Saturday, May 31, 2008

Counting my blessings.

I complain a lot about Ditz & it's true she can drive me crazier than a psychotic mouse on a treadmill but I should be grateful, or at least more grateful than I am. Why? For starters, I have a reader. No, that does not include all the lovely readers we get from Sonlight but she does read them & she reads fast. Apart from that, most weeks we go down to our local library & Ditz stocks up with the sort of things she actually likes to read...fantasy, fantasy & more fantasy.

Now I am well aware that this is not very acceptable in some Christian circles but in our house we do not have a problem with fantasy. We have problems with *realism* where children are rude & obnoxious & act as if they were the adults but everyone is very clear in this house that fantasy is just that ~ fantasy. As a fantasy reader myself I have read most of what passes through Ditz's hands anyway, enough to be able to chat sensibly about any touchy areas & it is far safer than much of the *gritty realism* that is passing for YA fiction these days. Liddy read that & I got to pick up the pieces halfway through one particulary ugly book.

Which brings me to an important point because while I monitor my children's reading fairly closely I very rarely forbid anything. I was a voracious reader as a child, much of it highly unsuitable, but I never persisted with anything that was too much for me & I give my children credit for having at least that amount of common sense. However, I realised I had actually done a much better job than my parents had of keeping unsavoury things out of the house as I flicked through the pile of things Liddy was reading at the time. I picked up this particular book & asked what it was doing in the house. Liddy was a bit surprised. As I said, I'm not in the habit of censoring my children's reading material, especially not a child who was 15 or 16 at the time.

Liddy told me it was really exciting but was starting to give her nightmares. Not surprising. It was *realism* but a Wiccan *thriller* & she had missed all the symbols & inner symbolism because she had just never run into it before & Liddy is not, never has been, a fantasy reader so did not realise how it was playing with her mind. I sat her down & we did Pagan symbolism 101 & I suggested returning the book to the library unread was the way to go.

Liddy was rather relieved, as much because she now understood why it was affecting her so badly as because she had an excuse to not finish it. Ditz benefited from this as she learnt early to avoid the subtle markers that are starting to appear more & more often in mainstream children's literature.

Then there is the nightmare of getting Ditz to write....only tucked into the bowels of my computer are over 20 000 words, Ditz's two novels in progress. I sneak in occasionally & have a read & if I thought I could get away with it I'd post some because her writting is very good but I know the kids read here & really it should be Ditz's choice. Plus there is over 50 000 words floating about my house that belong to Ditz. She is always begging me for new notebooks for her *works in progress*. Besides the novels in my computer she has two different fantasy ones under way. Using the computer she spells & punctuates & even ~ shock, horror, gasp! ~ edits!

Since NaNo my child has become super conscious of the language she uses. The thesaurus now lives in her bed & is referred to constantly as well as being used as a dictionary. She is starting to ask questions about more complicated punctuation, continuing sentences, for example, when a character is speaking. Now this is advanced writing & I know for a fact very few of the children round here are capable of that sort of writing. She has a burgeoning grasp of symbolism; the baby name book gets referred to for name meanings to reflect character attributes. This is something professional novelists do.

So I am counting my blessings because Ditz tests badly. Give her ten minutes & she's bored out of her brain. When Ditz is bored she does horrible things. She draws instead of writing. She understands phonics so plays phonic games with her spelling. We are working her math slowly & thoroughly so she is not at grade level. Her tests make her look illiterate, me a failure & homeschooling a disaster. I know this is not so. Her father knows this is not so. Her supervisor knows this is not so; she holds all Ditz's papers marked *very high achievement*. Tests are held in a regular classroom; disastrous for someone with Ditz's level of attention; there is far to much that is far more interesting to fascinate her than an extremely dull piece of paper asking stupid questions. (And yes, they are stupid; worse they're irrelevant & I can't really blame Ditz although I find the fallout hugely frustrating.) I hate the tests; they are no reflection of Ditz's capabilities at all. Ditz hates the tests. I resent the time lost for something so utterly pointless.

I do not mind being accountable ~ which is why we are under an umbrella school & have a supervisor instead of *flying under the radar* as so many Queensland homeschoolers do. We return work regularly. Our supervisor visits & looks at the amount of work covered as well as content & level. If I just looked at Ditz's school work it is nothing special. School is school. When I look at how she applies what she knows she amazes me. She will have a finished 50 000 word novel by November. (NaNo, here we come!) She has a huge vocabulary base & a broad historical foundation capable of making connections across historical periods. Her math is not shonky in the kitchen where she often adjusts recipes to suit herself & her ingredients or when she plays music. Education, in it's truest sense, is not about passing tests; it's about using knowledge to live better & Ditz is very good at that.

I have done the education thing over & over. First it was Jossie, who was incredibly stubborn & so afraid of failure he just refused to learn to read at school . When he decided he wanted to learn it took him less than a week to be reading above grade level. (Yes, he fell into the school's *gifted* category.) Dino & Theo, like Ditz, were quite simply bored by their whole educational experience. They were, & are, kinesthetic learners & school was sheer torture for both of them. In grade 11 Theo, who is hugely dyslexic, tested 0 in comprehension. Dino walked out about halfway through grade 9 & never walked back in. Liddy, a far more pliant child, practised passive aggression her whole school life. I don't do passive aggressive well & she didn't do it when she came home. I am so over the educational*experts* thinking they have all the answers. I just want to be left alone to get on with doing what I do best ~ educating my child for the glory of God.

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