Friday, August 17, 2018

Visual Literature

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

school ~ books ~ difficulty ~ letter ~ budget

They were submitted by:


This is my 5th year homeschooling. I think. Time has lost all meaning in the brain fogged existence I lead planning lessons and grading papers and begging, pleading for this child to pull more adjectives out of his ass than "good" or "interesting" when writing an essay and to actually learn to write in such a way that I no longer need a decoder ring to decipher almost every letter in the answers to the questions he's assigned.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the difficulty of teaching a child, at least MY child, at home. It is a drain of patience and my precious little energy considering what is already drained with me/cfs, and I have realized all too keenly that my child was perfectly constructed so as to be able to tune out almost every single thing I say. He thinks "skimming" counts as reading. He skips rules and takes shortcuts and refuses to ask for help even when he desperately needs it. He loses every. single. pencil. I buy him which I blame all on his father's half of his genes (only half-jokingly).

It's a lot of responsibility. I have to know what the average kid in his grade level should be learning, what the state standards are, and the laws involving homeschooling. I have to make it fun but informative, challenging but ability-appropriate, varied enough to hold his interest but not so varied we lose the sense of routine that helps him stay focused despite being unmedicated with ADHD. I have to prepare this kid who is terrible at written tests (but gets the answers 100% right every time if we do it orally 😑) for a standardized test every 3 years to make sure we're on track with our learning. It's work, hard work. We don't always get along during the school day. My expectations and his motivation are hardly ever at the same level. We end a lot of days stressed the fuck out and in need of a breather.


I don't think either of us would have it any other way. He has not yet answered affirmatively each year when I ask him how he wants to handle things regarding going back to public school, and even though he drives me crazy so much of the time...I like the control I have over what he learns, and I can make sure his education is tailored to him personally. We choose classes together. I choose the books which means I don't go with the ones tailored just for Georgia students used by the school system here that whitewashes much of history and skips a lot of evolution. It's my budget not a school budget dependent upon the overall test results of the students. If we need extra books, we get them. We handle our own supplies and skip a lot of germs. We work on our own schedule meaning we stay up late and sleep in most of the time. If we need a day off, we take one and make it up elsewhere. When he has a grip on a lesson, we move on, and when he doesn't, we repeat it. It's less stress for him than going to an actual school, and he still gets plenty of socialization. And we're obviously doing something right since he tested more than 2 grades above his level this past year in reading comprehension, language skills, and math.

So difficult...but also worth it.

Right now we're doing pre-algebra, biology, grammar, ancient world history, and computer fundamentals. But I also added film studies in place of literature this year, and so far it has been amazingly fun and has gotten us sharing movies and talking about them more in depth every school night. I happen to think visual stories can be as important as written ones, and the work that goes into them can be fascinating. Understanding lighting, color, continuity, transitions, camera angles, and the like can tell you more about the stories you're watching. We've watched Citizen Kane, Jaws (compared to Wet Hot American Summer), What We Do in the Shadows, Almost Famous and This Is Spinal Tap. We watched parts os Sin City and clips from Clerks. Pan's Labyrinth, SLC Punk, Taxi Driver, Snatch, and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World... and we're only 3 weeks into the year. 

I share with him insights as we watch pointing out the elements he has read about in his film studies class. I taught him why the color palette of Jaws is so calm and neutral or why Sin City is in mostly black and white. He learned what film noir is. He knows now why some characters are bathed in light and some in shadow in certain scenes. We talk about why a shot is wide or why it's a close up, what the intent is for the viewer and what the director is trying to say without saying it with dialogue. We looked at Guy Ritchie's signature montages and how he uses transitions and narration so successfully and so uniquely that you can watch a movie and just know when he's the director. And we have so much left to cover--genres, directorial style, plot, chopped narratives and straightforward ones, what defines a "cult classic," scores that change the entire movie, movies that are a product of the culture in which they were created and more.

Now that we've started, he can't stop. Even when he watches movies for fun, he notices the things we've gone over. Finally my child can actually listen to me talk about something and appreciate the knowledge I'm giving (knowledge I had to teach myself)! It only took how many years?! Either way, I'll take this win and put it in my motivation bank for the next time I look at his worse-than-doctor-scribble handwriting that might say plates ate the sordid phantom or might say hydrogen is good.

***Before I go, I do want to add that he listens to me about other things because I like to talk shit about historical characters. it's fun and more relateable for me to call Christopher Columbus an incapable, lying mf than what he can read in a book. it's like he has Samuel L. Jackson for a history teacher.

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  1. I am in awe. The rewards are far outweighing the effort! :)

  2. Yes, it's a ton of work, but you have so much to be proud of. I always say that my younger son succeeded despite his public education, a sad thing to have to say.

  3. My hat is off to you. I tried it for one year and my daughter and I about killed each other. She couldn't wait to get back to public school...neither could I!