The Highly Capable Program Nomination Ends Tomorrow

DSC_0200When I was in school, they called it Gifted. After Gifted came Honours, and after that, was everyone else.

Heike’s son Sascha speaks perfect English, with a delicate English accent (he’s 11) and explains how it works here in Germany: it’s decided in the fifth class which school you’ll attend based on your test results, with Gymnasium acting as the ‘highest school’ (not to be confused with high school), followed by the Realschule and the Hauptschule, for everyone else.

I’m working with Lily on analysing poetry, to build her reading comprehension. In her text book, we read a poem about the wind and introduce the concept of personification, and break down the word to understand its meaning.

But she doesn’t like the refrain, it’s boring, and I agree. So today, I introduce her to Bob Dylan, starting with a YouTube video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues,’ pointing out the bearded guy in the background is one of our most famous American poets, Allen Ginsberg.

I then have her read the lyrics to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ a song my dad turned me on to when I was maybe Lily’s age, the record so well played, the edges of it made a ring through the jacket, a halo around Dylan’s profile.

I asked her to find examples of Dylan using personification in the lyrics and after a couple attempts, she found one of the best (“the haunted, frightened trees”) — and I ended by trying to help her understand that you can make rhyme fun, it doesn’t have to be laborious. I’m not sure she got it, though.

A couple times in the 90s I met Cesar Diaz, a friend of my stepdad John’s, who played guitar with Dylan but hated him, wanted someone to write an angry book revealing the real Dylan, wanted to talk to me about it, as John set me up as a would-be writer, did what he could to introduce me to his musical friends and guide me down possible paths.

I was a huge Dylan fan, though. I couldn’t imagine finding success degrading one of my heroes, no matter how much Cesar wanted me to understand what he was really like, how that time in Spain, Cesar bought a troubadour costume from a local shop, got on stage wearing it, only to have Dylan order him to get off — and the next night, there was Dylan wearing the same troubadour costume, centre stage.

John disliked Dylan in a fashion I imagine musicians harbour strong likes and dislikes for fellow musicians, favouring the lesser-known, arguably better technical players — the fact too, John’s musician friends started disliking him once he found some fame and success, as if it’s a constant competition, because in some ways it always is.

We aren’t in a groove yet with the homeschooling. We worry that back home, in the highly competitive halo surrounding Seattle, with Microsoft kids and all the high-tech, Amazon, Starbucks families — that our kids will fall behind this year we’ve taken them out of the system and thought we could proxy for the teachers who work much harder than we have thus far, that somehow, the one-on-one time and the more handheld approach will fill in the gaps. We worry that we worry too much, or not enough.

Heike’s son Sascha met me at the house so we could walk to the Gymnasium and he could show me where we’re meeting an English teacher Monday, the teacher Heike wrote to in German explaining our situation, that we have to leave the Schengen after 90 days and we’re coming back 90 days later…and asked if she would be open to our kids participating at the school in some classes, to integrate with German kids.

Sascha asks me what I do for work, and I say I’m not working — but used to be a project manager and worked for Starbucks, for about 20 years, thinking this might be impressive, but it’s not.

I explain I’m also a writer, and wanting to do more of that, so he asks “What you write then, books?” — and I say no, actually poems and blog posts — and he smiles and says, Everyone’s got to have a hobby, right?

Dawn says this morning work-related dreams aren’t always about work. Last night, I was trying to get into the secured doors in my old office building but my badge wouldn’t work. And I think as I’m teaching Lily about analysing poetry and Charlotte how to spell, I may never have this chance again. Let me forget about today, until tomorrow.


Categories: homeschooling

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18 replies

  1. So many strands here, twirling so each one catches the light – fleetingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I want to go home and teach my 7 year old about personification. She’s practicing writing her first and last name in class. (No backwards b’s and D’s!) She’s learning lots of things, I know, and I could never give teachers the thanks they deserve. Such a challenging job to engage one child, let alone dozens with challenges of their own. What I mean to say is Damn I’m in awe of what you guys are doing. You’re awesome parents and human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, now I am catching myself feeling like I’m on stage fumbling for the words, and don’t have a script, with just one kid, my kid — brother, had no idea. And my wife is taking on the maths and sciences, so what have I to complain about? But alliteration for a 10-year-old? Decided to save that for another day. We touched on it, but I have to be careful. The more I keep my mouth shut and let them do, the better. Asked Lily to write a poem about fall and she wrote two, and they were pretty good I must say. Thanks for your encouragement Kristen.


      • Both my kids attend public school, but I’ve done my share of unschooling, in the loosest possible definition of that word, before they were old enough to attend and now still over every summer (my daughters are 13 and 7, so around your kids’ ages, I think), but their enthusiasm for “Mom’s Summer School” is waning with each passing year . . .:)

        Poetry is a great entry point to literature for kids, because there are plenty of small, short, powerful poems that are accessible to small kids with wandering attention spans.

        Just offering my opinion here: neither personification or alliteration are terribly complex literary devices. Alliteration can be found in just about every nursery rhyme and personification should resonate with kids who naturally imbue all sorts of inanimate objects with human feelings and desires.

        Kids already know a whole bunch of stuff–I think the challenge with teaching is making the connection between what they already know with the new stuff. For example, using the song Row Your Boat to introduce poetic meter.

        Again, just my opinion, but introducing a “new” (it isn’t really new to them, they just didn’t know what it’s called) concept such as personification and then throwing an unfamiliar example (and maybe your daughter is more familiar with Bob Dylan’s lyrics than mine) might result in frustration for both the student and teacher.


      • Hi Karen – that’s great advice, on the ‘new’ notion with an unfamiliar example. Duh…I mean, who thinks a 10-year-old is going to connect with Bob Dylan? It is a stretch. It’s also a fact we have to do more planning and prep work, versus shooting from the hip. You’re right on the alliteration thing too, it’s just a really long word people don’t use a lot – normal people that is. But fun at the same time, too. Love your insights, and thanks for sharing…I take it to heart. – Bill


  3. Sounds like you’re doing a bang-up job, to me. I’ve heard teachers confess that 40% of class time (a figure I’m pulling out of the air, admittedly) is busy work.
    Do kids still sing campfire songs? They’re great for rhyming = fun. “The Quartermaster’s Store”? There were beans, beans, as big as submarines. There was Lily, Lily, farting something silly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ross. You know what’s crazy? Do you know the anthem to the show, Shaun the Sheep? I thought you might. Well, I’m in one side of the classroom playing “Mr Tambourine Man,” live from ’64 Newport Folk Festival, and Charlotte, on the other side of the room, asks if we’re watching Shaun the Sheep – and you know, I think it’s the same freaking chords as ‘Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.’ Uncanny!


  4. I think what you’re doing is courageous and even if it costs your girls a year of school the experiences and memories they wlll be gaining will more than make up. They and your relationship with them will come out ahead in the long run. The worst that can happen is they may even come out so “enriched” they’ll be bored when they get back.


  5. Oh. And quit calling what you’re doing “homeschooling”. You’re enabling real-world learning.


  6. Frankly I don’t think a troubadour outfit looks good on anybody


  7. enjoy the moment and forget the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t know that Ginsberg was in that video! See that…click on this blog and learn new stuff. I don’t blame Dylan for being like that. How can you NOT let that level of success go to you head? He’s only blood and cells and skin and stuff. But you should’ve wrote that book.

    Liked by 1 person

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