Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Day as a Homeschooler

Homeschooling is not my thing. It is so far from my thing that if it were a continent, it would be Antarctica.

However, some things are too important to be left up to the school to handle, among them religious education, sex education, and inauguration education. So today being the inauguration day of our 44th president, I decided to do homeschool with the littlest Peevies. (No one was sure at the Little Lutheran School That Could whether the kids would be able to watch the events on TV, and I didn't want to take the chance of them missing it.)

Meanwhile, C. Peevie's school had the whole day devoted to inauguration-related learning activities, including an oath of office activity, ballroom dancing, watching the swearing-in and inaugural speech on TV, a parade, and toasts with apple juice in plastic stemware.

So, over a leisurely breakfast of French toast, the little Peevies and I talked about U.S. government, the Constitution, the presidency, and the inauguration.

"How many branches of government do we have?" I asked.

"Four!" A. Peevie shouted.

"Five!" M. Peevie screamed. And then in an inside voice she added, "But I don't really know what that means."

Obviously I needed to tailor my material a little differently. "OK," I began again, "Here's what we have. There are three branches to our government: The legislative, which is Congress, that makes the laws; the executive, which leads the country and makes sure the laws are obeyed; and the judicial, which is the Supreme Court and all the other courts and judges that decide what the laws mean."

Two blank faces looked at me. "Um, yeah, so which branch is Mr. Obama going to be in?" I asked.

"Executive!" they both screamed. So why the blank faces? I wondered. And why does there have to be so much screaming? This homeschooling nonsense is too much work and stimulation for me. But we hadn't even gotten through breakfast, so I plodded on.

"Who knows what the Constitution is?" I asked. "And try to answer the question without screeching."

"Is it when the President gets elected?" M. Peevie ventured.

"Is it the people who go to Congress?" A. Peevie attempted.

"No, guys, nice try though," I said encouragingly. "It's the main group of laws that tells us how to run our country. And when the new president takes his oath of office, he promises to protect it and make sure we keep on following it."

"What's an oath?" M. Peevie asked. It's a promise, I told her; and then we read the oath of office together: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Then we did an inauguration vocabulary worksheet, read a brief biography of Obama, and drew a picture of Mr. Obama getting his oath on. Both of the kids' pictures included a picture of Batman administering the oath--or maybe that was supposed to be the Chief Justice in his judicial robes.

Finally, we turned on the TV in plenty of time to watch the dignitaries and former presidents being escorted to their special seats--and the kids shouted out the names of those they recognized.

"It's Joe Biden!" A. Peevie said as Bill Clinton walked onto the stage.

"And looks who's with him," M. Peevie said, "It's the girl who ran for president against Obama!" Tiny pause. "Oh, yeah, Hillary!" she remembered suddenly.

They thought Aretha's hat was amazing and a little bit hilarious. "Is she a good singer, Mom?" M. Peevie asked me.

They said Yo-Yo-Ma was way cool, because they knew him from the PBS kids' show, Arthur; and when I told them that he was probably the best cellist in the world, and certainly the best-known, they were even more impressed with Obama's clout.

We watched--me with tears in my eyes--as the oath was administered to our first brown-skinned president. Immediately afterward, A. Peevie observed, "This is a really important day for our country." We cuddled together on the couch, listening to Obama's often-pointed speech:

"...we will restore science to its rightful place..."

"...power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please..."

"...we will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people..."

"...we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist..."

and these most inspiring words
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
As he talked about where we are and what we are facing, and where we will go and how we will get there, my kids leaned up against my legs, listening intently. And when he concluded with this exhortation,
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
my kids were only just beginning to get restless. A. Peevie was actually anxious to get started on writing his essay, and M. Peevie was ready and willing to put her thoughts down on paper as well.

From A. Peevie, on the Inauguration of our 44th President:

Barack Obama is the first African-American president. This is a great time for America, because we have never had an African-American president. I think Obama will teach us great things. I also think that he will lead our country with great power and great intelligence. I think that he will fight for our country and he will help us all live better and more sufficient lives.

I liked the inauguration a lot. I think it gave a very powerful feeling to everybody there and who saw it on TV. There were a lot of people there, some were famous and some were just regular day citizens. But they were all there, people who voted for Obama and people who didn't vote for Obama, former presidents, famous musicians like Yo-Yo-Ma, and a poet.

And here's little M. Peevie's contribution:

We watched the inauguration today. The inauguration is when Obama becomes president. During the inuguration they said prayrs, they sang songs and read poems. There were millions of people on the mall and we saw a lot of famous people there. We even saw Yo-Yo-Ma playing in a band. The inauguration is very important.
And then we packed up our homeschool papers and headed off to finish up the school day in a more traditional school setting. Because as inspiring as all this was, it is also quite tiring, and mommy needed a little nappy-poo.

I do not know how real home-schoolers do it. God bless 'em.

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