit off-center, but grateful for the strange dream. It didn't take much work to sleuth out the meaning of this dream: it's time.
Kitty Bill is a driven child. He has been watching this homeschooling thing happen since he was a wee babe in my arms. He knows the drill by now. If I tell him a story, he thinks he should go draw a picture of it afterwards. If he hears Moonshine practicing math facts, he makes up some for himself. He actually walks around the house doubling numbers. When he's sure that he's right, he'll come ask me, "Does seven and seven make fourteen?"
Computations aside, a few months ago he decided that he needed a dart board. I don't even know where he got the idea of dart boards, but he was adamant that he needed one. So he drew one on paper, and somehow, he managed to write numbers all around it - in order - all the way up to 39. Some of the digits are backwards, but he appears to understand the concept well enough on his own.
He also started reading several months ago. He asked to learn, and we showed him how to sound out the letters. Everyone else in the house spends a lot of time reading, so I think he just wanted to know that he could do it, that the powers were within his grasp. Once he mastered about thirty words he lost interest. He still gets excited when he recognizes words in the world, but most of the time he would much rather draw pictures involving gears and mechanisms than anything else. The more complexity involved in the drawing, the happier he seems to be.
For the most part, Kitty Bill has spent the last few years playing independently while I did lessons with the girls. Homeschooling doesn't really have set hours at our house, so sometimes there is a bit of cross-over. For example, a few months ago my discussion with Moonshine about equivalent fractions carried over into lunchtime. When Einstein came home from work, Kitty Bill took it upon himself to explain equivalent fractions. He's only six. What does he know about equivalent fractions? Apparently a lot.
And then, two weeks later, his teeth fell out. Both bottom ones suddenly gave way. New ones are already pushing up to fill the space.
He's ready. He's so completely ready for Grade 1 work now that it's palpable. I would argue, that despite his only recent change of teeth, he has probably been ready for a few months. But I haven't been ready. I've been holding on to my last baby-- basking in the final, lingering strands of his early childhood days. They really are so fleeting.
While I don't always agree with the argument that children should be seven before starting school, in this case, that seems to be how it's working out. Kitty Bill will be turning seven in September, and he's so ready for learning you can see the excitement dripping off of him.
It's exciting for me as well. I'll be teaching three grades next year. I know a few of my readers have already been teaching three or more children at home, and I am in awe of you. This last year of homeschooling was so busy and full for us, I felt like I hardly had time to breathe between lessons, let alone scrub the toilet or blog as much as I would have liked. I'm not sure how I'll manage to pull it all off this year, but I'm sure we'll find a new rhythm that allows it. It always boils down to rhythm, doesn't it?
I would really like to get back into the rhythm of blogging more of our homeschooling, as well. What I've shown on the blog only scrapes the surface of my work with these lively children. I'm sure from the outside it looks like we're off gallivanting around the world every day-- and while I'll admit to trying to make the most of our time here in Europe, we actually spend the bulk of our time sitting around the kitchen table working together.
So it's time for me to begin again, at the beginning-- Grade One. I'm looking ahead to the new school year, looking at the strange lists I've compiled of resources, and realizing that these lists really need to be updated-- badly! I made that first list almost eight years ago! It has been that long since I first walked Sunburst along the path of the lovely alphabet story, and back then I was just starting out. I didn't even know what a main lesson book looked like, let alone how to create one. And there were only a handful of resources to choose from if you didn't have money for Live Ed (we didn't). So those lists are really just bits I cobbled together while trying to figure it out.
Today there are scads of resources available to Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers. You could read a new book each day of the year and still not get through them all-- not that anyone can adequately get through an entire Steiner lecture in one day, but you know what I mean. The resources that have been coming out these last few years are astounding. Homeschooling is getting easier every year, in that respect. We still have to do the hard work of bringing it to our children in a meaningful way, but the bevy of instruction, insight, and inspiration is so much more available than it was a few years ago, especially for the lower grades. Most of the things on my old lists pale in comparison to what's out there now.
My knowledge of Waldorf and Steiner has also grown and changed so much over the years. I'm always learning something new, some nuance of the education that I didn't know before. And I've noticed that when I get around to teaching a grade the second time, I realize what resources were really invaluable, and which ones I truly wasted my money on, or how I could have taught something differently or better. Now that I'm starting out homeschooling my third child, I hope to get to those resource lists and revise and update them very soon.
We're not planning to start lessons again until the week after next, so I'm using the next week to plan and dream while I let the last rays of summer wash over me. Not many rays mind you-- I'm still in England-- but enough, I hope, to fill me with the fortitude I'll need to weather the changes in the coming months. Change is always hard, whether it's a change of location or rhythm or simply just mindset.
I'm excited about another year of being able to watch and guide my children as they learn and grow. Though the work can be truly hard at times, it really is a gift. I'm looking forward to sharing more of our journey with you, both the ups and the downs. I even have a bit of an announcement coming up in the next couple of weeks, so I hope you'll stick around for that.
Have you started back to lessons with your children yet? Or are you savoring the last days of summer (or winter, for my southern hemisphere friends)? What changes await you this year?