Sunday, September 27, 2009

Perfect Fit

Last week was a productive one at Stratford Grammar School. Dagfari wrote his first college paper, for the 200-level art history class he's taking at WFU, and he also mastered (more or less) the 3 times table.

The former was his idea: he's auditing the class, so he doesn't have to do the papers or exams, but he insisted on it. The latter was accomplished with considerable coercion from me. He supposedly learned the multiplication tables in 3rd grade, his last year of non-home schooling. But they never really stuck, and it's frustrating to do more advanced math when you have to multiply using your fingers. So we're back at it. My latest strategy, suggested by another homeschool mom, is to do one fact per day. It seems to be working better than anything else we've tried.

Dagfari still resists math in all forms, mostly because it takes time away from things he really wants to study-- such as Luxury Arts of the Middle Ages, his art history class which he's absolutely loving. I worried a bit that D would get bored by a systematic study of art history, but he's taken to it like a duck to water. And his paper isn't bad.

So it's been a good week. And I'm reminded of the moment that sealed our homeschooling fate when D was 8 years old: the educational psychologist looking at his test results admitted that there was no appropriate school placement for him in our city. I guess it's not too suprising that there's no school for an 11-year-old who's working at maybe a 5th grade level in math, college level in art history, and somewhere in between for all his other subjects. Homeschool, on the other hand, is a perfect fit.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Living the Complicated Life

I have to admit, I love those simplify-your-life, organize-your-house magazine articles. All those pictures of rooms with wide open expanses of floor and clean horizontal surfaces. Stuff stashed neatly in shelves, cubbies, and bins. I should know better than to think I could achieve anything like this at my house, but once in a while I try.

Last weekend it was time to tackle Dagfari's room, which in its natural state looks like a hurricane just went through (those of you who have seen it know that I'm not exaggerating). ProfDad got a spiffy new label maker from Costco, so I categorized D's art supplies-- which he was storing in a heap on the floor-- and put them into a bunch of neatly labeled plastic bins. It looked quite good, if I do say so myself.

And was Dagfari happy about this? Um, no. He was incensed. Why? Because "No one will take me seriously as an artist if I keep my supplies in labeled bins! Can you imagine Jackson Pollock with his paints in labeled bins?!!"

No, but I can imagine Jackson Pollock's mother despairing of ever again having a clean house.

At any rate, Art Boy can rest easy for the foreseeable future, since there won't be time for any big organizing projects. Our semester is in full swing, plus we have this year's BookMarks Festival coming up in less than two weeks. I'm serving as acting head of my department, probably for most of the academic year, and ProfDad is teaching four classes and serving on the University Committee from Heck. Oh, and we're still trying to arrange for the deconstruction and reconstruction of half of our house. Somewhere in there we also have to educate the boy. It doesn't appear that I'm going to be simplifying my life anytime soon.

Dagfari is loving the art history class he's auditing at WFU. It's exactly what he needs right now-- an introduction to the methodology and context of art history from someone who knows what he's talking about. So I'm bringing him with me on campus three mornings per week and hoping to recruit a student to hang out with him for a couple of hours before class. ProfDad has him on Thursdays, his Albanian Grandma takes Tuesdays. We're working on scheduling a couple more classes and companions to round out the week. Everything else has to get done between 5:30 p.m. and whenever we fall asleep. This will probably start to feel more manageable when we don't have BookMarks meetings once or more per week.

My friends with brick-and-mortar schooled kids are talking about early bedtimes and clean, quiet houses this week. I can't say this doesn't sound appealing. When we undertook this homeschooling with two full-time jobs experiment, we knew it would complicate our lives, and it has. But we never even considered sending D off to middle school this year. And I'd likely be even more stressed out if we had; it's become quite apparent that there's no way for D to fit comfortably in the traditional classroom. So for now we're living the complicated life, and yes, it's worth it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School 09

Classes start tomorrow at WFU and HPU, so we've designated it as b-t-s day for Stratford Grammar School too. The schedule is still sort of in flux, but Dagfari is auditing an art history class at WFU this semester, and he'll go to the first class tomorrow. He's very excited about it, if a little apprehensive. I'm very happy that he'll have access to someone who knows more than he does about art history.

