7 Quick Takes: 7 Weeks Into Police Preschool

I’m linking up again with This Ain’t the Lyceum for a 7 Quick Takes to celebrate having finished seven weeks of Police Preschool.

  1. Pleasingly Flopped Field Trips
  • Bees: Pippin mostly just played with our friends’ Duplos and gobbled up their cherry tomatoes. Still a fun evening!
  • Ducks & Doughnuts: It poured rain, but everyone got a doughnut and Scout chased ducks to her heart’s content, so I’m counting this a win.

    • Eggs: Pippin was afraid of the chickens, but Scout loved collecting an egg and was rapturous about eating it next morning.

    • Frogs & Fish: See below.
    • Goats: Unbelievably hot, but both kids relaxed into it a little more. It may have been the influence of the goat owner and her kids, folks I know from the homeschool co-op.

2. Saint Stories. I have a friend with an amazing stash, and she’s been way more helpful than the library, frankly. Every week I add more books to my “Homeschooling Maybes” Amazon list, but because of her, I haven’t had to spend a fortune on supplementary readings — does anyone know a good site for child-accessible stories on the saints, when I can’t find a picture book version?

3. Outside Everyday. I kind of hate this right now, and the kids did at first, too, but are now gaining steam. If we have a playdate for the day, I count that as the outside time, as long as they’re out a bit; if we don’t have a playdate, we just head down to our neighborhood park, and there are usually kids there to recruit onto the police squad. I am not a great all-weather person and the kids definitely resist on rainy days, but especially when they’re really playing happily and I can just sit and watch and maybe read a bit, I know it’s the right thing to do. On the days we miss, I definitely notice it in their behavior.

4. Poetry. Our current favorite is The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury edited by Jack Prelutsky. Pip particularly likes funny ones and riddles, but is occasionally fascinated by more…poetic…poetry, like the selections this collection has on bats. Any recommendations for us?

5. Letters. I have Pippin write a letter to a friend whose name starts with the letter of the week each week, and I love it, and mostly he does, too. “Write” is pretty loose here; he usually signs his name and scrawls the recipient’s. Sometimes he decorates with stickers, usually with police cars. Sometimes the recipient writes back.

6. Rosary Updates. So, he’s kind of hooked at looking at art associated with the day’s mystery on my phone, and it’s kind of disruptive, though it does lead to good conversations about how religious art works, why there are varieties, what medium the artist used, etc. My tentative solution is to cut him off when he turns five next week, and we can just look at the art in a book we have of rosary art, or he can color.

7. Doubling the Fun. So, I know I’ve got it easy right now. Homeschooling baby steps: no newborn (coming soon!), only one child in school, the child only in preschool. I took a friend’s school for Police Preschool recently because Pippin begged me, and it was fun, but utter chaos. Two kids, two months apart, and their skills and interests are so different — Other Kid isn’t writing yet, but pays way more attention during the Rosary and is much more agile on the playground. And everyone had fun on the playground, and going on a walk to look for frogs and fish, but then I lost my keys, and they got to solve a Real Detective Mystery and help me find them as I waddled grumpily along. (#thirdtrimesterhomeschool)

Happy Michaelmas, y’all!

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Police Preschool, the First Fortnight

 

Ground rules

Day 0: The Friday before, Pippin is encouragingly excited about homeschool. I ask him if he wants to come up with a name for our school and some rules, and together we draft the above document. I am killing at this. 

Day 1: There’s a mad rush to get a decade of the Rosary in with J before he races off to work. We are starting school a couple weeks before local places so I don’t feel as shirky if the kids experience a stretch of televised education when Roo comes in late fall. Pip and I are both excited to start, but disaster strikes: I have heard that preparing things to distract the toddler is almost as important as engaging the learner, and soon both kids are vying for a bin of beans, making a mess and squabbling. Ugh. I try to remember that the start of last year, at traditional preschool, was tough, too, but at some point, I’m yelling “NO ONE HERE IS BEING VERY AMIABLE” as I try to go back to our lesson on the virtue of amiability. Then I load up the kids and take them to play at a local wading river with friends because, hey, this is homeschool.

Day 4, End of Week 1: Each morning, Pippin asks me to read to him or play for awhile before we start school, but I keep starting (and finishing) early. He seems to enjoy once we are gathered around the table, and asks when we will homeschool again over the weekend. I’m learning to be firm, kind, and not panicky in making school happen each morning. We have decided that at the end of each week, if we’ve both behaved, we get a special policeman activity, and this week it’s some random worksheet I downloaded off Pinterest. He loves it.


Week 2: It’s Letter B in the house of Bowers. He writes a letter to my sister Beca, using butterfly stamps and bear stickers that were mine when I was a kid. We don’t make it to the library this week, but we do go on field trip to a neighbor’s house to learn a little about her bee hives (mostly he plays with Duplos). We read the story of St Benedict, but he mostly just likes the attempted poisoning bit.

