Well, since I last wrote, we celebrated my older daughter’s birthday, my younger daughter’s successful scholarship bids, and both daughters’ induction into the local college’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. They’re now at the midterm of the spring semester and have already registered for two summer session courses. We also, per the photo above, celebrated Ultimate Pi Day.
We attended two concerts at the local college, as well as an Elgin Symphony Orchestra concert and a performance of Dunsinane at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (reviews here and here), the latter of which was jaw-droppingly good (which thoroughly explains the fact that the remaining performances are sold out).
I completed another MOOC — “Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” (My previous MOOCs were “Shakespeare and His World” and “Programming for Everybody (Python).”) I also completed six books. A particular standout was Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty. To my surprise (and chagrin), I already had an earlier work of Gregory’s on my shelf. Into the TBR basket went Pandemonium.
If you’re thinking, “Only six books?” well, so was I — until I realized that I really have been reading: journal articles, a daily paper (the Chicago Tribune, delivered digitally), many magazines, and several comics (The Walking Dead, Lazarus, Revival, They’re Not Like Us, Saga, and Postal). I’ve also been a promiscuous reader of books — beginning several, then leaving them in various states of undress as I slip off to meet another. Heh, heh, heh. In other words, I’ve been reading a lot, just not in the ways that make for good stats. And that’s all right by me.
Speaking of books, since my last post, I released about four hundred from our shelves, primarily homeschooling resources and duplicate copies of novels and texts we had used over the last four years. The project began when I was assessing the contents of our “art closet,” hoping to reorganize its contents to make room for our favorite games. The games were stored tidily but uninvitingly, and I hoped to move them to a more convenient location. Working through the art closet, I realized that at least half of its contents could now be donated. Although we continue to embrace the mindset of a family-centered learning project, our homeschooling days are clearly behind us. As other ruthless declutterers know, one project soon begets another, so with the acknowledgement that “What’s done is done,” I moved from the art (now game) closet to the floor-to-ceiling bookcases that line the back part of the house. As I gained momentum, I asked that everyone eyeball clothes and collections with a critical eye. Do you need it? Does it make you happy? If not, put it on the donation pile. We do this at the turn of each season, but because of the emphasis on repurposing the closet and reclaiming the homeschooling shelves, this reorganization took four long days. The results were subtle but wonderful.
You know, I think I’ve been easing into this new chapter of our lives for about year now. Last March, we had both bathrooms renovated, which led to several other redecorating and reorganizing projects. Not long after the contractors wrapped up the last dropcloth, we headed to California to celebrate our older daughter’s high school graduation, and when we returned, everything changed: While registering for the fall semester at the local college, the Misses also enrolled in two summer session courses, a term that began three weeks after our vacation concluded. So, although we enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) family book club meetings, film nights, “watch-it-like-reading-a-novel” series, and game marathons (to say nothing of theater, concert, and museum adventures, bike rides and long hikes, and more), I was, all at once, no longer a home educator.
Some in my position have assumed a new role — a job, a business adventure, a college program. Until late 2008, though, I had a job. In fact, for most of our home education journey, I worked assorted gigs in the interstices that parenting and teaching permitted, and much of my definition of self was once predicated on the pride I took in being a working writer. And then it wasn’t. Shrug. As for a business venture, well, I don’t think that’s my calling, really. I have already earned my graduate degree and done some post-graduate work, and although I love scholarly pursuits, I don’t think I need another degree at this point. So I’ve been taking my time to determine what I’d really like to do. Granted, I’ve been helpful to my daughters as a guidance counselor (our younger daughter is a dual-enrolled high school senior), as an academic adviser (the local college provides uneven service, at best), and as a mentor, and these roles have made some demands on my time that perhaps other parents of college students have not experienced. But I am no longer “in the thick of it,” as they say, so I’ve had time to think and imagine, to study flute and enroll in MOOCs, to become a literacy volunteer and catch up on my correspondence.
“All but retired.” That’s how I’ve described myself more than once in the last two months. Once upon a time ago, I would have thought this label both boring and impossibly old. Now? It feels… pretty feckin’ awesome. It feels like a privilege. It feels… expansive, like I have all the time, space, and opportunity in the world to envision the what-comes-next. And I am fully embracing it.
When the weather warmed this past weekend, we lightly raked the lawns to avoid “snow mold” and thatching, and we gathered the leaves and debris that had collected under the bushes. We gave the bikes a thorough going-over and took the first ride of the year — only to find that part of our favorite trail was still, inexplicably, under a thick cover of snow. It was a good if slightly abbreviated workout, in any event.
And that brings us to today. Spring break is nearly upon us, but since the Misses have work, music lessons, and studies, we are staying local. We have tickets for The Book of Mormon (Broadway in Chicago) and The Good Book at the Court Theatre, and we’re planning to visit the Museum of Science and Industry when we head into Chicago for the latter. (I am also planning a small spree at 57th Street Books. I have some shelf space now.) Other than that, we have only planned rides, weather permitting, and some films and games, including my new favorite, Qbitz.
So how have you been, gentle reader?