The WFU class meets MWF, so we aren't scheduling too many other classes until we get a feel for how much time the reading will take. Of course, D will still get at least one Albanian lesson per week by default. And we're hoping our lit tutor can fit us in again this semester. We're also going to force D to keep doing Teaching Textbooks Math 7, preferably with one of his homeschool friends.

Dagfari has been doing a lot of art again lately. This week it's been pastel chalk still lifes of pottery vases. They're quite nice, IMO, but of course the artist is unsatisfied with most of them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Upon Being Asked to Clean His Room...

Dagfari wrote a little essay, from which this is excerpted:

"The creation of art and literature are not to be countered by rules of cleanliness. The current home-school environment is not to be used as an excuse for the unlawful destruction of artistic or educational work-spaces. This should allow the student to move with complete freedom from one certified work-space to another. In other words, the education and enrichment of the members of this household is of greater importance than the enforcement of arbitrary rules of cleanliness.

Therefore, in the course of cleaning, this enrichment is still to be respected. The process of tidying should enhance it. The cleaning experience should be educational. This is the responsibility of the government, to step away from the current approach to sanitary enforcement. "

And so on. And he wonders why I give him the "just wait until you have kids of your own" speech at least once per week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

American Art, Ballet Blues

Summer camp season came to an abrupt end last week, as Dagfari bailed on NCSA ballet camp after two days. Five solid hours of nothing but dancing was not his cup of tea, and it didn't help that he was once again the only boy there. NCSA is a pre-professional program, and, as D put it, "They make you feel like ballet has to be the most important thing in your life." Which is does, if you want to be a professional dancer. But Dagfari doesn't. D's teacher from last year told us we really needed to put him in the ballet prep program, but I think it's clear that this would not be a good fit.

Everyone says that it's great to be a boy in ballet, since boys are scarce. I guess this is true if you're a boy who is very serious about ballet. But the downside, we've found, is that a boy who's even mildly talented will find it hard to pursue a casual interest. If Dagfari were a girl, no one would be pushing him ahead into advanced classes or mentioning a professional career!

At any rate, he now wants to take a break from ballet this fall. I hate to see him quit completely, but I can understand why he feels the way he does.

The July Writing Adventures camp at Reynolda House Musem was more successful. Dagfari didn't love every aspect (especially not the group writing activities-- can't blame him!), but ended up having a good experience. The teachers were good and the museum staff were happy to have a kid who was so intensely interested in art. Many of the Reynolda House staff know him on sight now, which he hopes will serve him well when he goes looking for an internship in a few years.

ProfDad and I are hurtling toward the fall semester now, and there are some interesting things in the works for Stratford Grammar School too!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer 09

I'm not quite sure how it got to be July already, but here we are. SGS is in summer session, which means that Dagfari gets to spend time at his old school doing some day camps. This year it's been all movie-making camps with the longsuffering Mrs. M., who takes 18 kids and makes a semi-coherent movie with them in the space of a week. The results are quite entertaining, if you're the parent of one of said kids. D is doing his third and last week this week. Then we have few weeks off (i.e. Albanian and Library Camp). At the end of July D is doing a camp at Reynolda House. I think he's planning on using the opportunity to lobby for an internship.

Dagfari rounds out the summer with two weeks at UNCSA Ballet Camp. If he likes it and they like him, he'll probably audition for their Ballet Prep program in the fall. His teacher at WFU strongly encouraged us to transfer him there. I'm still a bit wary-- a pre-professional program??I just planned on using ballet as homeschool P.E., since D hates team sports. So I figure the summer camp is a good way to test the waters.

No real vacations planned for this summer, since we're ripping off the back of our house for a remodel/addition. We did spend the better part of a week in Charlottesville last month. Dagfari and ProfDad had a good time bopping around Monticello and UVA while I was in RBMS meetings.

Dagfari is still updating his art website this summer. Scroll down for some previews of coming exhibits.

And if you need to track us down this summer, we're probably at the pool or Home Depot.