Welcome to a new year of homeschooling, Sorbo-style.
We started off the new school year one week ahead of our public school, mainly because we had all really lazed toward the end of the summer, and I knew we would need a ‘settling-in’ period to get back in the groove. By this I mean we did part-time school with old workbooks, just to review and get up to speed with our work. Meanwhile, I had ordered our new textbooks and was waiting with bated breath.
Now, if you’ve read previous blogs, you know how I tout the wonders of the Shurley Grammar curriculum. We are currently pursuing years 4 and 2 of that study. Biwa hates the writing component and yet he excels at it, so I make a point of noticing how quickly he finished, after he moans about how long it will take him to do both assignments (yes, two writing assignment on writing days!) Shane dislikes doing any work, yet revels in it once he’s begun. He adores learning.
For mathematics, Shane has the 3rd year Spectrum notebook and Biwa 4th year and they are both finding the books challenging but not overwhelming.
For history I still like The Story of the World series, but I’ll be honest, the workbooks are a little much for my kids for some reason. I don’t believe in forcing a child to do what I call busy work because they know what it is. Biwa never has patience for drawing or coloring; he lacks aptitude for it anyway, so why torture him? Shane, on the other hand, loves those kinds of things, as well as connect-the-dots and puzzles, so he is much more responsive to the coordinated workbook for history. I found him a connect-the-dots book specifically on Egypt and it’s all I can do to keep up with him.
As for science, it’s all around us. We have our lizard and the boys are expert lizard hunters. We are hatching a tomato hornworm into its moth. The tomato hornworm was found by Shane, after our first four up and died on us, and he eventually formed his chrysalis and buried himself in our terrarium. But not before absolutely devouring my tomato plants! That’s okay, because I made a garden this year, so the kids got to experience first hand growing some of the other vegetables they eschew. We also just attended the Science Night at our public school. I only remembed it at the last minute, after karate, and I innocently asked, so, did you still want to go to Science Night tonight? “Yes! I LOVE science!” was the resounding answer.
I’m having Biwa study French this year, and he has actually started pronouncing the “R” correctly, finally, but I am still researching a better Latin program for the future. The one I got for last year turned out to be only a single year program!
But there are even more important lessons to be learned at home and so I will share this story with you.
I have some very ugly outdoor lights. They are purple, and hang very low, giving them a strange vibe. I had recently realized that I could maybe rehang them upside down, and they probably would look a lot better, so I asked a painter to give me a quote to paint them a more palatable color, but I never heard back. Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands and I offered the job to Biwa, for a lot more money than he deserved. Part of my thinking was that by over-rewarding him I would somehow engender a greater sense of responsibility and he might ‘rise’ to the occasion. That was misguided, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Biwa stepped up gamely enough, taking the lanterns I removed from the walls, scrubbing and washing them, and then taping them to my satisfaction before starting to paint them with a primer-paint spray we had picked up.
Then his sister made a great big mud puddle with the hose. Shane joined her and that proved too much temptation for Biwa. Mud is fun!
Biwa came to tell me the paint can needed a rest, and he was going to join his siblings in the mud bath. Well, push apparently came to shove, and Biwa ended up spray-painting his younger brother’s arm. Livid, I explained that this was completely irresponsible of him (he could have blinded Shane!) and I cut his promised wages in half.
But let’s face it. He is only ten. I reconsidered my rush to judgment while Biwa was rinsing off upstairs. When he came downstairs after showering I told him I felt that perhaps I had overreacted. I would only dock his pay by 20% (thus forcing him to do some math work as well).
He looked at me with a sly smile. “That’s good, Mom, ’cause in the shower I was thinking that I could just refuse to do it at all, and then you’d have to get a guy in to paint and that would cost you a lot of money – more than me.” He knew already that no painter had returned my calls.
Well paint me proud, though a little miffed at his cockiness. His barely suppressed glee at having bested me in this negotiation was too obvious to overlook.
After duly absorbing his surprising grasp of basic supply and demand economics, the next day I decided I had to take him down a few pegs.
I started with, “Biwa, things have changed a bit again.” Then I launched into my own cunning analysis in a very matter-of-fact tone. “After I began applying your own logic to my situation, I’ve decided that you are going to do the job I gave you for half price. You see I know that there is nowhere else that you can earn the money I will pay you, even just this half we are talking about. So you will finish the paint job, and you will be happy to collect your pay for it. And if it isn’t done today, then I will do it myself, and that money is off the table for good. And for next time, I hope you’ve also learned it’s best to keep quiet when you are ahead, although I am very proud of you for thinking the way you did in the shower yesterday – you know that. You are very, very smart!”
Of course he tried to argue with me, but I had the upper hand (though how long this will last is a testy subject for me). There really is nowhere else for him to earn that kind of money, and I know him – he loves money! He eventually agreed, and even put on a smile when I insisted. I do admit to enlisting friends to commend his fine job and also remark on how well paid he was – not letting on they knew it was only half of our original figure.
This entire experience involved a couple of tremendously valuable lessons in the art of negotiation and supply and demand – none of which would have been taught in this way had my son been enrolled in our local school. (I could never have given him this chore with all the homework he would be bringing home on a daily basis.) And of course the lesson I learned is also invaluable: a child may rise to the occasion you craft for them, but they are only so tall.