A quick scan of the progress bars on my kids’ school dashboards proves it: we’re in the final academic quarter. And it is pretty amazing to consider the growth we’ve seen in these two kids since we left Wisconsin again last fall.
There was the two-week visit to Morocco–Roman ruins, Eid al Adha, flash flooding and all–punctuating our first school quarter, and the inauspicious first day in Abu Dhabi with a power failure in the apartment. From there, we certainly have had ups and downs. But the learning has been undeniable.
We’ve read novels, as a family and individually, and participated in monthly book club conversations. Noah’s plowing into pre-algebra and geometry. Both kids are starting to catch on in French, and all three of us have vastly improved our reading in Arabic. Meryem has discovered that she loves history–and that has given me a new angle on encouraging her to read. Both kids are understanding grammar and parts of speech so much more thoroughly, thanks to foreign language studies and some pretty solid grammar materials in their respective curricula. Noah has learned how to research, outline, draft and write a research paper.
But wait! There’s more! There are all these little bits of growth, a budding out, that I see. Meryem scrambles eggs. Noah loads and unloads the dishwasher. Both kids have learned how to rollerblade, and biking is an easy thing. They swim for hours if I let them, and enjoy practicing cartwheels and headstands. Lego, Minecraft, origami. Art workshops and field trips, 3-D movies with friends. Email and texting. Happily, within limits.
They have excitedly hosted a Flat Stanley and a stowaway monkey, as well as their grandparents, on visits in and around Abu Dhabi, enthusiastically planning where to get an ice cream, what to do on the beach, and where to take the grandparents for lunch (neither Monkey nor Flat Stanley was ever hungry). And with Grandma and Grandpa, they picked up cribbage and enjoyed a few other games. In a few weeks, we’ll host another guest, their uncle, and once again the kids are plotting the adventures.
Spring break for us will be at an African wildlife reserve, and then it’s on with the final quarter of this academic year. As much as I would love a long, downhill run toward the hot season in Abu Dhabi, it looks like the schedule will be as demanding as it has been all along. Going back to the school dashboard, it looks like we have a sixth-grade science project coming up soon, along with a third-grade book report and a whole lot of French homework.
I don’t want to get too terribly retrospective a full quarter before the end of the school year, so I’ll stop there. But, while I’m in the mood for a few minutes while the kids navigate their own lessons for a while, there is this whole aspect of homeschooling that I do get. As an online schooler, I don’t plan lessons. I don’t choose curriculum, and I hardly even influence the order of my kids’ subject work on any given day. But I am beside them daily, watching critical thinking as it turns wheels, watching ideas (big and small) take shape in their minds. Observing the incremental acquisition of skills, leading to competence, and pulling them toward mastery.
That’s pretty cool, and I would not have predicted the effect it has had on me.
The excitement of our location has mostly worn off by now, but the thrill of our everyday adventures continues–not because of anything special I am doing, but because even the most mundane-seeming tasks (buying tomatoes, baking a cake, folding laundry) take on weight and meaning when they’re performed in the context of helping a person grow capable and confident, one detail at a time.