Elliot and I have an outdoor classroom that we use when the weather is nice. It's a screened porch that we've set up to include a large worktable, a chalk board and white board. We keep the strings of lights up from Elliot's eighth birthday party, and plug those in every morning. Yesterday, as we opened our notebooks and began our writing lesson, I could feel an overpowering pull within my soul to leave the porch and spend the rest of the day out in the yard. Elliot felt it too. After struggling with this feeling for another twenty minutes, I released my will and let the spirit carry us away from books and notebooks, out into the light.
I reminded Elliot of the importance of daily work to balance life, admitting that one of the big lessons of homeschooling is learning how to work around the house. It would be perfectly okay to leave our books and work on some projects together. While I know he would have rather hopped on his bike or spent the day in a tree, we compromised, with a play break or two when we needed to relax.
It was wonderful. I enjoy spending time like this with Elliot. He was very helpful and stayed by my side with a pair of clippers as we cut away the overgrown vinca vines and ivy that were dominating the arbor floor and making lots of hiding places for copperhead snakes. While he worked, he kept telling me how he didn't like to cut the vines, not because it was difficult, but because he loved to have places in the yard that made him feel like he was in the jungle. He said when he grew up, he would buy the house and let all the vines grow.
Then he sat underneath the butterfly bush, happy to find a secluded place he knew I would never ever cut down.
There may be a time in life when Elliot decides to write about that memory. It was an experience he wouldn't have unless we followed that prompt from the spirit and walked away from the books. I have forgotten to tell Elliot that writing is not only thinking, but thinking about our memories. The way he felt when....
sitting underneath his favorite tree while yellow swallowtails and monarchs flutter on the blooms.
We began our school year learning to write and appreciate poetry. I enjoy this part of teaching more than any other subject. Although I am not a poet, it is the most enjoyable subject to teach, especially because there aren't many rules to follow, and a beginning writer doesn't have to write in complete sentences. I love it so much that I wonder if Elliot would be bored with me if I only taught poetry for the entire year.
We start with a sample poem, think about what's going on in the poem and try to pick apart the form. I always ask what the poet is doing with the words. How did they do that? I also ask what the poet is trying to tell us.
Here are a few of Elliot's poems. He speaks them out loud and tries to write them as fast as they come out, but sometimes the words fly away before they can be captured on the paper. So I take notes to remind him, as Eve Merriam does in Catch a Little Rhyme.
When I think about winking
I try to wink
You do not know my secret
I dash though the night
with my friend Flash
I dash with Flash
to save the day
Smart Jane farts loudly in a crowded elevator
and feels proud.
Jane let the fart fly in the White House Elevator
and President Obama smelled her very stinky fart.
That was not very smart.
In fact, some people think Jane is so dumb