Though still essentially an out-and-out unschooler, Fiona has been taking Introductory Spanish at the local school this semester. Nominally she’s in Grade 4 and the requirement for second-language learning doesn’t kick in until Grade 5 within the DL program we’re part of. But she was interested in doing something like this. When we first raised the possibility last fall, our DL liaison teacher who happens to also teach Spanish and Math at the local school looked at the schedule for us and we were disappointed: Spanish was scheduled for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays conflicted with Fiona’s gymnastics, and Wednesdays with her violin master class. So we set Spanish aside in the hope that it might work out for next year.

Then the high school schedule got shuffled, and Spanish ended up on Mondays and Fridays during Semester 2. This worked out perfectly: these are Fiona’s two completely empty days. Although the course is intended for students in Grades 7 through 12 (with the bulk being Grades 7 & 8, as it’s an introductory course), the teacher knows her well and was happy to welcome her. Our current principal is generally quite opposed to grade-skipping, but there is a policy that DL students can be welcomed into any class with the approval of the teacher. We had that approval, and since Spanish isn’t offered to younger grades no one could really ask “why wasn’t she placed with her age-mates?”

She’s doing well in the course. Her test and assignment marks have been great, and she’s fitting in very well, participating well in class and, more amazingly still, taking on leadership roles in group projects. She loves all the trappings of school: the binder she takes, the supplies that tuck into it, the schedule of three hours a week that she needs to be there, the deadlines for assignments, the studying for tests. It’s been a fabulous introduction to school for her.

She would like to attend school a bit more next year. The obvious course to add would be math, since it’s the one subject in which she has been following the school’s curriculum. The wrinkle is that she’s four years ahead age-wise. But Spanish has given her a chance to show that she fits in socially with those kids and can handle the organizational expectations of a high-school style course.

Yesterday she was doing some algebra at home from the end of the Grade 8 workbook. It had snowed outside. The wood stove had a nice hot burn going and the living room was cozy and warm. Fiona was sitting on the sofa with a London Fog in a mug in front of her. The cat was curled up beside her being cute and loving.

Fiona decided that math should always be done this way. “Everyone should have a math cat,” she said. “This will be one of my Terms & Conditions for doing math at school next year.” We envisioned the scenario:

Teacher: “Okay, everyone open your books to Unit 6.2. I would like you to do the odd-numbered practice problems on page 142 and 143. Can someone help me with this box? Thanks. You can come and get your cats now.”

The teacher and a student yank the lid off large Rubbermaid container. The nineteen cats inside begin to stir.

Teacher: “One cat only per student, please…. “

Math cat