track changes

This is one of the THREE manuscripts of Claudia’s that is on the school table. There is a fourth in her bedroom — that one is “private” enough that she does not keep it downstairs, although we aren’t really invited to look at these, either.

None of these have been asked for. This is not her daily 20 minutes of journal writing. These are just fiction and fan-fiction and pieces that she has written in longhand and then transposed to the computer. Even as I flip the pages here, they are sometimes flipping in twos and threes. It’s a TON of writing.

None of it is “schoolwork”.

Last year, for their Capstone Projects, they each chose a topic (because I presumed choosing a topic would mean you would retain an interest in it), and they chose six people each within that topic (for Claudia, women regents, for Béla, comedians), and they began making zines. They got to maybe four zines each before they petered out. I had thought of pushing it through this year, but changed my mind. Béla is no less interested in comedians than he ever was, but he’s more interested in cooking. He does the requisite writing in his journal, but not much more, except what he’s learning in Hangul. They did, in fact, each finish a zine that we just never went to Staples and printed out — they had, really, outgrown the zine format, and there wasn’t any fun to be had in pushing that. What is the point of homeschooling if such things can’t be personalized?

Claudia’s need for history and historical figures cannot be contained in zines. Last year, as she prepared for the project, she made a video clip to introduce what were to be a number of clips about each subject.

She got one done for Nefertiti, as well.

Béla enjoys video editing more than Claudia does so did not get behind on his clips and he got them edited together in what I really think is a masterpiece — even at the point we “finished” it we knew it only represented about half of his project in total, I did not want it to get swept away in the tide (and was amazed to see that over the course of the clips, he actually got older.)

Béla was writing about comedians. I’d like to keep that clear. The clip where he and Claudia act out a recurring skit from the Catherine Tate show absolutely kills me. and Yes. You will, if you look, see Béla with one of his own zines in his hand — and on it is a page of the most cheerfully illustrated George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” you’ll ever see.

More than you can take? Move along. With Donald Trump as your President, don’t give me shit about any word that ever came out of George Carlin’s mouth. And that’s my official mother’s quote, about the boy considered one of the sweetest in the neighborhood. (I have a pretty good idea of the heft of the crowd that was virtue signalling by resharing the post by the mom who let her kid watch “risqué” comedians who “punched up” rather than “punched down”, and I agree with her completely. Anybody who reshared it ought to be prepared to see it in action. Talk the talk.)


Again, his Benny Hill zine sits unpublished next to our printer… because Béla doesn’t churn out pages of creative writing like his sister does. He does have a pen pal with whom he exchanges letters every one to two weeks. Béla uses a special grip on his pencil and has wrist pain when he writes, and recently when he was ready to write his letter to his pen pal I told him to feel free to type it on the computer if his hand hurt, and he refused. “I feel like writing it by hand is more personal,” he said. And his writing to another individual in a private letter cannot be shared here — but I receive notes and letters from Béla too — and he is, in fact, a very moving writer, who chooses every word with incredible care. In fact, for two kids who sometimes text me such egregious spelling errors that I nearly faint, they then write entire faultless paragraphs that I literally put into Google to see if they cribbed them from another source. They haven’t.

But they do write much better when they are very motivated to write; both academically and personally.

We are just not at zines right now. And while this is definitely a year for learning that sometimes projects MUST be finished, whether one is interested or not; and sometimes, finished in a certain time period —  not every project is like that, and if we believed that every project was, we would be homeschooling. We didn’t pick a Capstone Project for this year, because we do have one other mid-year big creative project planned, and more academic work than usual to cover — and it is a testing year for Béla, and maybe the idea to committing to a big project early in the year was not my best idea ever over the last few years. We worked on them, and we enjoyed them, but we never did “finish” them, and maybe my scope is just off.

When I talked to Claude recently about what she really wanted to learn this year, she looked at me like a famished person with a dim sum cart. “ATimelineOfAncientHistory,” she said in desperation. “Everything pre-Christ.” Oh. Well. I’m glad I asked.

When I asked Béla the same thing, the answer was “Main dishes. From scratch.” (Written in his school journal: “I like to cook from scratch. No batter till you make it.”) He is very interested in Indonesian cooking and recently went to serve himself from a roasted chicken — not an unusual item in our house, but not a super-common one, as it isn’t anyone’s super favorite — and you would have thought he’d seen a comet passing. “The layers of the meat in here, you can just see them,” he said with excitement. “Haven’t you seen the inside of a cooked chicken before?” I asked. It’s not really possible that he hasn’t — but he certainly wasn’t seeing it the way he was seeing it at that moment.

There is something special enough about the way he talks about food, and feels about food, that I would not be the person I am — and the mother I want to be — if I did not take that as seriously as writing a five-paragraph essay about… Trevor Noah or whoever was next on the list that he hadn’t gotten to yet. (And he still dedicates plenty of time to Trevor Noah, and bless Trevor Noah for it.) I also want it made utterly clear to Béla that he is under NO obligation to the increasingly antiquated idea of college. Both of the kids are learning that trade schools are equally important (and possibly vastly more important in the likelihood of climate disaster) and that if he was happy making money cooking food, from jobs that stemmed from his very first busboy jobs, that I would be incredibly proud of him, as long as he was being as creative as he wanted to be, and feeding people as humanely as he could manage. Knowing Béla, he would be looking for those things from his work, too.


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