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Friday, September 3, 2010

L’ecole – Week Three

I was going to post on Monday that we were starting week three of school, and now suddenly today is Friday and we are nearly at the end of it! We’ve been working mostly on survival.

I am happy to say that my homeschool mom career is far from over – or I can say, at least, that it has morphed into super-hands-on-homework-helper mom: translating, explaining, figuring out: here’s how you say ‘direct object’ in French; when you have a direct object in German it takes the Akkusativ case;  here you must plot these points on x,y axes and then color the ensuing picture, Yes, I believe 47 is a prime number; conjugate the verb ‘etre’; here’s how to say ‘crustacean’ in French; Latin? – who knows, you’re on your own. Good grief! My head spinneth.

I am glad to say though, that yesterday was a pretty good day. I cannot say that there were no tears, because I have just had a confession that there were some upon awakening. But everyone made it through the day in decent spirits and didn’t have as much of that hit-by-Mack-truck look about them that they have had. Maybe, just maybe, we are finding the first inkling of a system in the midst of the big, tiring mess of school. They don’t really like it, but at least they are finding it. Or maybe they are just learning to be stoic.

One of the biggest challenges is logistics. If Artemis leaves the house by 7:25 she can catch the 7:36 train and have time to lock her bike. She arrives back in the village for lunch on the train at 12:21, and if she hasn’t appeared at the house by 12:27 we’ve agreed that I’ll go drive and look for her, because she’s got to be back on the return bus which leaves at 12:59. If I drive her, we can leave the house at 12:53. If she’s biking, she’d better leave by 12:50. And it goes on and on --- times four! We’ve got things worked out to the minute, and I’ve become a chronic watch checker.

Now this is quite ironic, to which anyone who knows me well can attest. I’ve always been a believer in a healthy cushion of about 10 minutes either way. Which makes me often late, but hey, if you are 10 minutes late to my house, that’s fine too! Hope you feel the same way! 10 minutes doesn’t really show up on my radar! Until now.

One day in the first week of this, as I sat with the kids around the table trying to work out the logistics and feeling my head starting to burn, one of them exclaimed, “Now we know how Papa got the way he is!”

It’s an interesting thought: are Swiss people naturally punctual or are they forced to develop that way because of The System?

In any event it is good for me, because I’ve been convicted the past few years of the annoyance my lateness may cause in my social circle. I really do believe that chronic lateness is the theft of other people’s time, and I want to change. So like Puddleglum I am thinking that these are the just the chaps to get me to take a serious view on life. My, will my acquaintances back home ever be surprised! We’ve got time for exactly three more inhalations of air and then I’ve got to scoot!

On a completely other note, today I biked to France! Because I could! In the exactly 105 minutes that Hermes was at preschool, I hopped on a bike and rode to the pedestrian/bicycle border crossing. It took about 5 minutes. No one was there – just surveillance cameras – and so I crossed unencumbered. It’s the same small town where we often go grocery shopping; I was there by car this morning in fact; I had just never gone on a bicycle. I did not take my camera, so no pictures this time. It’s a sweet small French town complete with remains of medieval ramparts as well as examples of unfortunate French architecture of the 1970s. But a nice looking cafe in a town square where I shall return someday for coffee. It would be nice to bike there with a friend. Anyone?

On another note, amidst the travails of the school start and life in general, we have been greatly encouraged by our visits with friends and family via Skype and similar media. It’s not quite like being in the same room, and yet it is so much more like it than a phone call. You can make silly faces, for one thing.

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, we got a video call from Uncle Chip who after giving greetings, put on a puppet show for Hermes and kept him occupied while I put things on the table. Then we sat down to eat and put the “him” (the laptop) up on the microwave where he could be at the head of the table. Then Uncle Chip said grace for us and drank his morning coffee while we ate our dinner of soup and salad.

Skypeing always makes me think of the Jetsons. We are video-calling like George Jetson! The future is now! How grateful I am for the technology that make it possible, that makes sharing our life via this blog possible, that makes your comments and encouragements possible, that makes us feel not quite so lonely, and our loved ones, though far away, not feel quite so far away.

I want a life that’s got the best of all worlds, old and new: high on electronic communication, low on mindless internet drivel; high on handmade art, but also high on digital photography and photo sharing; homegrown food, but a big fridge and a good dishwasher; travelling to see the world, but being able to walk to school.

I feel very blessed; I feel like I get a lot of what I want.


  1. I'd love to bike with you to France. Does the "him" fit on your handlebars? :-)

  2. "one of them exclaimed, “Now we know how Papa got the way he is!”" HA! Oh my -- I burst into a loud and very unladylike guffaw and my children came running. I didn't even try to explain.