First posted in October, 2005. The Apprentice was 13 and doing Homeschool Grade 9. Ponytails had just turned 8, and Lydia (Crayons, at that time) was 4.
Yesterday the Squirrelings took a walk with Mama Squirrel (in this insanely warm October weather) and we decided to pick up some bananas at a gourmet food store that was on our route. It's the sort of place that's fun to browse in but also a place mostly for Serious Cooks. There are bottles of olive oil that cost as much as wine, more kinds of cheese than there probably are cows giving the milk for them, and jars of capers and all such things that have very limited use for the Treehouse brand of cookery. Crayons got to try a sample of cheese that had chopped oranges sandwiched in the middle--that got mixed reviews. We ended up buying the bananas, a piece of Gouda, and a two-dollar chocolate bar to split later for dessert.
Does Mama Squirrel know how to cook? Yes, she puts three meals on the table every day for the five squirrels, along with the occasional company meal, Christmas dinner and birthday cake. (All right, Mr. Fixit does the turkey roasting. And he cooks some meals on weekends. And makes pancakes.) Does Mama Squirrel know how to cook with $40 olive oil and capers? No, and the squirrelings wouldn't eat it if she did. Would Mama Squirrel know how to work a shift in a restaurant kitchen? Does she know how to make a roux? No, although she did work one summer with a chef who showed her how to bump lettuce, chop onions with a mean-looking chef's knife, and squish garlic. What are the Squirrels having for dinner tonight? Farmer's sausage sitting on some sauerkraut in the crockpot, frozen perogies, and some vegetable yet to be decided.
Does Mama Squirrel know how to teach the Squirrelings? With modesty, she thinks that the Squirrelings seem to read, write and figger as well as most other kids. Are the Squirrelings socially competent? Have they missed out on not having to share their Legos with the rest of the class? No, they still have to negotiate for the pieces they want and refrain from bashing each other. Is Mama Squirrel happy when she sees not one but two pairs of feet sticking out from under the Chev Caprice during an oil change on a beautiful afternoon? Oh yes. (And Ponytails would be under there too if Mr. Fixit would let her, but this activity is restricted to those who are actually getting Dad-credit for Transportation Technology.)
Does Mama Squirrel buy all her groceries at the gourmet store or her teaching supplies at the teacher's store? Nope. Does she get her recipes from Gourmet, or her teaching ideas from whatever the teacher's magazine is? Nope. The last time she made a dessert from a magazine like that, she ended up pushing raspberries through a sieve and making this cream thing, having to chill the thing about three times, and ended up with something that pretty much resembled raspberry yogurt. The last time she flipped through some classroom ideas, she was dazzled (not) by the fun little ditties we could sing about making people graphs (in a previous post) and the wonderful idea of demonstrating the letter D by having children paste dimes on their letter D's.
Does that mean professional chefs and professional teachers are wasting their time? No, it's just that Mama Squirrel has other things to do than sieve raspberries and paste dimes. She'd rather eat the raspberries and spend the dimes.
And that's the difference between classroom schooling and homeschooling. Bon appetit.