Ah, spring. Funny how it’s both a time of renewal and beginnings and birth, and also a time of endings and wrapping up and scrambling to the finish line.
The other day in an unschooling forum someone posted a piece about how May is the most hectic time of year for parents of older [schooled] children, what with all the tests and end of year projects and fairs and recitals and field trips and dances and committee meetings…and we all in that forum took a moment to collectively appreciate the more peaceful life pace we’d chosen for not just our families, but our own selves.
Not that we don’t experience some of that too—my kids also had recitals, and outdoor soccer means rushing out to the field two nights a week for a couple months, but I hadn’t ever considered before reading that post just how hectic things could get. It’s not just the volume of tasks that’s different in my lifestyle either; there also is a distinct lack of parental performance pressure when your kid’s worth isn’t tied to test scores and final assignments. I’m grateful.
That being said, there is one such spring performance review for the Albertan homeschooling parent: the facilitator home visit. My facilitator is a lovely lady named Debbie, who understands unschooling and is mostly there to help me properly jump through the government hoops. Even so, I still feel a bit of anxiety in the lead up to the visit.
This year, particularly so, because having started off the “school year” preparing with the older kids for two concurrent theatre performances while fitting in a nine day trip to visit the cousins, I fully neglected the “homeschool visit prep log book” which is meant for jotting down anything the kids do over the year that could be shown at the spring visit, and never managed to pick it up even after the chaos died down.
At least this year I didn’t forget about the visit altogether. I had the time to prepare and clean my house!
Anyway, instead of referring to the empty notebook, the week leading up I took some time to round up some concrete samples of the three essentials: reading, writing, and math. I was most concerned about math samples for L and G, because we hadn’t done any formal curriculum and they hadn’t been particularly interested in workbooks. I’d had lots of moments in conversation with the boys where they’d discussed various mathematical concepts, or moments of watching them work out math problems that would come up in their lives and their minds, and knew they were capable and inquiring and learning. But I didn’t have anything to show the facilitator. Never fear! She doesn’t need a year’s worth of samples. She simply needs evidence that learning is in fact occurring. So we sat down with workbooks one morning and I challenged the boys to complete four pages each. We dated them, and voila! Math samples accomplished.
Well, Debbie came, and I was a little anxious, and everything went just as easily as I thought it would. One by one each child sat with us at the table and discussed the materials that had been selected.
E has an entire math workbook completed, as she continues to prepare for trying out public school next year. She decided to write a gruesome story that morning for Debbie to read, and we chatted about the warrior cats book she’s been working on all year, because she hasn’t felt incredibly compelled to get a lot of reading in, but she loves the book. She also showed off a few creative videos she’d made. G showed Debbie the four workbook sample pages, and we showed a salvaged sample of a writing game we play that I’d intentionally saved for this purpose a month before, where each of us takes a turn writing one sentence of a story. Unfortunately I had just the day before foolishly returned the book he’d finished reading back to the library, and he of course had mysterious amnesia about the entire series (he’s on book five), but we managed to convince my shy son to read aloud one paragraph of the book he’d picked to replace the one we’d returned. L had the math pages, and read Debbie an entire children’s story book (even though she was good with just one page lol). He isn’t writing much yet, and that’s fine. He did have a PowerPoint presentation he’d been working on to show Debbie, that was mostly pictures but did have a few titles he’d typed denoting each section—PIZZA, ICE CREAM, BABIES, you know. It was a varied presentation.
To be honest, the most time consuming part of the entire visit was the inane questionnaire I had to answer for each child, which goes through the entire list of Alberta learning outcomes and makes me rank the children on a scale of 1-5 for how they’re doing. It’s completely subjective and so broad and generalized. At least it isn’t a waste of paper, since it’s electronically submitted now. Just a giant waste of time.
Took an hour, and that was that. As painless as I knew it would be, even though I still stressed about it. And you know, it is valuable for one thing: I do love the reminder that my children are able to be just as impressive as anyone else, without a single moment spent sitting at a desk against their will.
Next year I’ll get on that log book though.
For now, we have returned to our peaceful spring. Bring on the blossoms!