Homeschool review, already?! That’s what I thought when I got the letter dated April 15th. We only officially started homechooling on March 4th. But no matter. I called the MCPS field office. They said I could come in as early as the first week of May. I scheduled for May 15th.
In the intervening month part of me thought “I don’t need to sweat this…heck, it’s only 2 months of homeschooling and she’s actually done a lot.” But then the Type A part of me was all, “I’m not seeing enough ‘product!!’ Where’s the ‘product?!’ I’ve got to demonstrate regular thorough instruction!” I’ve been feeling particularly anxious about math. M. is doing pre-algebra on Aleks and simply hasn’t been putting in the hours–that I would like, my husband keeps reminding me–to get her on track to start in with Algebra in September, unless she wants to do math all summer. I kept harping, “You need to do at least 5 hours a week.” But somehow her photography was particularly compelling, or she was reading The Secret Histories, or there was a particularly good documentary, or…. I have to keep reminding myself that this is why we’re homeschooling, right? To be able to adapt and go at the student’s pace. Breathe.
This past week I was really burning the candle on both ends, what with work and then blogging into the wee hours. There were several nights where I only got 4 or so hours of sleep. By Thursday night I felt like crap, but I still needed to pull together my stuff for the review at 9 a.m. the next day. I stayed up until 1 a.m creating Word document resource pages from e-mails, drafting an overview–and then got up at 5 to drive Husband Dear to the Metro, C. to the bus, shower, dress and then frantically print out the final samples and supporting documents.
I rolled into the field office at 8:58 and behind me was a mom clutching large binders, dad juggling some large cardboard creation, and a child. I was carrying a slim folder. Deep breath.
A homeschool review, I’ve decided, is essentially a sales jobs and I can’t help thinking of Mr. Roark: “Smiles everyone! Smiles!” (Okay, so maybe that’s not the best metaphor.) Go in dressed professionally. Project enthusiasm and confidence. Show that you completely know what you are doing. And keep up a non-stop monologue as you casually slide over a few choice samples.
This was my first time with this reviewer. She was pleasant, low-key and as she pulled out the file she said, “I can see you’re an old hand at this.” She said this at least three times during the half hour. Was she saying it to reassure me or herself? I confess it did sort of lower the bar and help me relax. (I was surprised that they would have files by family rather than by kid.) I extracted three writing samples from my sheaf of papers to show her–more or less the sum total of M.’s written output over the past 10 weeks (think quality, not quantity!)–and then I ran down my overview.
• Pre Algebra – Courseware: Aleks.com. Student navigated learning paths based on level of readiness, with assessment at regular intervals. (I showed her the printout where it’s mapped against Maryland content standards. She liked that. Didn’t get into how much progress she’s actually made since starting.)
Interdisciplinary Humanities (English & Social Studies)
• Unit Study – Rise of Totalitarianism – Secret Histories, Animal Farm, Maus I and II. Ongoing and extensive multimedia exploration and study of the Russian Revolution, World War I, Rise of Communism (Stalinism), World War II. Ongoing. (Mentioned our research paper plans for the fall and showed her my first assignment on narrowing the topic. She liked that.)
• Unit Study: Ancient Greece – Extensive multimedia exploration of Ancient Greece. Reading from K12 textbook, web resources such as the BBC, PBS, the History Channel and National Geographic, videos, interactive games. Read D’Aulaires Mythology, excerpts from Young Philosopher’s Guide. Field trip to the Washington Monument and Supreme Court to study influence of Greek Architecture. (I showed her a first person wax museum monologue on Artemis that M. wrote.)
• Current Events—Daily reading and discussion of current events in the New York Times and satirical political shows, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.
• Eiffel Tower – Conduct research and write report. (I showed her this two page paper.)
• Slumdog Millionaire – Comparison of the movie and the book upon which it was based.
Interdisciplinary Science (Science, Health, English)
• Forensic Science – Units on Hair, Insects, Art Fraud, Autopsy and Dissection, Odontology, Fibers. Field Trip to the Walter Reed Museum of Health and Medicine for their forensic workshop. Read “Chasing Vermeer.”
• Paper Bag Mystery – Write mystery based on several random items in a paper bag. (Had the reviewer skim this. She loved it, commenting that she could tell M. had really gotten into the assignment. By this point she was murmuring repeatedly about how much we were doing, that it all was really wonderful. Just sliding to the close….)
• Middle School French 1 – Powerspeak. Completed lessons 1-22.
• Photography – Produced photo essay with captions.
• Drawing – Sketching Greek goddesses. (Showed her a sample.)
• Field Trips – MOMA in New York; National Gallery of Art and Museum of the American Indian in DC; Wheelright Museum and Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.
• BBC Composer of the Week podcast series
• Attended performances of Sweeney Todd and The Baker’s Wife.
• Composition using Garage Band software.
• Music documentaries such as “The Story of Led Zeppelin.”
• Blog – Independently designing and authoring a blog featuring to include photos and brief personal essays and reflections. (Just really getting started with this. I’ll turn her into a blogger yet!)
• Incorporated into Forensic Science class. Student also regularly reads the Health Section of the Washington Post and New York Times online. (I told the reviewer my “Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex until you’re older. There…Health is done.” line. She chuckled.)
• Fencing – Weekly private epee fencing lessons and twice weekly group classes.
Toward the end she asked just one question: what our typical day was like. I told her that I expected M. to do math and French every day, but that we were still working on that. Otherwise, “school” took place during the normal school hours, adjusted for pre-teen sleep rhythms. When it was over she barely had written anything on the sheet. Really. Bottom line though, we passed.
I rushed to work, forgot my laptop power cord so had to come home after an hour or so. Once home I decided to be “sick” for the rest of the day rather than work, went straight to bed and slept for four hours.
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