It is sweltering outside, but in Georgia, the school year begins on August 1st. Out of camaraderie with the rest of our community, we commence as well. Besides, what better things could one be doing when it is nearly 100 degrees outside? Although, with a looming book deadline, I am occasionally “Writing at Burger King.”
This new academic year marks a milestone for us: Oldest Son is a high school senior. But Middle Son is in third-grade, while Curly Moppet, at three, is just working on some preschool basics. When asked, she proudly says she is in “Fairy School.”
I start finding random pieces of paper around the house, where someone has carefully inscribed “OIL” over and over. Soon, the scribe starts adding new letters before and after the familiar pattern—“HOILOH” or “MHOILHOHM.” As papyrologists would say, the scribe has a steady highly legible professional hand with minimal flourishes. Unfortunately, the scribe displays an occasional predilection for writing on the walls.
One day a menu for “The Cannibal Diner” appears on the garage door. Vivid illustrations accompany highly detailed descriptions of dishes. Entrails predominate. The author’s high literacy level suggests that this is someone different than the Walls Scribe.
We drive fifteen minutes deep into the Georgia countryside that begins just outside our door. At first, grazing cows grace the pastures on both sides of the road, but swiftly they give way to empty, wilder greenery. First we are on the county road, then a side road, and finally we bounce down the twisty unpaved dirt road that kicks up dust and pebbles relentlessly. If we did not know that the road was there, we would never find it. Then at last, in the middle of a forest clearing, we reach our destination: a soccer field. It is here that a local Baptist church hosts a small soccer league every fall, meeting for practices and games twice a week from early September to early November.
My youngest player displays an aversion to conflict. Any time a ball rolls near her or—worst of all!—threatens to come into her possession, she screams and runs in the opposite direction. It doesn’t seem to harm her team’s chances of winning or losing. None of the players on either team seem to remember which goal is theirs.
A devotional break punctuates the halftime of each game, and snacks of the sort I don’t stock at home are handed out at the end. The players are thrilled. Tuesday evening games conclude at 7:30pm. As humans depart the field, crickets and fireflies promptly take over for their own games. Without fail, one or both of my young players fall asleep in the car on the drive home.
Every Wednesday, the two soccer players trade their jerseys for art smocks as we drive in the opposite direction, to another country road surrounded by small farms. There, they take art lessons from a gifted artist. She retired from teaching public school art years ago and has been teaching homeschool art classes at her home ever since. A zipline connects two trees in her yard, so we must get there early, Middle Son insists, so he can zip back and forth a couple of times before class. Curly Moppet, afraid of the zipline, prefers to scale up to the top of the trees instead. She has become an adept climber, at least, over the course of the fall. At first likely to get stuck at the top of a tree and require assistance getting down, she can now make the downward climb herself with remarkable ease.
We make the usual Christmas season drive to Maine to visit my husband’s parents. It has been part of our December ritual for years. Every road trip offers, furthermore, an opportunity to explore, and so we stop in Boston for a few days of historical touring. The highlights include the Aquarium and the Tea Party Museum, in which the two younger kids each get a card with the identity of one of the original “partiers.” Realizing that they are siblings, the tour guide assigns them two siblings. They gleefully continue to address each other as “Sam” and “Lindell” for the remainder of the trip.
Poorly received bonus experience: walking one mile from the hotel to Christmas Eve church service in 18-degree blizzard conditions. Worse: getting slightly lost while walking back, doubling the length of the journey. Christmas morning redemption: visiting the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture on our way out of town.
The holidays are over, and Oldest Son resumes near-daily Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai practices. One Wednesday night, I am startled as I pick him up: his entire face has been bloodied, but he is grinning, giddy with glee. Inquiries reveal that he had been punched in the nose—a fairly common occurrence in Muay Thai, he assures me (and I should see the other guy). He insists that he still wants to go to church for the mid-week Youth Group meeting. I ask later how it went. “Normally the girls like to sit close to me,” he says. “Not tonight though.”
As the countdown to the end of the school year begins, Middle Son fondly remembers being named last year’s second-grade valedictorian and frets anxiously: will he be the valedictorian for his grade yet again? We assure him that the odds in his favor are reasonably high. He is, after all, the only third-grader in the house. He begins making daily notes and outlines for the forthcoming valedictory address, just in case he is invited to give one yet again.
One learning outcome I had in mind for this academic year was to teach all students to close the bathroom door when using the facilities. Alas, we seem to have failed at this. But our Greek curriculum has gone swimmingly.
Oldest Son stays up progressively later on the nights before his twice-weekly homeschool co-op classes. Graduation depends on successfully making it through chemistry. Each morning after a late night of homework, the downstairs looks like the aftermath of a rowdy frat party. Still life with cans (from sparkling water) strewn everywhere, multiple empty coffee mugs around the room, empty boxes from Cheerios and pretzels on the coffee table.
The Cannibal Diner menu on the garage door has been updated for spring, switching out entrails for appendages, available roasted or boiled.
The Walls Scribe has shifted her writing to a new surface: hardwood floors. Through trial and error, we learn which writing implements easily wipe away, and which ones do not.
With a start, I realize that with Oldest Son’s upcoming graduation from high school, I am now exactly half-way through my homeschooling years. Thankfully there is a slice of medicinal cheesecake in the fridge. Just what the doctor ordered for such a time as this. In addition to being the teacher, I am also the doctor.
Image Credit: Albert Anker, “Nursery School Children on the Kirchenfield Bridge,” 1900.