In this series, you as a homeschooler get to peep through the porthole of another homeschool parent. You get to come aboard a vessel that is already underway, steering for distant shores. Perhaps you hope to pick up tips, learn a new approach, or get some comfort and reassurance that, yes, you are doing just fine. Comfort that tends to be in short supply in the landlubbing real world.
Sometimes our homeschool has all the mayhem and disarray of a pirate ship in the midst of a southern gale. But with any luck, as you visit my chaotic and calamitous home for a few moments, you will realize with relief, that you certainly can’t be doing any worse.
Swabbing the Deck
Our days with teenage boys (18 and 15) usually start late, and with laundry. With a young man on the autism spectrum in tow, there are often surprise cleaning jobs to do, which tend to come to my attention between the hours of 5 am and noon. This morning was like that.
We had guests over last week on the mournful occasion of my mother’s passing. That meant that the days before involved a rush job to clean the whole house. “Clean” may be too strong a word. What I mean is, remove a goodly portion of the visible dust and grime. Make sure that there are no longer any trip-able obstacles lying in wait for the unsuspecting rambler.
Absent Without Leave
Unfortunately, I could not supervise the clean-up, since I was hurrying to my father’s house and back again, attending and arranging various get-togethers of family and friends. So the task fell to my younger college-age daughter (nearly 21), who is a cleaning whiz– if the price is right, and I can catch her on a day without other distractions. My husband and sons also helped a little when their schedules (work and video games) permitted.
The result was a very nice, neat, vacuumed set of front rooms. We have a ranch with an open layout. This can be a disadvantage, since every room in the main part of the house is visible from every other room. No place to hide, no doors to close. This makes our home both spacious and honest to a fault. No way to overlook the housework that still needs to be done.
Over the years, we have accumulated a lot of stuff. Boxes and boxes of it. Another disadvantage of a home of this particular vintage is that storage space is virtually nonexistent. This has led us to adopt a rather bad habit of storing boxes in the open. This is fine when it’s only me and the boys, but when a boatload of people come…well, you understand.
Inspecting the Hold
It has been a few days since the last visitor left. This morning found me looking longingly at the computer. I turned it on, and lo and behold, no internet! This is not usually a source of consternation for me, since I have a little tech wizard in my house who specializes in the fine art of plugging and unplugging modems and routers.
Unfortunately, my younger son was indisposed (yes, that kind of indisposed) and unable to come at once. So I wandered over to the room where my older son sleeps and discovered, at last, exactly where my daughter had put all those boxes! Just two weeks ago, my older son and I had rummaged through that very room, tossing old toys, filling bags for goodwill. We had cleared that sock-strewn, toy-laden carpet, even the part under the beds. We had removed every single bin and box except for one bin, which remained, half-full of the most absolutely beloved of my son’s stuffed animals.
This morning I walked into the same room and lo! There upon the floor lay a dozen boxes, filled with various and sundry items, none of which belonged to my son or had any right to be in that room. I reminded myself sternly how grateful I was to my daughter for the grunt work of transferring these items out of sight, and turned my gaze to the bed, with its sheets in need of changing. I called for my older son and together we pulled off the bedding and he took it to the laundry room. Then I turned my attention to the closet. There I found not only clothing, in and out of the laundry baskets, which were no where near full, but also items that I dare not mention in polite company, which perfumed the air in a way I would not highly recommend.
I called my older son back in and commanded him to remove these items from my sight, in a voice somewhat more stern and urgent than my usual voice, and handed the items to him. In a somewhat predictable manner—which,sadly, I failed to predict at the time, but, had I been thinking clearly, had I not been mad and annoyed at having to again clean up such things, perhaps I might have modulated my voice to a much friendlier and pleasanter tone—he threw them across the room.
I think it might be well, if you turn away from the window for a moment now, for the words coming from my mouth have turned much louder and somewhat more blue in content, and I am embarrassed to share that loss of composure with you. But in a moment, I was able to ask him, in a quieter tone, to pick up the items, to get the broom, to clean up all the little tiny beads that were now littered across the recently vacuumed and straightened carpet, as well as upon the mattress of the bed we had just stripped.
All Hands on Deck
The broom was, of course, not where it usually is, since someone besides me had last used it. But we did find a substitute in short order.
I explained, once again, to my older son, with reasonable patience, the process of sweeping, and allowed my son to do his best to pull the beads and bits of wet paper into a pile in the center of the carpet. I then went hunting for the dustpan, which was well and truly gone. I fashioned a makeshift dustpan from a cereal box laid flat, and together we managed to pile it high with wet little beads, and somehow I managed to bring it, without tipping it once, from the bedroom to the kitchen garbage, where it was followed by a civilized squirt of air freshener.
My other son, who had listened to the rather loud goings-on from safely behind the water closet door, promptly became un-indisposed, and showed me where he and his sister had stored the missing broom and dustpan: outside on the back porch, of course. He then proceeded to plug and unplug as he does so well.
I happened to then walk by the room he had just left and found a similar situation to what I had just come from in the bedroom. I removed the carpet mats, the garbage can and a mound of rather damp clothes from the bathroom and asked my younger son to sweep up the rest. Everything went into the laundry and is spinning as we speak.
Life is more than an excuse to clean and do laundry in our house, though. Since my older son is on the brink of adulthood, a lot of time is spent trying to plot out some kind of future for him. Yesterday I spent time on the phone discussing both a college transition program, and a social skills program. I spent time online signing up for an Autism conference about recent medical and therapeutic advances. We will take my older son to art therapy later in the week and he will experiment with different media and methods with very pleasing results. It is also a way for him to communicate when he is unable or unwilling to do so verbally. He also enjoys movie outings, and time on the computer when we are not working on basic math or reading or science with him.
Once a week we all go to co-op, a gathering of secular homeschoolers from around town, with hour long classes from 10 till 3. My sons see other kids every week who have become their friends. They enjoy classes like ASL, Small Business, Yearbook, Yoga and Drawing.
My younger son spends some class periods helping out around co-op. We eat the delicious lunch prepared by one of the classes and go home exhausted. In the past, I have been a teacher at co-op but now I mainly serve as an aide to my older son. My job is to keep him on track and behaving appropriately in such an unpredictable setting.
Manning the Wheel
My younger son spends much of his day doing virtual school online. He is taking American History, English, and Programming. This is our first semester doing virtual school and it is an interesting change. It is a nice combination of him taking the reins and organizing his own school day, and me being able to check up on his progress online or through speaking to his teacher. Because of his interest in programming, he is able to bolt ahead in the Programming class, but I have to prod him to keep up with his History lessons, as well as the Biology and Algebra II that he has been working on, on dvds, since last fall.
My son’s interest in programming drew him to join a robotics team in the summer, and the season has just recently ended. It included a tournament nearly every weekend, twice weekly club meetings, a regional and a state competition, and tutoring in programming, science and engineering by two talented mentors and a wonderful sponsor teacher.
He has also developed a passion for baking bread, much to my family’s delight. He has recently begin bringing loaves to co-op, for his Small Business class, with rave reviews. I used to be the baker in the family, but no more. I told him, if he wants to continue, he’s going to have to learn to wake up earlier.
Plotting Your Own Course
Well, now you have had a glimpse into the kinds of things we do on a typical day in our homeschool. From Dealing with Disaster, to Life Skills, to Java Programming, the adventure never ends. Every bit of this crazy voyage is learning, and it goes by far too quick. I hope in the years to come, you will enjoy your homeschool– even with all of the challenges and surprises in store for you on this rollicking ride–every bit as much as I do mine.
(Included in Simple Homeschool’sA Homeschool Day In The Life)