Apparently Erin has completed Term 1 at school. At least, a report card came home, a somewhat odd affair listing tallies for lates, absences, in-class attitude & effort and such-like, most of which don't apply to her in the usual sense. Anyway, it seems like an opportune moment to cast a glance over the experience and have a little think about how it's working.
She's "doing fine" in terms of grades. Straight A's, lots of positive comments from the teachers she's interacting with. They are very impressed by her work ethic and her focus. They seem to like having her around and feel she's a good influence in the Facilitated Learning Centre (FLIC) and the writing class. Despite the fact that when she lingers over lunch out at a local café with friends they are reprimanded for coming back late and she is not -- since she is in a 'modified program' where she sets her own hours. These are mostly Grade 11/12 students she's cutting class with, so I guess they're supposed to know better than to be led astray by a Grade 9'er who doesn't have to play by the rules.
There's no doubt she's had to play catch-up a bit in math in particular. I continue to be impressed with the depth of the understanding that's expected of regular academic-stream Grade 10's in our province. It's far beyond anything I've seen in typical American school or homeschool textbooks. And so, having done almost no math in the previous 4 years, Erin has been challenged by the math work. But she's caught up efficiently, simply by doing a bit more work, and has aced all the unit tests and such. She very much enjoys the intellectual challenge of math, a fact which was quite unexpected to me. She doesn't really "like math," but she likes that it demands a lot of her intellectually, and that her mastery is easily measured. She has worked hard and has done very well. She plans to start Math 11 once she returns from Asia at the end of February. I've no doubt she'll manage it just fine. Her "catching up" is pretty much complete now and things are rolling along quite smoothly.
The challenge in Science 10 has been in coming to understand schoolish expectations. What does a "project" or "presentation" entail? How high is the bar? How much research is expected? How closely must a definition on a test match the textbook definition in order to be awarded full marks? Is the companion student workbook a crucial or an ancillary part of the coursework? Science has offered much less intellectual challenge, but a lot of learning in terms of what school assignments and evaluation are all about. While the actual science content is reasonably advanced, there's a lot in this course that smacks of busy-work and regurgitation. Erin recognizes this and has had to find a way to balance understanding and hoop-jumping that works for her.
Writing has been the most stimulating course for her in terms of personal growth. She writes brilliantly and easily from inspiration, but writing "to task" and for a particular audience has been totally new to her. It's required a lot of maturity, I think, for her to find a groove where she can share, be creative and be herself and yet feel safe and secure. Some of the writing exercises have not been to her liking at all, yet she's rallied and found ways to make them work for her.
The fourth phantom course is Music Harmony. Her piano teacher feels strongly that piano students at her level should be learning music harmony in a formal way. For the past year or two we've pretty much swept the issue aside saying that Erin is still pretty young, and we'd get to it when she was ready. A few weeks ago she decided she would like to have a harmony textbook on hand to turn to as a break from math and science in the FLC at the school from time to time. And so she's begun working through Mark Sarnecki's Harmony 1 book on her own. It's pretty much a college-level course. We'll see how she progresses with that.
Overall she doesn't much like getting up in the morning and going to school. She finds the weeks long and tiring. She still stays up well past midnight, and 8 a.m. comes way too early. But she gets herself up, knowing I'm not going to take that on for myself. Sometimes she's "late" (not that it matters, but she has her own expectation of being there during school hours), but usually not by much. She stays in the FLC continuing to work through most lunch periods and so is revered by the school staff as an exceptionally motivated student. The bonus is that her violin practicing happens without any additional structure, because her routine is to head to her grandma's after school, where there's really only violin practicing for her to do, and then get a ride home two hours later. By the time she gets home at 5:15, all she has left to do is any self-assigned homework plus her piano practicing...
Except that then there's one choir or another three days a week, and orchestra or group class once a week. Not to mention all the other-extra things like recitals, concerts and rehearsals and family social commitments. And the monthly three days spent getting her to and from violin lessons in Calgary. And the driving back and forth from Nelson. Piano lessons. And so on. So the reality is that her life is very very full.
I think that if she didn't have the two month trip to Asia on the horizon, she'd be feeling like she was trapped on a speeding treadmill. Thanks to the trip she knows she has a big break and change of pace and a logical chance to re-evaluate her academic program. She'll return a month into the second semester of the school year, and there will be a chance to start a new slate of courses if she wants. I expect she'll continue with something similar upon her return, but the important thing is that she'll have made a conscious choice to do so. And there will only be four months remaining in the school year at that point. She hopes to complete math and writing before Christmas (technically the term ends at the end of January, but she'll be gone then). She'd like to finish Science too, but I think that's not quite as likely. It's open-ended, and she can easily leave it until her return. But overall, school has been wonderful for her this term.
And her visa for Myanmar arrived yesterday!