24 Hours at the Jerz Homeschool (More or Less)

A Twitter friend made a critical comment about homeschooling that I thought warranted a reply. I won’t repeat his comment here — after a brief reflection, he modified his statement, and suggested that people who are doing homeschooling right have a too-low profile. While I don’t pretend my kids are perfect, or that they don’t have gaps in their knowledge, all in all, I think we’re doing this right. So consider this post as an attempt to raise my profile.

My wife handles the heavy lifting when it comes to homeschooling, by which I mean she manages the curriculum and makes sure the kids actually sit down at the kitchen table and do their workbooks.

I read to the kids, teach them to program in Scratch, play board games, and do a lot of other things I consider really fun.

Last night, I finished reading a YA adaptation of The Tempest to my daughter. (She asked me to read it to her a couple of nights ago, after we finished our previous book, about a boy who travels back in time and plays Puck in an Elizabethan production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

After I put her to bed, I listened to my 14yo son tell me what he had read today (including a magazine article on SimCity, and part of William Barrett’s novel The Lillies of the Field; he also finished watching an 18-hour DVD lecture series on the history of London).

He told me that because he wasn’t feeling well, he didn’t do any of his Khan Academy math, but he did start watching an “Impossible Physics” lecture series, and he started a new book on cells and genetic engineering.

When I woke up this morning I pulled my pillow and blanket into my daughter’s room, and from the carpet by her bed I caught up on my email, read the news, and tended to my blog. When she woke up, she climbed down onto the floor with me for a while.

After breakfast, I scanned some of her drawings into my computer, and showed her how I adjusted the contrast to make her pencil sketch lines disappear. I uploaded a “Man of La Mancha Lesson Plan” to the musical theatre education website that my wife and I maintain.

My son was still asleep when I went to work, where I fed the email beast and did the usual stuff.

I was out of the office when my daughter left a tearful message on my office phone, saying she was having a really hard day and she missed me.

My wife had intended to take her to her private dance class, bringing my son along with her; I would have then taken my son to his piano lesson, but our piano teacher is sick. To save my wife from having to make the trip, I left work a little early to get my daughter.

Along the way to dance class, she confessed that her rough day had begun when she peeked at me entering the password on my iPod Touch this morning; when I happened to leave my gadget at home today, she got caught having helped herself to it, without 1) asking permission or 2) demonstrating that she has learned the spelling words of the day.

I’m actually kind of impressed at the little sneak — but I pretended to be hurt and disappointed.

She asked whether I still loved her. I said yes.

As we drove, I asked her to spell “thoughtless,” “obstreperous,” “freakout,” and “forgive.”

As a bonus, I taught her to spell “leprechaun” in an Irish dialect.

I collaborated with a colleague on a GoogleDoc while my daughter tapped with her instructor. After the lesson, my daughter and I sat under a tree for a while, then I drove her to her dress rehearsal for a local professional theatre company’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Most of the cast are volunteers, but the lead roles are Equity actors. My daughter is in the children’s choir. I busied myself by helping the set designer attach black triangular legs to a set piece, and took photos during the rehearsal.

During breaks in the show, my daughter drew pictures of the cast members, worked on a storybook she is writing based on “Batboy, the Musical,” and did that thing that homeschoolers are supposedly bad at doing — getting socialized.

Today’s adventures in socialization included holding in tears when part of her costume fell off, and holding back more tears when the director (who didn’t know about the costume piece) assumed she was just clueless about her cue because she tried to slip back and pick the thing up when the other kids were exiting. (“I had to wait until intermission to go back and look for it!”)

When another preteen girl snapped at my daughter in the dressing room, and then later wanted to hold my daughter’s hand, my daughter looked her in the eye and said, “Becky-Sue Spunkweizer, I’m not sure I want to hold your hand right now, because I didn’t like the way you were mean to me in the dressing room.”

At some point backstage, when a lot of people needed to move, there was some crowding and pushing, and my daughter got a bloody scratch on her leg because she tripped over some black triangular legs that had recently been added to a set piece.

When we got home, my son was already in bed.

I suggested that my girl and I try our goodnight prayers in an Elvis voice. (Riffing off of the show’s “Hey, hey, hey, Joseph” Elvis spoof, we sang “Hey, hey, hail Mary…”)

I told her a steampunk bedtime story about Smart Carolyn from the Moon, who has an important mission tomorrow — she has to deliver a speech to an army of robots, explaining to them how the mercy, forgiveness and redemption we see in the story of Joseph means that humans can choose to be better than they are, so the robot army shouldn’t destroy all of humanity just because of the big mistakes made by some humans. So naturally, to do a good job on her mission, Smart Carolyn from the Moon needs to get a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow, we will let the girl out of her homeschool prayer closet long enough to open the show at a 9:30 student matinee. Her mid-morning rehearsals for a different show (she will be playing Little Red Riding Hood in a show her director put together) are cancelled, but in the afternoon she will attend a nearby college where education students are practicing teaching by offering classes to homeschool kids. My daughter is taking “Wild Wild West” (history); “Dancing around the World” (social studies), and “Sink or Swim” (science). My son is taking “Life on a Aircraft Carrier,” “Unlocking Linear Equations,” and “Cells: Building Blocks of Life.”

Oh, and then my daughter does Joseph again that evening.

And then Saturday morning, she has a rehearsal for a completely different show.

Most homeschoolers will tell you… Homeschoolers seem to spend very little time at home.