4.03.2020

The Quarantine Marches On


Conference Sundays are busy here with the time difference and Saturdays are always busy. I’m sending my email tonight to lighten my weekend load.


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In other events... several times this week, I thought, “This is what I’ve always wanted...” Homeschool Monday was a good day and Tuesday was awesome.

I told the kids to use their textbooks and make their own assignments, do their own study, and right off the bat Moses assigned himself a project for science that I remember doing exactly, but in the the grade after his.


Ruby has already been good at going over everything in her books—she’s already done with some—and Herbie has become quite self-motivated himself within the last year or so. So no problems there. 

Archie always resists doing anything at the beginning of a new subject, then he gets down to work, and then he doesn’t want to stop to switch to a new one... transitions are the most difficult part. 

Herbie loved his new astronomy class, he kept blurting out tidbits he’s learning, also from his book about Ben Franklin.


Penelope told me she loved homeschool; she was learning so much more. She loves pretty much everything she’s doing, even her class math book (which is sometimes a struggle for the other kids, but once they get started, they’re fine). She’s even fine writing out her multiplication tables like her teacher always makes her do.

She’s started reading George MacDonald’s princess books, which makes me happy. The Princess and the Goblin was one of my favorites as a kid.

Moses, however, told the missionaries it was “boring.” But he has been surprisingly interested in art history. I was unaware that there were so many good books for kids for this, but I found several.

But I’m mostly surprised at how much Moses loves Tarzan of the Apes (the original by Edgar Rice Burroughs). Not that it isn’t a fun read (surprisingly for most of us with modern impressions of Tarzan being a buffoon), but that I would’ve predicted it to be above his reading level.


Linus unpleasantly discovered that he had a class Zoom meeting just when he was scheduled to start computer science. He burst into tears. I had no idea he was looking forward to it so much.

He was further annoyed when no work was done at the meeting. “They’re just telling jokes!” And that the class scheduled another meeting right after the first one (40 minute limit on free accounts). 

Woo chatted with his teacher where we learned that the meetings weren’t required. They were just for the kids in his class to socialize if they wanted to. Linus happily ditched it and Herbie got him set up on Scratch.

The kids are now reading good books across a variety of subjects... I couldn’t be more pleased.

Also, I’ve always wanted the kids to memorize more poetry, and that is happening now too! I only had one teacher do this (in 6th grade, and even then I could tell that this was a great thing to do). 


Tuesday, I selected 10 short poems to start that either teach a lesson or are beautiful examples of the English language. I told the kids that in a month (or earlier, if that’s too easy—it’s looking like 2 weeks might be perfect) I’d make cookies and every child could have one cookie for each poem they memorized. Then I wrote the poems out and taped them to the window.

I could not have gotten a better response. As soon as it was lunch they all gathered around and immediately started reading them out loud, began committing their favorite to memory, mapped out when to memorize what when, and copied them down for their own portable copy.


Penelope and Archie surprised me by not picking the shortest poem (“Nothing Gold Can Stay”) first, but started with their favorite “Which Loved Best.”

I included that poem because I knew they liked it, but I didn’t know they liked it that much!

Archie came and gave me a hug every few minutes while he was memorizing it. Also, asking him: “which child are you being right now?” or “what would Fran do here?” were great motivators.


Ruby came up with the smartest plan, I think. To start with the longest poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling) and work down from there. The poem was a challenge for her (which I was hoping it would be). It also broadened her vocabulary. Then she heard all the other kids repeat the shorter poems so often, they were already familiar when she started in on them.


Moses really went to town. He memorized 6 poems by Thursday, and worked on it frequently during his free time.

Linus told me he never had to be bored anymore because he could always work on the poems. 


Herbie, however, did not lift a finger to learn any of them after that first burst. He’d heard “in a month” and decided to do it later; he’d have plenty of time. Also, he was afraid he’d forget everything he’d memorized by then. He was very unhappy when I reminded him that I’d said “or sooner” and all the other kids were doing so well, it most certainly would be.

The schedule worked really well—almost all kids were happily busy almost all of the time, but the last twenty minutes on Monday seemed to be a struggle for everyone, so I decided this was the perfect time for a spelling or geography bee, and I was right!


I felt like one of those one room country teachers. This is also definitely the case where six students are better than one. I asked each kid grade appropriate words, and we had a lot of fun.

I went to bed so excited Tuesday night at what an awesome day it had been and then Wednesday was horrible. Maybe the kids had been up too late running poems through their heads?


Anyway, it was a rainy, dull day. The kids were cranky. The missionaries called (yes, they’re still here) to give us a spiritual thought which was nice, but they talked a lot about how we’re stuck in the house and can’t go anywhere, and we were all packed together to be seen on the screen while they were talking and I started to feel really stir crazy myself. The power of words is incredible. I really think if they’d never mentioned it, it would’ve been better.


Our spelling bee that day turned into a tantrumy mess as half the kids were horrible losers and they were very upset when they spelled a word wrong... (by Thursday they were already much better with the disappointment), but immediately afterwards they started quizzing each other on world capitals in preparation for the next day.

Anyway, I was flat out exhausted when Wednesday ended.

Thursday was better and Friday (today) was even better. The kids know what the pattern is and transitions are getting easier.


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We are ready for conference. We’ve been doing our thing about the restoration. The kids have their bingo and matching games ready. I did my baking beforehand so I can relax and enjoy, and we have our questions to be answered. Mostly...
Archie: Mom, I already have my question for conference! 
Do you want to hear it? 
Me: Sure. 
Archie: It’s: Who’s going to speak in conference? 
I might have raised an eyebrow.
Archie: I already know some of them, but not all of them... 
Happy Conference everyone!