Diary of a Homeschool Dad: Week 1

A quick glance at headlines at any point over the past six months would suggest we're living in an unusual time.  And since I've already got this website, it seemed that the start of the 2020-21 school year might be a great time to document what life looks like to me right now.  The whole world is going through an interesting moment together, so this blog will take a brief excursion to see what is going on with an average family living just outside of Houston, TX.

First of all, let's take some time to meet the main characters.  In case you're new to this page, my name is Brian.  I am fascinated by all things history and geography, hence the name of my page and my nickname "Geographist".  By profession I'm a cartographer (yes, that's a map maker) and have worked in various segments of the petroleum industry for my entire 18 year career.  I'm active in my church, where my wife and I serve as 5th grade Bible study directors, I play the cello in the orchestra, and I've recently rejoined the deacon body after a hiatus of a few years.  Over the last couple of years I've tried my hand at writing and this website actually got its start with weekly audio blogs of my first book, which is now in publication (click the Our Story With God link above if you want to find out more about that).  And this year, I get to try on a new hat - homeschool dad.  Here are the rest of my crew:

Mrs. Geographist - my wife, a recent college graduate who is now getting her foot in the door as an elementary school teacher.  She is the kind of lady who is always helpful and understanding, she stays pretty quiet until she gets to know you well, and she binge watches TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, Little House on the Prairie, and Recess.  She is my perfect completer in every way, and we've been best friends since we were 15.  The only thing in this world we can't conquer together is a basket of laundry.

Girly - my oldest daughter, the crown princess, a high school sophomore.  She has a tight group of loyal friends with whom she is always communicating via whatever electronic device she has in her hand at the time, always seems to be trying something new at school, and is literally terrified of getting into trouble (whatever that word means).  Primary activities include re-watching her old TikTok videos, listening to music from the 70s and 80s, and mothering her little sisters incessantly.  I think she's planned out her entire life already.

Curly - my second daughter, a bubbly mess of curls and emotions, is just getting into that awesome preteen phase.  She loves hugs and special time with family, likes being outdoorsy and sporty, and has become quite the little sassy pants.  She's a great travel companion because she can just sit and watch the world go by, is especially empathetic and has great spiritual awareness, and plays along nicely with my terrible dad jokes.  She has an insatiable desire to watch superhero movies, and left to her own devices I think she'd run the Marvel movies on a never-ending loop (especially Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Endgame).

Whirly - my youngest daughter, a bundle of energy and action rivaled only by the Tasmanian Devil, and the subject of our homeschool journey.  She's the kind of girl who always has to touch things to figure out how they work, will never understand what "you have not because you ask not" means because she is fearless and consistent in asking for anything she wants, and does not even comprehend rules that other people try to impress upon her.  She's blessed with a huge imagination and balky fine motor skills that make her work much harder to do things like write neatly.  It was this last detail that led us to explore a year of homeschooling with her in order to catch her up with the rest of her class, a decision that was made weeks before anyone in Wuhan, China decided to order that fateful bat soup.

Now that you've met the cast, let's look at how week 1 went!

Monday was a big day in the Geographist household - Mrs. Geo started her first school year as a teacher, landing a long-term sub position at a local elementary school.  And since mom had in-service all day, dad got to hang out with his girls.  This meant driving Girly to her final summer cello lesson, then taking Curly to a meet-the-teacher event.  The oldest two are going back to school in person, and this was the first time back in the classrooms since Spring Break began back on March 6.  But since I still work full-time, there was still plenty of time that had to be spent at home to make sure everyone at the virtual office was taken care of.

Tuesday was the real beginning of our school journey.  Alarms were heard throughout the house, which I'm sure puzzled the dog (a black German Shepherd mix named Sunny, who has gotten quite accustomed to having all of his people around).  Mrs. Geo was off to school quickly, Girly and Curly got the necessary books and lunches packed up, and it was out the door for drop-off.  Back home, Whirly and I shared some ham and eggs, and hit the books.  After knocking out a couple of subjects, we decided that the pool was calling our names so we walked down the street for a quick swim (our PE class for the day).  After getting cleaned up and changed, it was back to studying.  Today we focused on reading, Christopher Columbus, math, and the difference between interrogatory and declarative sentences.  Mrs. Geo swinging by for lunch was a nice diversion, and before it was time to get the big girls Whirly had finished all of her assignments.  Picking up the older two girls (after a very long time waiting in car line...socially distanced dismissal can string things out a bit) led to lots of chatter about all the new protocols on campus, how good it was to see friends, and the good/bad/ugly of each class.  Back home it was time to party a little bit as my parents drove into town to celebrate Girly's birthday (her first ever to spend at school!), so we hit the local Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday was a test to see what would "stick" as routine.  The morning schedule was pretty much the same - for me, that pretty much involves rolling out of bed and putting on shoes while watching everyone scramble.  Whirly must've been tired after one day, because we had to pull her out of bed just to get the big girls to school.  No pool today, instead we got our exercise by taking a walk down to the river that runs through the back of our neighborhood.  Science is all about classifying animals, so we scoped out some fish and birds, not to mention the plethora of dragonflies and other insects that buzz around.  Handwriting was a bit of a chore today but eventually we got the hang of those pesky cursive "q" shapes (no, the loop goes on the other side...what you just drew is a "g").  We hadn't finished English by the time we had to go sit in pickup line again, so for the first time it was the homeschooler who had to work later than everyone else.  I'm sure that'll happen from time to time, but at least she's not going to have assignments to do in the evening like her sisters do.

By Thursday I'd started to feel like a pro at this thing (over-confidence is always dangerous, right?).  But fortunately, most of the coursework is starting to have a few more self-directed options now that the introductions are done.  Whirly opted not to hit the pool today, and instead spent some time watching webcams from the San Diego Zoo to get a little more animal-watching under her belt.  She was much farther along by the time mom swung by the house for lunch, including a whole segment on Pilgrims and a review of some vacation pictures of the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock, and seemed determined not to keep working after her sisters got home.  Girly had color guard practice after school, and since Curly's piano lesson was canceled for the week the rest of us had time to eat dinner out before a Zoom meeting for church teachers to discuss how/when our on-campus Bible study classes might resume.

Friday is field trip day!  After a week dedicated to stalking poor critters everywhere we could find them, we took a jaunt over to Armand Bayou Nature Center.  The buildings remain closed, but there's plenty of room to hike around.  After spotting a young alligator in the wild and looking at some birds and a pair of bison, however, my mechanically-minded little girl was most interested in inspecting a simple weight-and-pulley system set up to close the front gate.  We may have an engineer on our hands, folks.  After a lunch of Buffalo Wild Wings and a spelling test (perfect 100 grade) we wrapped up the week.  Success!  Since this week's blog has been super long, I'll toss the weekend events over on next week's entry.  Hope to see you then!



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