25 February 2013

Homeschooling is Hard: Round Two

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was having difficulty homeschooling my youngest.

My husband and I reached a decision about what to do.  We signed our son up for Kindergarten.

His first day was today.  Apropos to her profession, his teacher is named Mrs. Smart.  He's only there two hours per day.

I walked the tiny man up to his classroom and walked through it with him and his teacher.  I felt good about leaving him there.  The more Mrs. Smart talked, the more I thought, "Yes.  This is good."  I saw a few of the other kids come into the classroom and they were sweet and well-behaved.  Then I patted my son's cheeks and said I'd see him in two hours.  I walked to my car and cried all the way home.

As parents do we ever really know if we're doing the right thing for our children?  How do we know these decisions aren't going to screw them up in some way?  How can I feel good about leaving him under the influence of a woman I barely met today, who could expose him to anything and everything of the cruelest or rudest or most vile, and I wouldn't know until the damage had been done? (I realize I'm over-dramatizing.  But the thought is there.)

On the other hand, there was the nice feeling in her classroom.  Also the pushing he gave me every day to let him do this.  This is as much his decision as it was his parents'.

So, after all the dithering, this is the result:  More dithering.

Maybe it's not the homeschooling that's hard.  It's mothering.

16 February 2013

More on LTUE (And Other Inconsequentials)

After three days of sitting, my tush is telling me LTUE is over.  At least, it is for me, who didn't bother buying a ticket to the banquet.  
I went to 19 workshops on topics that ranged from Xenobiology to Cryptography to Antiheroes.  I should have counted how many people made reference to Star Trek.  I unfortunately missed an entire hour discussing how The Matrix teaches a person good storytelling techniques.  I stood in line for more than an hour so I could get my Thief books signed by the oh-so-charming Megan Whalen Turner (She signed my old library copy of The Thief by saying "Ex Libris!  FTW!"  I admit to having no idea what FTW means. Anyone care to clue me in?).  I met a few authors and other aspiring authors.  I also learned to be "innocent through likability" by simply looking people in the eye and raising my eyebrows.  
Today Megan Whelan Turner gave the keynote address.  This was my view:

Do you see her?  No?  I couldn't either.  This is what I could see though:

That, my friends, is Bree Despain of the flawless ivory skin with the cool green bag, and just beyond her is Mette Ivy Harrison of the ever busy hands.  Bree Despain wrote the Dark Divine books and Mette Harrison wrote the Princess and the Hound books.  The stripy sweatered body belongs to my sister-in-law who granted me admission into this exclusive club of sitting next to celebrities.  I couldn't get in on my own.

So, if you're sorry you didn't get the advantages of hearing Dr. Eric Swedin (who almost looks like Doug on Strictly Ballroom but with more hair) expound the possibilities of life on other planets, or compliment Jennifer Nielson on her debut novel The Lost Prince, then you know what you need to do.  

It's totally worth the moolah.  

14 February 2013

Life, The Universe and Everything (And Other Inconsequentials)

After following the same line of cars up and around, and around and up looking for a parking spot that never appeared, I parked on the street in a two hour parking zone.  Then, I walked into the Provo Marriot and stood in a long, curvy line.  I checked my belt.  I checked my texts.  I chatted with the lady-writer in front of me.  I got to the front of the line and received my ever-classy name tag and walked to the first session of my second ever writing conference: Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Lots of people. (A few of whom were in capes.)

I got to see Megan Whelan Turner in the flesh and hear her talk about writing her short stories. (Basically, a writing contract fell in her lap, along with a nice little recommendation from Diana Wynn Jones.  Who does that?)  There were other authors, but I'm not going to mention them because MWT is the main attraction for me.  (Her initials are the same as Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday.  Or Thursday.  Hmm.)

I learned about cryptology, which was fascinating, but had nothing to do with the kind of stories I write.  I also learned about creating good, believable villains, how to write for a specific audience, and how to avoid writing one-dimensional characters.  Sometimes I felt like I was back at University.  (Yes, there was some wistful nostalgia in that sentence.  Maybe some hopeful planning for the future too.)

I'm ready for more.  Tomorrow.  And the day following.

I love that it's close.  It's cheap.  It's educational.  And I get to hang out with other half-wits like me who think writing novels is a fun use of time.

If you're in the area, come.  It'll be, like, so totally hot.

07 February 2013

Tribulations of the Third

After three and a half years, I'm starting to realize that homeschooling is hard work.

Truthfully, it's always been nerve-wracking because I never know if I'm doing enough, teaching enough, creative enough to make it engaging.  I get so tired of hearing my own voice.  Cajolery becomes my native language.  I tell the kids not to whine and do their work, and when I listen to my own voice, I realize I'm the one whining.

I've persisted in doing it because I want my children to have the best in education.  I want them to learn ALL the good things, and there is so much!  I don't want them taught only what will be on the next test, but what interests them.  I also enjoy spending time with them and hearing the views on things and their witty rejoinders when they don't mean to be witty.  I love when they ask me to read to them.  My favorite of all favorites is when we're all snuggled up in a heap on the couch and they're listening to me fake a British accent reading "Harry Potter", or chronicling the trials of Queen Elizabeth from their history text.

My two older children have been so easy to teach because they are eager to learn.  They have interests that we can find in the library and read books about.  They want me to teach them and ask questions.  That's not true everyday, certainly, but by and large it is.

My youngest seems to have been born to challenge me in this area of my life.  He has no interests beyond making people laugh and playing video games.  He wants to know how to read, but he doesn't want to learn how to do it.  Even when I tell him something and then ask him a question about it, he doesn't want to answer correctly.  Every lesson is a trial to the both of us.

I have been on the verge of tearing my hair out all year.  I have begged and begged to put him into school, only to wonder if that's really what would be best.

I still wonder.

And I still bully myself into teaching him with as much of a smile as I can muster.

I give very short lessons.

But yesterday, I sat down to read one of his new favorites from the library (it's a favorite because he thinks it's funny), and he read several pages all by himself.  I am persistently refusing to acknowledge that he memorized it.  It also doesn't matter in the slightest that the pages only have a few words on them.  He read something without cajolery, without bribes or threats, and he even seemed happy about it.

Maybe, just maybe he was listening after all.