Every few months, but especially during the September back-to-school season, I wonder about our decision to homeschool our children. International schools and local private schools have always been out of our reach, both financially and geographically. However, I am reminded why we homeschool when I consider what a typical day might look like:
8am (or so): My 9-year-old silently slips out of bed while I am fixing coffee. He doesn’t want me to know he’s already up and building with Legos.
8.15am: I realize the time. Seeing Myles’ empty bed, I am on to his subterfuge. I ask him to get dressed and eat breakfast.
8.30am: I rouse my 4-year-old from sleep. She wishes me “Happy good morning!”
9am: Time to start our school day. I read poetry aloud to the kids, as well literature that I hope will inspire them to strive for the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.
9.15am: Myles and I review his math lesson. He starts on his exercises.
10am: Brigid brings me her math book. She, too, has schoolwork. While I am helping her, I fail to notice that Myles is reading a Tintin comic book. When I spot this, I check his math and redirect him to his science books.
10.45am: Myles has finished math and science, so I test him on dictation copy work, an exercise meant to combine spelling, language arts, and penmanship.
11am: Quite clearly, I hear my upstairs neighbor chopping vegetables
for lunch. I am chastened by the fact that, unlike the Chinese family above us, my kids will not be served a hot lunch today. Again.
11.30am: I remind Myles that his Chinese tutor is coming during her lunch hour, so he needs to check the homework he completed after the previous class. There is a moment of panic when he cannot locate the folder, but he finds it eventually.
11.45am: Myles’ tutor messages me to say she cannot come today. He’s disappointed, but I breathe a sigh of relief; I have yet to sweep and mop the room we use as a classroom.
Noon: For lunch, I serve sandwiches. Myles rushes through his meal to enjoy more time with Legos or Tintin.
1.15pm: I give Myles the day’s history lesson. Then, Brigid and I work on letters or a puzzle.
2pm: My husband phones me. We have an urgent bank errand to run. I pack a bag with assignments that the kids can complete while we are waiting. Having obvious schoolwork satisfies the other bank customers, who are curious to know what my kids do all day.
3.45pm: Errand complete, I reward the kids (but mostly myself) for good, patient behavior with a visit to one of Changping’s new coffee shops.
4.30pm: Changping schools have let out for the day. It is now safe for us to go to the park and avoid being asked why the kids aren’t in school.
6pm: We return home. I start preparing supper, but I am short a few vegetables. Convinced I am helping Myles improve his Chinese and build his independence, I send him downstairs to buy them from a street vendor.
8pm: After supper, Myles might choose to play guitar, read, write, or resume his Lego project. Brigid will choose to interrupt her brother’s activities. I’ll read to her so she’ll leave him alone.
9pm: I’ll indulge in wishful thinking that my kids will be in bed by this time. I am such a sucker for “one more chapter, please” from either of them.
Eventually everyone gets to sleep, and in the quiet I thumb through the next day’s work. I weigh the minor frustrations against the great deal of fun we had, and I remember why we keep homeschooling. Tomorrow is another day to grow and learn together, and maybe – just maybe – make a hot lunch.
illustration by Sunzheng
This article originally appeared on p49 of the beijingkids September 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com