And now the Update Part Two.
M. you’ll recall is homeschooling and back in September I posted a line up of what we were planning. Like all good homeschoolers, we did some adjusting along the way. The critical thinking class? Gone. It just did not appeal. Aleks.com? As much as I am a huge fan of Aleks, and despite my begging, imploring, demanding, and pleading I just have not been able to get M. to even log on. Clearly I am a fail Tiger Mother. We’ve instead relied on the tutor and extra work she assigns. M. is making good progress and is on track to finish Algebra this year. Latin has kind of faded out. On the plus side, M. is rocking her EPGY English classes. There have been some struggles, mainly the logistics of keeping the schedule straight and turning in assignments. But I’ve been pleased to see how she’s stepped up and I’ve been able to step out, as it should be. I continue to be impressed with EPGY classes. I think the level of work she’s being asked to do, and the amount and type of writing, is far beyond what she would have gotten in MCPS. She’s got an excellent foundation for middle school.
With those two pillars, math and English, in place, I’ve been happy to let her give free rein to her other passions. In addition to four Lukeion classes this fall, she’s watched countless history and social studies-ish documentaries. She’s plowed through thick history books. She’s been reading archeology blogs and magazines and the New York Times. She spent two weeks glued to Al Jazeera, watching the Egyptian revolution unfold. And she’s baked. Boy has she baked! Baking has turned out to be a tremendous gift. A few months ago we bought a freestanding cabinet to store her growing stock of pans, sprinkles, specialty ingredients and gadgets, and on top proudly stands her holiday present, a cherry red KitchenAid mixer. She’s turned out amazing tarts, tortes, pie, breads, rolls, cookies, and cupcakes to great acclaim. Let’s just say that I will never buy commercial pita bread again. Most interestingly she says that it has really helped her both relax and improve her ability to focus and organize. I can really see it. I consider it a great gift that she’s had this time to simply explore her interests and passions, something I doubt would have happened to the same extent has she remained in school.
Playing against this fall’s homeschooling backdrop has been high school applications. The testing. The school visits and interviews. The essays (oh the essays), for both her and for me. Lining up the recommendations and crafting the transcript. I think in my posts of a year ago I may have mentioned that it was during a school interview for C. that I looked out the window and had an epiphany: “M. would love boarding school.” Small classes with individual attention, amazing resources (archaeology museum anyone? famous speakers, etc. etc. ) and something always going on. Hence the decision to apply to boarding schools as well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. She would also apply for a local high school magnet and submit her preferences in the Down County Consortium lottery, again hoping for the best. Worst case, we could always move.
It started in October with the first sitting of the SSAT. We did some rudimentary review and familiarization, but she never actually sat down and did a whole practice test. I think she just couldn’t bear facing the possibility that she wasn’t ready—even though she was—because in her mind so much was riding on the outcome. On the morning of the test she was anxious to the point of physically shaking—the child hadn’t taken a standardized test in over 2 years. When she came out she felt huge relief. It really hadn’t been as awful as she imagined.
Next came the first school visits and interviews. All three of us drove up to New England to visit C. for Parent’s Weekend and en route did the first school visit for C. Driving up north, the leaves turning made me realize all over again how much I love that part of the country. It’s home. M. was nervous about her first interview, but it went wonderfully well. The woman was warm and “seemed like a mom.” Not intimidating at all. M. is an easy conversationalist and relates well to adults so she came out feeling very positive. Husband Dear and I also had a positive chat and liked the school a lot. The following day we visited a different school, the smallest and most traditional of the schools M. is applying to. We got a warm welcome from admissions person whom we had met at the Norwood Independent Schools fair. Again, the campus was New England perfect, with carved pumpkins lining the campus circle.
Next came the application and testing for the MCPS high school magnets. Thankfully the application wasn’t too involved but worryingly, M. felt she did poorly on the test. The following week was a second try on the SSAT and this time she was much more relaxed and felt even more positive of the outcome.
And then the essay writing began in earnest. X School is a challenging environment, intellectually and physically. What in your son’s or daughter’s academic and personal life leads you to consider him or her likely to respond well to the challenges X School presents? What do you feel your son or daughter will contribute to the X School community? What qualities of character and mind in your daughter or son most delight you? Please tell us briefly why you think X School and your child would be a good match. And so on, and so on. Meanwhile M. had to think of her favorite books, describe her family, explain why she’s homeschooling and what that looks like, tell how she had made a difference in the community, talk about her strengths and weaknesses, describe a research project she might want to undertake. And so on and so on and so on. It’s quite a process and regardless of outcome, I think it’s been a really good experience. The college application process will be nothing new to her.
So now she waits. One piece of good news did arrive late last month. Earlier in the month I had received the results of the consortium lottery, and while she wouldn’t have to attend our base school, she didn’t get her first choice either. Ugh! “Can’t this kid just catch a break once?” I fumed. But then a few weeks later we got a letter from a magnet. She was in! Huge relief. So, no matter what she will have a good option for the fall.