I am relying on my phone more than I feel great about: playing Benedictine chant, showing him paintings of the various Mysteries of the Rosary. But if I were using a library CD, somehow I’d feel more wholesome, so I try to get over it.

 

Writing his aunt

Scout is usually content to sit in her high chair and play with special toys (including the dreaded bean box), and our lessons are always extremely quick — maybe 30-45 minutes, all told. Sometimes we revisit a memory verse or talk about the letter of the week later in the afternoon, but often it’s the usual old mix of park visits, reading aloud, and entirely too many trips to the grocery story. Everyday, he tells my parents over Skype some of what he’s learned, and repeats it again for his papa after work. I feel like that’s reinforcement enough.

 

This week, I think we’ll add in coins, sorting them and using them to count by 5s and 10s and 25s, but that’s the height of my ambition. It can be rocky when everyone’s yelling and I’m just trying to get through a poem, but it sure beats the tar out of Pip’s preschool adjustment last year.

 

Enrichment. Maybe. Also, imprisonment.

Homeschooling and the Bookshelf

A recent Goodwill haul

When I was getting ready to travel to East Africa as a newlywed, I re-read Heart of Darkness and The Poisonwood Bible(Optimistic choices, I know.) When we were expecting our firstborn, I pored over Natural Childbirth the Bradley WayI am a reader, first and foremost. It’s how I prepare, living out the future from the safety of the page.

The decision to homeschool Pip’s preschool next year has been different, because these sweet children already take up so much of my day that I can’t dive into a book as I once did. I want to read to prepare, but instead, I find myself reading Good Night, Good Night Construction Site or another Beverley Cleary instead of educational philosophy.

Although Virginia’s winter has been mild this year, it’s run roughshod on our family. One or more of us has been sick since we returned from Christmas weeks and weeks ago. Barred from playdates and parks, stir crazy in the house, overdosed on family movies, I find myself hauling the kids day after day from one thrift shop to another.

Right now, homeschooling feels so big, so nebulous, and as with first birth or expatriation, you can’t really know what it’s like until you’re already in the thick of it. I can be thinking about what I’d like to do, and talking to my many wise friends, and sneaking bits of The Well-Trained Mind on audiobook as I cook dinner, but for now, it’s mostly a matter of waiting.

I realized, though, there might be a method to my compulsion. I can’t read homeschooling manuals when I’m caring for my kids, but I sure as heck can wheel them around a thrift store, diving for literary treasures. With every chapter book I snag, I feel a little more prepared for the mostly unpreparable. I’ve got another book to read aloud to Pippin, another book of background reading I’ll get to one of these days (I’m looking at you, Last Child in the Woods). I can’t yet imagine what our homeschooling life will look like a year from now, but I rest assured I’ll be surrounded by old friends: Stuart Little, the Alden children, Mary Poppins, the Penderwick sisters.

The Good Stretch

Have we talked about how I’m a little afraid of everything? I haven’t done that Pottermore test to find out my Patronus, but I suspect it would be a mouse. Or, at the very least, something small and sleepy and cautious. A mole, perhaps.

While Pippin’s been stretching this month to adjust to preschool away from Mama (i.e., HIS WORLD), I’ve been stretching to teach art at a local homeschool co-op. (We are taking this year to decide how we want to proceed, education-wise, which is why things are so bonkers around here.)

Because here is my dark not-so-secret: other people’s children make me nervous. (Even my own children make me nervous when they’re new and squishy.) I am afraid I’ll do the wrong thing, or that they can sense how awkward I feel. I’ve never wanted to handle classroom management, which is why I opted to be a librarian and not a school teacher. Also, you saw my cat/mouse. What business do I have in teaching art?

If I’m being honest, dread is my greatest motivator, and just jumping in usually helps a lot. So despite my nerves, I’ve been coming back from co-op energized and filled with new creativity. It turns out I like working with homeschool kids (not a total surprise after a stint as a teen librarian), and that classroom management isn’t as terrifying as I thought — not all that different than managing the chaos of a rousing night of laser tag at the library, in fact.

It all makes me think about the good stretch and the bad stretch, about getting a little outside your comfort zone and growing tougher and braver in the process. So, like, teaching art to eager, well-mannered kids at an age I totally get? Good stretch. Teaching, I don’t know, geometry to surly teens who don’t want to be there? Bad stretch. Too far. Good for you, not for me. (And when my friend at the co-op asked for a middle school PE teacher? Baaaaaaaaaad stretch, dear readers.)

I can’t always tell when I make the leap if the chasm is too far, but if I left the decision up to my gut, I’d be mousing around in cautious obscurity indefinitely. On the whole, I’d rather be collapsing at home on Friday afternoons, paint inexplicably crisping in my hair, damp marbled paper from a dozen eager fourth graders fanned out on every available surface. It’s chaotic and exhausting and scary, sure, but much more fun.

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Work by my talented fourth graders