Friday, February 8, 2013

Homeschooling My Seventh Grader

Up until this year, Nathan's always attended a university model school where he studied on campus two days a week and worked from home the other three days. This year, we decided to bring him home to homeschool full time.

Why did we choose to make this change for seventh grade?

First, to give us a year to intentionally pour into his life as he's entering his teen years.

And second, to take a year to focus on his gifts and interests.

Take this morning, for instance. I declared today to be "Science Day." Science is a special love of Nathan's, so today I had him teach the younger kids how to use a microscope. I think I'm going to make "Science Day" a regular Friday activity. Nathan will get experience doing a presentation to a group, and his siblings will get a little extra science.

Then, there's art. In my opinion, Nathan is a gifted artist, and this year I'm encouraging him to take time to draw. During our study of the Civil War, I asked him to take a stab at drawing President Lincoln. Not bad for a kid who's had very little art instruction.

Finally, there's writing. I'm loving collaborating with Nathan as he develops as a writer. Below is a story he wrote this week about a slave family escaping on the Underground Railroad. We used a sample story in IEW's U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, Volume 2 as a starting point for Nathan to develop his own story. 


By Nathan

“Hurry, we don’t have much time!” whispered Father during the dark night. Soon, I was being pushed out the door. 

Mother and Father had talked in hushed tones all day. “Auction this week,” I heard them say. I didn't know what an auction was, but the desperate looks on their faces made me afraid.
We sprinted through the cotton fields toward the fence that barred us from the outside world. Tripping on a tangle of roots, Father crashed into some bushes. Mother yanked him to his feet, and we crept away, until we heard the overseer’s yells. Jumping the fence, we headed for the river, the angry barks of snarling search dogs pursuing us. We dove into the water to cover our scent. Shivering, we came out on the other side and hurried through the black night toward freedom.

Many hours later, we ran into another river. I realized a man was standing at the bank. As we got closer, I discovered it was my escaped 18-year-old brother, Job. Job explained he was going to take us up river and help us get to Canada.
As we crossed the river, questions filled my mind.  How did he find us?  Why was he risking his life to come back and save us?  Why wasn't he safe in the North?  Exhausted, my questions faded away as the gentle rhythm of the water rocked me to sleep. 

Suddenly, I was shaken awake by Job. I opened my eyes and saw that I was no longer in the boat, but a forest with sunlight shining through the trees. Job said, “Get up, the slave catchers are coming!” All four of us ran through the forest, dodging trees. I thought I heard shouts far behind us. I spotted a cabin up ahead, and when I was about to tell mother about it, we suddenly ducked inside.
Peering through a crack in the door, I saw a group of white men rush past the shabby little house.  Relieved, I let my guard down.  Suddenly, I felt a hand around my waist.  I looked down.  It was white.
Wriggling loose, I bolted for the door. But he was too fast. He caught me easily and yanked me to him! Biting, kicking, clawing, I struggled, as the tears ran down my face. The white man just laughed.

Then, my heart sank as I realized Job was laughing too. My brother had betrayed us. 

Job said, “Don’t worry. This is Mr. Wheeler. He is going to hide us from the slave catchers. He is our station master today on the Underground Railroad. He was just moving you away from the door for safety.”

Relieved to know he wasn't going to hand us over to the slave catchers, I was glad we were no longer on our own.  

Because we escaped that one dark night, I was able to learn to read and write. Because we escaped, I was able to earn money for my labor. Because we escaped, my children grew up free. Now, many years later, the memory of the voyage north is as vivid as ever. I am thankful for all those men and women who devoted their lives to helping slaves like I once was escape from the South.

1 comment:

  1. That's not a bad story at all! Great suspense in it.


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