Meanwhile, I’m homeschooling my children. We are now in the middle of our sixth five-day week of school. We began on August 11 because Baby Boy is likely to arrive around the end of November and thus we would no doubt not complete a fall term if I taught September to December. One the (many) nice things about homeschooling is the total sovereignty one has over the schedule.
My oldest is nearly six and I am striving to keep her work firmly at the kindergarten level. (Somehow my sporadic and faulty efforts over the last year or so have managed to teach her some things so she is doing first grade work in reading and math, but I refuse to make her a first grader at five years old.) Our homeschool also includes Harriet, who is nearly four and doing pre-K work.
One upshot of all this is that Norah has become a teacher, too. The other day she devised a math worksheet for Harriet. (“Harriet, this is just a little review page.”) Harriet, who watched eagerly while it was being laboriously created, was then required to fulfill it before breakfast (which she did).
We know already that Norah is more effective at training Harriet than I am. Remember the bed-making drama? During one phase of it, Harriet was shooting upstairs right after breakfast to work on it and, astonishingly, I found it done in a thorough and timely fashion several days in a row. On the day when I began to internally congratulate myself on having achieved this parenting triumph, I happened to overhear the following as I approached to inspect Harriet’s bed one morning.
Norah: “No, Harriet, you haven’t put the pillows on. You better hurry or you will not be having your prize this morning.”(frantic activity ensues)
Harriet: “Is that okay, Norah?”
Norah: “Well, that’s pretty good, Harriet. It could be better, but I guess you can choose one prize.”
And I entered to find Harriet poring over the odd bits and ends that Norah collects wherever she goes and keeps in a shoebox dubbed “Norah’s treasures” in her bottom bureau drawer. Harriet, who has long envied Norah this collection of rocks and rubber bands and gum wrappers, had been sufficiently motivated by it to display passable bed-making skills.
A second upshot, perhaps related to their new identity as scholars, is that both of my daughters are affecting spectacles this week. Norah began it, suddenly appearing one morning in an old pair of glasses (with clear glass) from the dress-up bin. She wore them faithfully all day, despite the fact that the lenses are enormous on her little face. Then a friend gifted Harriet with a pair as well. They seem to need these lenses for nearly all activities, even viewing The Magic School Bus. (Hugh’s eyes remain adequate, and he spurns all attempts to smarten him up with lenses.)
What does Hugh do while we do school? He steadfastly resists all attempts to educate him. He won’t sit nicely while we do calendar, crayons only interest him for two minutes, he eats paint, he pulls at the pages of storybooks and tries to climb over my face while I am reading. Despite the generous helping of healthy neglect he has received since birth he refuses to become independent, only rarely occupying himself with toys for any length of time. I just juggle him the best I can. At these ages we only do focused work for a relatively short segment of the day, after all. Sometimes I can kind of play with him as I do things with the girls. Sometimes I hold him, or he has a snack in his chair or he watches Thomas the Tank Engine. Often he clings to my legs and weeps at the tragedy that is his sisters’ education. But he likes recess. And field trips.