Today was the first day of home school. By way of background, we will be leaving Zambia in a couple of months. The Zambian school year runs in calendar years, and our 7-year-old daughter, Leia (the General), finished second grade in December. The school she was attending only runs up to second grade, so we had to decide how to fill the next three months for her. Instead of enrolling her in a new school with all the anxiety that may cause, we decided to home school her until we figure out where our next permanent base will be.
Substitute teachers do nothing
Anyway, back to the first day of home school. And I’m referring to my first day of home school, since my wife and daughter started home school together four days ago. But today was my first day. It wasn’t meant to be, but Mrs Chaos pulled a sickie this morning, so I got to be teacher whether I wanted to or not.
The advantage of being the substitute teacher is that you’re not expected to have done any prep work or know what is going on (apologies to any substitute teachers reading this – I’ve no idea if this is true, but I felt it best to reduce expectations for all concerned).
Homeschool turned out to be pretty cool. To start with, my daughter read me a book about robot dinosaurs – kind of like listening to a book on Audible, only I didn’t have to pay for the service, and the book selection may not have been my first choice. Who am I kidding – robot dinosaurs…
For math I decided that it was time to introduce our eldest to Rummikub. I played this when I was her age a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – and really loved it. Leia was obviously delighted to play a game rather than having to work on her addition skills – and Mrs Chaos was laid up in bed and unable to engage in any disapproving non-verbal communication.
So Rummikub it was. It went pretty well, and I made sure I covered my ass from the inevitable grilling from Mrs C by making our daughter add up the totals of some of the tiles she laid down. In fact, all went very well up until the point that my 7-year-old beat me in her first game. And did I mention that I work in finance with numbers every day…. In my defense, I was helping her and pointing out moves that she missed – so I pretty much beat myself. Yes, that’s it, I beat myself. We played a second game, and I’m not going to say I’m competitive, but let’s just say I definitely won the second game. But I’m a grown-up, so there was no celebratory dance. Okay, maybe just a little dance…. on the dining room table…
It was then time for history, and the General has started a project chronicling the history of her family by interviewing close family members. She makes a record of some key facts about each, and attaches a picture of the person. Today was my turn to be interviewed. I was a little worried about it, as our daughter often bursts into tears when looking at old pictures – particularly those of herself as a baby. Essentially, she doesn’t want to get older and is afraid of people close to her dying. It’s a real issue that we are researching, and will no doubt write about our strategies – failed and successful – in a future blog post.
Anyway, we didn’t make it that far into the interview. When you were born in a random small town in Ireland that sounds completely different from how it is spelt, there’s a fair bit of time involved in helping your daughter with the spelling. Bonus points for anyone who can guess how to pronounce ‘Magherafelt’.
It didn’t feel like school at all. Just hanging out with my daughter for the morning. As well as the ‘educational’ content, we also just talked. And there were even some learning points. Like how important it is to look at people when you are listening to them instead of playing with toys (or your phone!).
One of the things we try to do at dinner is have everyone talk about one thing from the day that they are thankful for. My daughter’s favorite thing today was playing Rummikub – and it was great to see her face light up when I told her that was also my favorite moment from the day.
It really emphasized to me how important one-on-one time is with your kids. And not just 5 minutes here or there between other activities. But genuine solid blocks of time when they have your undivided attention. When they know you are listening. These are the times when they are most likely to open up. Correction – the second most likely time. The most likely time is obviously ‘lights out’ time at night when they are trying to drag out the process as long as possible…
We’ve got four kids, and spending solid blocks of time with each individually is tough. I’m not sure how to do it, but I do know we have to.
New career as a teacher?
Am I going to become the full-time teacher? Probably not. But would I mind filling in as a sub teacher in the future – definitely not. I’ve got a whole cabinet full of board games and no one to play them with. Do you think I could persuade Mrs Chaos that Ticket to Ride was an appropriate substitute for geography, that Pandemic should count as biology, or that Settlers replaces sociology…