Autodidacticism = Joy

January 18, 2008 @ 8:14 pm | Filed under:

Ah, yes, it was that kind of a week. Kids with colds, one kid who seemed to be coming down with a tummy bug but mercifully did not, an IEP meeting, an interminable appointment at the children’s hospital, where the parking lot is under construction.

But also: a week in which good books were read, and funny pictures drawn, and a cunning turquoise case crocheted for my cell phone by an enterprising daughter.

What I love about this homeschooling life is that even the bad weeks are pretty darn good.

It’s January, and we are back in our semi-annual Ambleside groove. (Also known, hereabouts, as "high tide.") Jane is reading the books on the Year 7 list this year, and since I have read few of them myself, I’m ‘doing’ Year 7 too, and I’m loving the books and the conversation. This life is an autodidact’s dream. I’m put in mind of a story my gorgeous friend Tracey used to tell: how she wasn’t able to go to college right out of high school, and she used to pray for the opportunity to someday continue her education. Then she got married, and she had a baby, and another, and she was delighted to be able to stay home with her little ones. She and her husband decided to homeschool the kids, and the oldest daughter was halfway through first grade when it struck Tracey: that old prayer had been answered. She was reading A Child’s History of the World to her daughter and learning much that she hadn’t known before.

"That’s when it hit me," she deadpanned, telling me this story years ago: "God did let me continue my education. He just figured I needed to start over at kindergarten!"

So here I am, reading Churchill’s history of Britain with my 12 year old, discussing Caesar’s assumptions about the island he was about to invade, and I’m thinking the whole time, I am the luckiest person alive. This is not, mind you, what I was thinking when we spent 45 minutes sitting in an exam room waiting for the doctor to show up, nor during the 20 minutes after the doc’s visit when we had to wait for the nurse to write up the lab slips so that we could spend another 35 minutes sitting in the lab waiting room. Beanie is quite correct in pointing out that my attitude became something less than cheerful during those long, long, long waits. And I wasn’t even the one getting jabbed with a needle.

But the books, the lively discussions, the sketchbook drawing of a blue-and-orange house wren (Bean opts for excitement over accuracy in her nature drawings), the words that fly over yarn and flashing hooks: this is what sticks with me, this is the rich life.

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennifer says:

    I think that if you didn’t start jabbing the medical staff with needles yourself, you handled the situation with as much grace as could be expected.
    I feel the same way as your friend Tracy! I always intended to go to graduate school, but ten years later…. I’m learning more teaching the second grade than I did as a high school student.

  2. Ana Betty says:

    This sounds exactly like the week I had! Lots of doctor appointments with parking spaces more made for a mini than an Excursion. Coin meters for parking (I don’t even carry cash anymore). Getting lost. 2-3 hour appointments. An out of town husband…you get the picture.

    I’d like to hear how you flesh out your days during high tide. I have a 12yod, 10yo twin boys, and a needy 4yod. We’re also trying to follow Ambleside’s list. To make things easier, we are covering the same time period in history together (ancient greece right now). My dd is also going through TCOO on her own. I find it so hard to get to everything every week, like poetry, nature study, picture study, Latin, dictation, fun read alouds (what’s that anymore?), science (I totally left this out this week).

    My poor 4yo gets little individual attention from me. I just can’t figure out how to work it in? Can I be a fly on your wall?

    Thanks, Melissa, for always bringing up the brighter side, the adventurous side of your circumstances. That blesses me more than you know!

    Grace & Peace,
    Ana Betty

  3. JoVE says:

    You are so right about the benefits of this life. I never read a lot of children’s classics when I was younger and reading them with Tigger is very enjoyable. Same with the history. And then she has interests that I never had — art history for example — so I get to learn all about that.

  4. Activities Coordinator says:

    Have you ever been tempted to send a doctor a bill for your time? I told one once that I figured his bill should decrease in size for every ten minute interval I had to wait. This was after an hour plus long wait. Of course, I made sure to say it on the way out.

    I hope next week is better for you!

  5. Meredith says:

    Excellent!! I love that you’re back in high tide, looking forward to hearing more. I am so right there with you on the learning it all over again (and sometimes for the first time) with our kiddos, it’s like a little slice of heaven on earth!

  6. sarah says:

    Melissa, thank you for this lovely post. I’ve been spending lots of time on Ambleside’s site this week—thinking it’ll be a good place for us. And drooling over the chance in the years to come to read all those great books that (mostly) eluded me during all those years of public school.
    Your post reminds me of something a friend said that always sticks with me. Simple, but well-said: “This homeschooling thing: it’s a good life!”

  7. Leone says:

    You’ve made me want to look at the Ambleside booklist again! šŸ™‚

  8. Pam says:

    I was going to ask the same question as Ana Betty.

    I really want to come live at your house and I find it very hard to believe you get grumpy though obviously you must.

  9. Mary Alice says:


    Now that you are back in the Ambleside groove, do you have any advice about getting readers to slow down, I know you posted about this once, and I think that I can manage it with the read alouds, since I control the pace, we can get several books going at once, but what about in PT’s own reading? Do I tell him he can only read a chapter a day? He reads on his own during quiet time and before bed, and he is blowing through a few books a week.

  10. Somebody's Grampa says:

    Here’s another misquote from Casablanca: “Of all the [doctor’s offices] in all the towns in all the world, she [and her kids] walked into mine.” And waited. And waited some more. And no one cared.

    I feel pretty fortunate. Our current primary care physician (we are in an HMO, can you tell?) is pretty considerate. He obviously places a high value on our time as well as his own. We are usually in and out.

    But Lissa’s (recurring) reports beg a few questions: Does the unacceptable amount of waiting time result from doctors and medical offices billing our health plans by the hour? Or do they bill by visits/actions? I think the latter, but am not sure. Does anybody know? I thought it worthy of a phone call to ask our HMO how it works. I must admit I got the answer I expected…No, doctors bill for visits and services, not time.

    Exception: the anesthesiologist, or was it the anesthetist. Can’t remember. Ironic that the person who controls who long you are out is the one who is apparently paid on a time basis! šŸ˜‰

    Anyway, that first question leads to another thought: If there isn’t already a website for it, wouldn’t it be nice if there was one…organized by state, city, clinic name/doctor’s name…where you could document (by type of appointment/follow-up activity) the amount of time you spend WAITING to see someone or or do something?

    If nothing else it would provide an assessment of a medical office’s time management and scheduling abilities. The intention would be focus a little attention on something that has been a problem for many. It might even provide an incentive for a doctor or other medical care provider to be a little more considerate…by exercising a little better time management.

    This (hypothetical?) website might also provide a means of documenting other complaints about the level/quality of service. It’s possible there could be legal ramifications to this part, perhaps, so it might be better to leave it for another day.

    A more cynical person might well add that such a website allows you to assess whether or not a particular doctor really CARES about the impact all that waiting time can have on your day…and your kids’ day. Heck, we all know that just preparing for an outing, any outing that includes the children, can chew up a chunk of your day!

    Perhaps the site could also contain links to some of the more common HMO/health plans, making it easier for you to log in and file a complaint. Not, of course, that it would necessarily do much good. (Oops, there’s that cynicism again!)