Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Learning

The County Fair has ended, the asters are in bloom, and my kids say they've noticed that the days are getting shorter. We still have a few weeks of summertime before we begin relocating back to Brooklyn and officially/unofficially begin homeschool kindergarten, but I'm beginning to think in a summing-up sort of way about what we've done and learned this summer.

We didn't end up spending all that much time in the garden, or very much time in the woods, and we didn't build anything new together for either place; it was cold and rainy the first half of the summer, and mosquitoey the second half. We did some hiking and played some in the river, but the soggy, buggy weather limited both activities to occasional outings.

Our play- and literature-based introduction to the ancient world (the great homeschool delight of the first half of 2009, which I hope to recap at some point)? We took a desultory look at Ancient Rome early in the summer, but nothing more. I brought bins of craft supplies up here from the city, and mostly didn't use them; had visions of nightly ball games in the meadow, to help with the kids' appalling inability to throw or catch, but ended up playing with them only a few times.

Instead, we became regulars at the town pool, both for swimming classes and for open swim; we found a free craft class in the park, and the kids attended a drop-off program at the local library. After a decade of coming to this remote Catskills location and knowing only some local tradespeople and a few close neighbors, the kids and I suddenly made the acquaintance of all sorts of people around town. Desmond, who doesn't have Nini's enviable social grace, developed a new confidence around other kids and grown-ups. Nini experienced social awkwardness for the first time.

There's much more, of course. Desmond has been zipping through early readers at a fabulous rate, building elaborate block and Tinker Toy structures, and drawing a great deal. Until recently, Nini was the 5-Year-Old with the Supercharged Vocabulary and Stunning Command of the Subjunctive Voice who could not read a single word -- not even "STOP" on a stop sign. She became entranced first with the Meet the Sight Words movies and then with the itty bitty first readers I've been making for her, featuring her favorite stuffed animals. They've both been singing more and managing their emotions better and doing vastly better at things like getting themselves dressed and picking up their toys.

They've had a lot of fun, and done a lot of growing up. And though they both are still really lame at throwing or catching a ball, they will proudly tell you that this summer, they learned how to swim.

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