I decided against posting my thoughts on my essayist project just yet. I thought that maybe two essayist posts in a row might be about as thrilling as back-to-back episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger.
I’ve been thinking about how homeschooling ebbs and flows. There are days and weeks when the kids come up with projects that enthrall them, that keep them busy and buzzing. There are weeks when it seems that we’re doing nothing more than running around, to performances or classes or appointments, or we’re preparing for a holiday or a few days out of town, and all we manage is a little reading together. Then there are days that just don’t feel inspired, when we’re home and the kids are dabbling at a little math here, a little reading there and no one seems thrilled about anything.
This, however, has been a particularly good week, one of those busy and buzzing weeks. Lulu and Mr. T have both found projects that have them all worked up.
Lulu decided that she wants to study the history of American food in the last century. She’s been looking at popular recipes for different decades, at particular products and when they were introduced, at typical lunches and dinners through the years, at how food trends are often tied to what’s going on in the world. It’s fascinating.
She’s just done a quick overview so far. By the time she got to the 70’s, she started asking what products I remembered and before long, that Great Talent of mine, which you may remember from the beginning of my last post, began to rear its ugly head. Lulu would name a food product, and I would sing its jingle. I spent the morning singing:
“Every single Pringle’s potato chip is a perfect (doo doo doo) potato chip…”
“Hamburger Helper helps her hamburger help her…make a great meal.”
“Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat.”
(But why is it the San Francisco treat? I have lived in San Francisco, and never once saw a person eating Rice-A-Roni. Look, even Rice-A-Roni’s own website “explains” the connection without explaining anything. Oh, but Wikipedia has the story! A deep sigh, after decades.)
And of course, once I started jingling, Lulu had to search out the old commercials on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorites. My best friend and I performed this endlessly, as a duet, for our parents, who acted as if they found it entertaining.[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyI3IL46yq4]
In between the commercial karaoke, Mr. T wanted to learn about spiders. As I read to him, he began to notice how spiders come in different types. How they have particular strengths and weaknesses. And methods of attack.
Is this beginning to sound familiar?
He began to notice that spiders are a lot like Pokemon.
It was just a small suggestion: “You could make spider cards, like Pokemon cards.”
Suddenly, he was bouncing on to the arm of the couch on his knees. On and off and and on and off. “I don’t want to just make cards! I want to design a game! There will be a game board and enemies and…”
He was off.
So they’ve been blissfully busy all week. As a homeschooling parent, I wish all of our days were like this. But hard as I try to make that happen, I can’t. You can’t manufacture inspiration. I try, I do, but sometimes a little suggestion like You could make spider cards, like Pokemon cards is met with nothing more than a grunt. I remind myself that we need the slow, stewing, simmering days for ideas to form and collect into something grand. You need to make lots of pots of rice, lots of pots of vermicelli before the notion strikes to throw them into a pot together and cause an entire generation to sing a jingle that no one really understands.
Some days are ablaze with singing in the kitchen, with the invention of epic games. And some days are about as thrilling as back-to-back episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. That’s just how it is.