I woke up at 6:30 even though I went to bed quite late (still on eastern time, I guess). I fussed around for a while with a web-like interface being used by the hybrid homeschool - independent school program Erin is using this year. Because we've been away, today is really our first day with the program. The independent school is Wondertree in Vancouver, a sort of free school, and the hybrid program is their home-based "Self-Design Learning" program. The basic idea is that they get some government funding on behalf of enrolled students, and pass some of that on to us in terms of receiptable expenses. They also provide a virtual "Village of Conversations" in which parents, students and teachers interact, learn and explore various things. The Village looks very much like a very safe, accepting, tolerant and very slick set of message boards, with teachers, students and parents all conversing with little to no regard for hierarchical formality of school. In other words, parents and teachers are just as likely to be learning from students as the other way around. We are required to report both a log of hours of learning and "observations for learning" which will be Erin's own reflections on her week's learning activities. Erin was very keen on the idea of the village, and was willing to do her own reporting, so the money we get from the program for expenses ($1000 Cdn) will be simply a bonus.
She woke up soon after I did and installed the software on the kids' computer and then spent an hour or so exploring the Village and posting a few messages.
The younger three kids all woke up between 7:30 and 8:00. The computer is proving to be a kid magnet right now, as the kids just spent three weeks with no computer access while on holiday. Noah went through his e-mails and replied to a couple of friends' messages, then deleted a few hundred pieces of spam. Sophie and Noah spent a few minutes at Neopets.
I cooked breakfast : oatmeal porridge, since there's little food in the house. Chuck (who has the day off) and I installed some new lighting in the kitchen.
Erin helped me create a grocery list, since she's going to cook a couple of suppers this week. Chuck went off to do the grocery shopping (this requires an out-of-town trip, and about 51 weeks a year it's me this falls to, since he normally works long hours).
Sophie and I sorted through her fall clothing and added a bunch of hand-me-downs from her cousins once we'd created room in her drawers. She went off to read a Spider magazine that had come in the mail while we were gone. Erin was reading a Calliope magazine (ditto). Noah was off in his bedroom reading a Philip Ardagh Eddie Dickens book. Things were quiet so I started unpacking (three people travelling for 6 weeks means a lot of stuff in suitcases). Managed to get a couple of loads of laundry through and one of three suitcases emptied and put away.
The kids made themselves rice cakes, veggie sticks and Ramen noodles for lunch while I jumped in the shower.
I got called to work an out-of-town clinic tonight so I tried (and mostly failed) to get the kids motivated to do anything that needed my help during the afternoon. Did a bunch of phoning to get appointments and classes geared up for the fall. Got the three older kids registered for a wonderful weekly art class starting next week; Erin has been doing this class for going on four years now, Noah for two, and Sophie just started last winter. I puttered around trying to organize my own life for the fall a bit. The older three kids went up to the attic to play with Lego and Playmobil and work on their extended story-telling/mythology-creating. They built Euwy characters, buildings and landscapes. Later Noah and Erin played around in the Age of Mythology (computer game) editor, creating virtual worlds for the Euwy world.
Sophie went off to practice her violin. She practices without my help about a third of the time. She has a hard time getting started with me helping her, but we both recognize that she usually ends happily and makes much more progress when I help her. So we try to reserve alone-practising for days when she needs something "easier" for her emotionally. Today was one of those days, being the first day back at home after three weeks away and pretty spotty practising while on holiday.
We had a difficult visit from some friends of ours. They're fellow unschoolers, and wonderful people... mom and 5 kids from 1 to 12. But they have such high social needs and are so much more extroverted than we are... and after 3 weeks without seeing us they were just in our faces and loud and excited -- the energy level was just overwhelming for me, and for the kids too. A few nice things did come out of the visit ... the 12yo boy helped Noah take apart a defunct mini-RC car and extra the motor and rechargeable battery and test them with his electronics kit, Erin played her new violin for our friends, and we began talking about putting together a half-hour radio show about our organic gardening / environmental club for the homeschool timeslot on the co-op radio station nearby.
After they left Sophie continued pestering me to schedule a date for her to host her friend for a sleepover. I was worn out by all the chaos and mess and noise from the visit we'd just finished, so I sighed and admitted that I really find sleepovers hard. Sophie said "me too," and there was this pregnant pause, with me and all the kids looking at each other all having a sort of epiphany. "Does anyone like hosting sleepovers?" I asked. "Nope," they all said.
"Then why are you always asking me if you can have sleepovers?" I asked.
"The other kids always want them," they said. And laughed a little self-consciously, realizing how silly it was that they were so often whining and pestering me for something they didn't even like.
We talked about it and decided that I should have a frank but diplomatic discussion with the other mom, explaining that much as we enjoy their friendship, none of my kids really enjoy sleepovers. They're introverts and find time away from home draining -- they need their evenings and nights to recharge. Big sighs of relief from my kids. They've "endured" a year and a half of monthly-or-thereabouts sleepovers, because they felt they were supposed to like having them.
My mom dropped some ensemble music off for the two elder kids for them to read through and have ready for violin/viola group class tomorrow night. Chuck arrived home with groceries for the pantry and quotes for snow tires for the van. The snow will start flying on the higher-elevation roads here within a month or two.
I offered the kids the choice of doing dishes or collecting apples. They chose apples, so I started the dishes. Outside they began throwing the hundreds of mushy scabby windfall apples into the agri-fab cart, and then sorting the keepers into "eaters" and "cider apples". We had a visit from a black bear this morning so it is crucial that we get the apples in. We've had a bumper crop this year, but they began ripening and falling while we were away. Hundreds of lovely apples are still on the trees. We'll get lots of cider! They worked for an hour or so in the orchard.
I made supper, with Chuck's help (another lovely treat -- he usually doesn't get home until very late). We ate and I ran off to my evening clinic.
Erin and Noah did their violin/viola and piano practising (two practisings each) while I was gone. Then they watched the second Harry Potter video.
When I got home we read aloud from "Skybreaker" by Kenneth Oppel and "Inkspell" by Cornelia Funke. Great books.