Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Class of 2006" After All

The deschooling journey has led me to decide to graduate Brendan from high school. He is turning 18 this summer but on the records he was a junior, so it is “early”. But he has enough credit equivalents for a high school diploma so here we go.

This goes back to when he was in Kindergarten and the Catholic teacher advised that we have him repeat K. We were in agreement because we knew first grade would be very stressful for him — even K was a difficult adjustment.

Then we started homeschooling, partly because of him, but kept the grade because we wanted to give him that flex room in his life. I haven’t regretted it once. The only thing I regret really is that we even did things by grade level at all. Since he and his younger sister were working together for several years, he got the impression that he was slow, which is not true at all but I can see how the situation played into his perception. Oh well.

The truth is Brendan strikes me as gifted rather than slow, though I’m trying to move away from those labels and see him simply as he is. He has a gift for locking into something and moving into deep focus. His childhood was a succession of passions about different topics. He’d put down anchor and dive down to the bottom. The first one was bowling, then the space shuttles, then volcanoes, reptiles, insects, US History, up to an intense interest in trees the past year or so ago.

The ways I think I helped him most:

–finding resource materials for him and guiding him in how to use them — eg reading them to him when he was too little to read for himself, showing him the index (oh, that gave him a crucial tool), getting informed enough so I could answer his questions or show him where to look for the answers, that kind of thing.
– Provide ways for him to interact with his interest. For the space shuttle interest, he had a matchbox-type shuttle that he took everywhere with him. He followed the shuttle launches with his Dad. Plus usually his interest broadened to include something else — the space shuttle led to an interest in history of space flight, and interest in the solar system and the universe.
–listening to him talk about his current fascination and letting it become an interest of mine.
–and then, one year, I actually “led” him a bit by spending a whole year soaking him in Elizabeth Foss’s Real Learning literature list, which I was helping her put together. I read him a book per month and we did “context studies”. He dug in deep and it was the summer after that that he started reading LOTR on his own.

Back to graduating Brendan. I had plans for a chronological integrated survey of history/literature/religion just like I had done for Liam. We are presently only up to the middle ages with Brendan. But honestly, it seems a bit ironic to “teach” 20th century history to Brendan. He knows way more about it than I do. If there’s any ways I can be a resource, we can still do that informally. Presently he wants to inform himself about current affairs and politics. I need to pull together some resources for him on that.

He wants to spend the bulk of his time writing so having a transition year next year will give him time to devote to this. We do our daily “overviews” — I make him hot cocoa and some breakfast and read to him for a few minutes. Over the past 3 years we have gone through The Iliad, The Aeneid, then the NT Gospels, then Maccabees this way. You can see we take it slowly and that is intentional. We read “THorstein the Staff-Struck”. Now we’re on “Gawain and the Green Knight” which is fun to read aloud with all the alliteration. Then we can just talk which is sometimes in itself a challenge because of our full, busy household. He wants to take up Logic again but his real interest is “applied Logic” as it relates to the public square and political issues.

That’s where we are right now. So I will pull together an official transcript and that milestone will come just around the time he registers for the draft.

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