In my interview on BT Television yesterday morning, I was asked why someone would homeschool. The only way I could answer it was to say, “Well, for me…”
The reasons people homeschool are vast. Non-homeschoolers often think it’s because a child wasn’t doing well in school, or because he or she was so far ahead academically—but the truth is that 99% of the homeschoolers I know have been homeschooling from the beginning. Their decision to homeschool isn’t a response to something that didn’t work. It’s a choice, like public school or private school.
After the segment, I had the opportunity to chat with Catherine and the make-up artists for a few minutes. They were curious and trying to get to the bottom of the why question. In the end, I said: “You know what? I homeschool because it’s fun. Because learning is the best thing ever, and I want to keep it that way for my children.” I proceeded to tell them of the opportunities we’ve had because we homeschool. Readers of my blog will remember such things as writing workshops with author Monique Polak, exploding the Trashcano, taking lambs to the local market, catching fish out of the St. Lawrence and documenting their sizes, and more.
Today’s a good example of our ability to take advantage of those perfect, sometimes last-minute opportunities because we homeschool.
We started with a slow breakfast, eventually getting ready to leave the house. I threw a math book in my bag and we left to drop Zahra off at knitting. Zahra has time to knit. She also has the liberty of joining a knitting circle that meets on Friday mornings. And because of this freedom, she has the amazing fortune to be learning from the kind, patient—and did I mention extremely talented—Paola. Paola has taken her from knowing a couple stitches to knitting socks and mittens. What an incredible blessing!
And because she knows Paola, Zahra had the good fortune of meeting Paola’s two daughters on a ped day. It was love at first sight. The first time we had them over for the day, it was like I was witnessing the reunion of long-lost best friends. They developed a plan to convince Paola that her girls can handle their own hedgehog and they spent hours building a cardboard maze for Fifi. They FaceTime each other several times a week, waiting for their next play date. Kind, energetic, polite, lovely girls. And their paths wouldn’t have crossed if Zahra didn’t knit on Friday mornings.
During knitting, Noah, Leila and I hit the bookstore. We did their math at the bookstore cafe. After picking up Zahra, our next stop was the pool—because we have that 1:00-3:00 time slot open to swim with other homeschooled friends, when the pool is empty and after which, there is no traffic going home.
All roses and amazing learning experiences, right? Well, lest you think that homeschooling is the perfect solution for everyone and all the time, picture this: a French reading workbook. At the pool, but still…a French reading workbook, which the child hates, which has brought her tears. But I held Leila back, insisting that she do her French work before getting into the pool—because this avoidance of learning to read in French has become an art for Leila. I assumed she’d zip through it, given the lure of the pool, but I was wrong. She dragged her feet—like usual. She hemmed and hawed—like usual. She gave me puppy-dog eyes and tried to get me to do the work for her—like usual. She started crying—and that has never happened before. But I insisted, and she eventually did the simple sound work I was asking of her.
But as she got her swimsuit on, I realized two things: my daughter now thinks that she hates reading and, while she should have been soaking in new knowledge, she was instead crying. That was a low low for me.
So as my kids swam around in the pool, I talked to Kristin. She’s homeschooled her four girls from Day 1, and her youngest daughter is just slightly older than Leila. She reminded me of two things that I know to be true, but that I desperately needed to be reminded of in the moment: 1. Leila is six; and 2. Homeschooling means that she doesn’t have to persist with learning to read right now if she hates it that much.
She’s not in a classroom with twenty or thirty kids for which there is one lesson plan. She’s the only one I need to teach to read. Then there’s the fact that she loves math. She can read numbers in the thousands and she’s learning addition. She loves math games, too. I might need a completely different approach to reading. Or, I might just need to set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and try it again later. A bit of perspective, gleaned while watching my smart, funny, firecracker of a girl splash around in the water, was more than refreshing. And so I resolved to jump with enthusiasm to Plan B, so thankful that I have that freedom.
While at the pool, I got a text from my friend Mayali reminding me that her painter husband David Kelavey‘s exhibit at the Viva Vida Art Gallery was closing in a week. I wasn’t sure we could go in an art gallery with pool hair and jeans, but I shouldn’t have worried. The gallery owner was very gracious, and the man who met us when we walked in invited us to take a look around. As we oohed and aahed over David’s striking paintings, everything from his iconic downtown Montreal scenes to luminescent natural landscapes, he chatted with the kids about colour and light. He told them to look for license plates in paintings and told us a secret about the license plate number-and-letter combo (always the same one) that appears in his paintings.
I took a picture of the kids with their favourite paintings. My personal favourite is the first photo in this blog: a gorgeous painting of a wooded landscape in winter, with the sun peeking from behind the trees. I stared at that one for quite some time before turning around to make sure my little budding artists weren’t touching anything. I must admit, we left there a little starstruck.
We went home for dinner. Zahra practised her violin. But we had been invited to an activity at our friend Brigitte’s church, and so we left the house again. As we headed west, we were treated to a beautiful sunset, reminding us of the colours we had seen in David’s paintings. Leila said in awe, “The sky is wearing its pyjamas.” Little love.