A Short Holiday, and Thoughts On Homeschooling


We took a break from homeschool last week.  I’m so glad we did!  My big kids were tired and cranky from camping at the Earthskills gathering with my mom, and Clothilde had her sprained ankle (she is getting better everyday – still not walking, but she can stand up with out help now).

In years past, I would have plowed on through, feeling like we had to keep going, no matter what.  It would have been awful, and nothing would have gotten done.  They would have been fighting or crying the whole time and I would have been stressed out.  Instead we wound up our language arts block by reading some stories together and took it easy enjoying the beautiful spring weather last week.

Mirin is taking an extended break.  He was becoming very surly and rude to me every day, and flatly refused to do anything.  Now that he’s been let off, he’s been poking his head into Rose’s lessons here and there.  Mostly he is sketching gun pictures.  He has even had to do a little math for his gun designs.

It has been very nice to focus on Rose, who is motivated to learn.  She is reading better and better every week.  On her own she decided to start reading aloud a chapter book she picked out at the library – the “Fairy Animals” series “Paddy the Puppy.”  It’s a horrible book to listen to – deathly boring and treacly, but she is reading it and I am so happy she is reading.  I guess I can look forward to when she can read this sort of thing to herself!

All sorts of things have come together in a very interesting way. To find stories for this year, I went through all the folktale collections at the library, but ended up finding the very best stories from two African story collections that have been, unread, on my bookshelf since childhood.  We started the year with the Waldorf second grade classic, The King of Ireland’s Son.  It has many Irish myths and legends woven in to a central story.

The side reading we picked up started with Nancy Farmer’s stories set in Zimbabwe – The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm, and Do you know me?  They are both so funny and have Zimbabwean culture woven into them.  The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm has such compelling descriptions of Monomatapa and Great Zimbabwe’s glorious history – it’s one of those great civilizations that is generally completely ignored here.

Next we read a book called A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter.  It is a Selkie legend from Shetland.  I had read it to Mirin in second grade, and I also wanted to read it to Rose in second grade.  I had first found the book on the book shelf of my second grade classroom.  My teacher had a little “library” section that we could check out books from.  I checked this book out and read it more than 10 times.  I remember my teacher saying I couldn’t check it out again because she wanted the other children to have a chance at it.  I would chatter out the story to my mom over and over again, which really annoyed her.  The story is magical, rich, and entrancing.  I felt personally changed by reading it.  After second grade, I didn’t see the book again, but the story lived vividly in my heart.  As an adult, I bought myself a copy and read it again, to see if it was really that good.  It is.

We just finished The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, and are working on Julius Lester’s Br’er Rabbit tales.  It seemed a little strange going back and forth from the British Isles to Africa (it wasn’t intentional), but I realized that both of these cultures come together in the folktales of Southern America!

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