Friday, September 28, 2012

A New Kind of Milestone

There are many milestones is growing up/parenting, but I find this one particularly striking.  It was not one I expected to see taking place quite so soon, and certainly not one I sought out, but as often happens with child-led education techniques, curiosity gave way to major advances:  Cadence can now clean the cat litter box.

James has traditionally been in charge of that particular chore, due in large part to my (evidently frequent) pregnancies [note for the uninitiated:  pregnant women are 'not supposed' to do that chore due to the relatively small possibility of exposure to toxoplasmosis via the feline fecal matter...though single expectant moms with cats need not despair; proper hygiene, especially if you also use protective gear such as mask/gloves, usually eliminates that risk almost entirely.].  Lately, Cadence has taken an interest in watching him perform the task, and at some point last week, she came flying into the room to inform me that he had agreed that she was old enough to try doing it herself.  I can't explain how proud and excited she was...I think she's well aware of the level of responsibility this entrusts her with, more than actually wanting to deal with cat poop.  (Plus, I think our sometimes unusually fastidious kid also enjoys the idea that, if it is bothering her, she can now take matters into her own hands and do something about it.)

So, James taught her how to do it, and supervised as she tested out the new skill...but the real test came earlier this week, when James had to take a trip to NYC for a job interview, leaving the litter-cleaning task to us...and Cadence stepped forward and asked to be in charge of it.  All by herself.  (She made a great pitch, too, I have to say, citing the safety risks to her unborn sibling if I were to do it, as well as her experience and practice, which would allow her to fill a needed niche...I have high hopes for her ability to write good cover letters when she eventually starts looking for jobs!) We agreed, though we assured her that it wasn't so dangerous that I couldn't help her if she needed it, and she amicably agreed to accept help if it came down to that.  

We needn't have worried...she did an AMAZING job...careful, clean, thorough...right down to scrubbing her hands well afterwards.  The only thing I had to do was to talk her out of doing it three times a day, which was mostly because I worried that having people mess with their privy so often would upset the cats!  She was proud, I was proud, Hazel was proud, and of course James was proud when he heard ALL ABOUT IT upon his return.

Cadence and Lily share a moment
Lady-B is certainly growing up!  I continue to be amazed by her every single day.  I am so super-duper proud of that kid.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adventures in Home Schooling: Wait, What??

"Well, it looks like we're gonna have to move..." is how James broke the wonderful news that he had landed the fellowship that he so desperately wanted.  It was May, and I was with some friends at Jack's Stir Brew Coffee (Hazel's favorite restaurant ever!) around the corner from the Blue School when he called me to share the fabulous news that he would be working as a Tax Policy Fellow at the US Treasury beginning as soon as he finished taking the dreaded Bar Exam.

James has always wanted to work in the public interest in some manner, and was somewhat dismayed when he learned that he actually really, really liked tax law - and in fact had a pretty good knack for it.  As you can imagine, there aren't too many options out there that combine those two things, so when this fellowship came along seemingly tailored exactly to his dream career, taking it was an absolute no-brainer - even though it meant uprooting our little family and undertaking the expense of doing two (well, as it turned out, three) interstate moves in less than a year, during which time we'll be welcoming yet another child to our crazy little awesome existence.

Anyway, this is how we find ourselves living just outside of DC for the first half of Cadence's Kindergarten year.

Since we're headed back to NYC in January for the second half of the fellowship (wherein James will be returning to NYU once again to obtain yet another degree-this time an LLM in tax law), we decided to keep the girls enrolled at the school that has meant so much to them over the past several years...and yes, I do mean BOTH of them, since Hazel is now old enough to actually become an official student, after spending two years as the "blue school mascot!" and "mayor of blue school".

So, while they will both definitely be returning to their beloved Blue School in January, this left us with the question of what to do for the fall semester.  We're currently residing in Maryland, where, by law, Cadence must be enrolled in school due to her age.   We considered sending her to the local public school down here, which would give her a taste of a very different kind of school experience, would give her something to do, and would give her the opportunity to be around kids her own age and make some new friends...However, this also had the disadvantage of being a rather limiting Cadence, who would be sitting in a classroom for most of her time down here, but much more so to Hazel and I, who (due to timing, location, and our lack of a car) would be stuck in the apartment just waiting for the school bus for most of our time here, and none of us would really have the option of taking advantage of all that DC has to offer.

So, in the end, we decided to take a bit of a different course, and I'm very excited to announce the latest of our family adventures:  Home School.

The teachers at Blue School have been AMAZING, and are working with me to make this all happen. I have registered to be a home school instructor (got my signed papers 'n everything!) so it's all nice and legal, and the plan is to  build a curriculum that is somewhat parallel to what they are doing in the classroom in New York, but to incorporate as much "DC-ness" as possible into it - mainly by taking advantage of all the amazing resources we have down here...The zoo, the Smithsonian(s), the myriad other museums, national monuments, and unique history this place has to offer.  During this time we will be checking in with the class via this blog, e-mail, skype and all the wonderful new media technologies available to us in this day & age...Basically we're viewing ourselves as the classroom ambassadors to DC, and I am SO EXCITED to get this opportunity to learn along with the kids, and to spend this time with them...

I am going to be documenting the work we do together here on this blog, and the reasons behind it are kinda four-fold.

1.)  Because I am required by the state to provide a portfolio documenting the work we've done together, to prove that I am providing consistent, thorough, and adequate instruction, and I figure this could serve that purpose.
2.)  Because documenting the work we do together is consistent with the Blue School philosophy & culture, and will allow us to more easily share and communicate our work with the teachers and students in the classroom there.
3.)  Because this is going to be an exciting, unique time in our family history, and I think this could be an excellent way to preserve it for posterity - it'll be an awesome thing to share with these guys when they're much older.
4.)  Because I'd like to share our experience with others who are interested in home schooling for whatever reason...I imagine this is going to be a bit of a trial & error type process, and it's going to be challenging, but I also think it's going to be a worthwhile endeavor whether we end up loving it or hating it.  I also just love the idea of putting out there the idea that there are always alternatives to the traditional school format if that just really doesn't work for your family (which it wouldn't for ours) and to share our own experience in the hope of inspiring others to find creative ways to get what THEY want for their own family when it comes to education.

Since this introductory post has run a bit long, I will leave it here for now.  Check back tomorrow for our inaugural Adventures in Home School documentation post in which we will share some of the pictures and ideas from our trip to NYC last week, where the girls got to attend the first full week of school alongside their classmates, getting to know their new peers and teachers right along with everyone else!