Home education diary, May-June 2003

June 3rd

May continued much in the same vein as April, with a week off near the end when some friends from the UK came to visit, and took us out on a yacht for a few days. Now the days are longer and the weather is getting warmer, and we'd quite like to wind down the ACE work for the summer.

At the start of May, Daniel finally took the Grade 5 clarinet exam. It was all rather stressful, since the lady who was supposed to be accompanying him - a teacher at the music school - quit unexpectedly, and was not replaced. So he had to play unaccompanied, which shouldn't have been allowed.  He's convinced he failed, of course. He says he did terribly in his scales and arpeggios - not surprisingly, as he did almost no practise for them - and in the aural.

Then at the end of May, Dan took the Guildhall Grade 7 drama exam. As with the Grade 5 exam, which he took a year ago, he was pretty stressed about it all beforehand. But this time, he did acknowledge that it had gone fairly well and he hopes they will pass!

It's so interesting to see so many differences between the boys, despite much the same upbringing. For instance, Tim likes earning money, and is delighted to find he's somewhat in demand to play the organ for weddings and funerals at the local Anglican church (where his piano teacher is the main organist) - particularly since a couple of good pianists are moving away this summer. He can get 25 for half an hour's attendance, where all he has to do is play a couple of hymns and a bit of music of his choice at the beginning! However it's sporadic, obviously - not what one would call a part-time job.

Dan, by contrast, has almost no interest in money. He did some web-site design commercially about eighteen months ago ago, but his arm hurt to do too much, and he got bored of following other people's specifications, so despite good intentions he never did any more. It doesn't seem to bother him.

Recently they both got paid for taking part in a medieval recorder consort, which was fun. However they spent about four days in all rehearsing, and four hours at the concert - and got 33 each, so from a commercial point of view, it wasn't exactly much for the amount of effort they'd put in. A great experience, though.

Dan's still wondering what to do next year. He's planning to finish ACE level 2 by the end of December, and still considering applying for a YWAM 'discipleship training school' course that will be run a few miles away. But as he'll only just be 17, they may say he's too young. He may decide to volunteer at the drama school for six months, or he may even decide to take level 3 NCSC with ACE, although he can't really see much point. 

He doesn't want to go to university - and doesn't really have much idea what he wants to do at all. However I'm trying not to worry about it. If he was in school in the UK he'd still have a couple of years of sixth form (he'd be doing GCSEs right now) then probably a gap year to do voluntary work, then perhaps some kind of university degree. So I don't really expect him to get a job for at least another five or six years. If he does, it'll be a bonus!

I'm glad, I think, that neither of the boys is particularly materialistic, although sometimes I think Dan is a bit too far the other direction. It's not as if we've ever had any spare money, so it's just as well they don't want lots of things. I guess we're lucky in that most of the boys 'lessons' are free... we don't pay for Dan's drama, since Richard helps the group so much with doing lighting, helping them record sound effects etc; we don't pay for Tim's piano since it's a friend who teaches him and sees it as part of her ministry. 

We don't pay for Tim's guitar lessons either now, since his teacher says he enjoys teaching him and gets plenty of money from his other students - and also sees it as part of his ministry! We don't pay for Dan's clarinet lessons since he's in the town band now, and most of their other activities are church-related and free anyway. All we have to pay for is Tim's tennis coaching (5 for half an hour) and Dan's Greek lesson (6 for an hour) - both
of which are one-on-one, so seem pretty good value to me.

The boys both want more musical instruments but there's no way we can afford them, so they're saving, and looking out for second-hand ones. Ebay isn't much use here as lots of people won't post to Cyprus, and I'm not sure that instruments could be insured or arrive undamaged anyway. Tim really wants a new keyboard - he has an old one that's getting a bit erratic, but really wants a decent touch-sensitive - however that would be at least 300 so at present is out of his reach too. Dan wants a saxophone, and also various
percussion instruments, and Tim would quite like a bass guitar - he has a classical one which my parents bought him for Christmas a few years ago, and uses it a lot, but quite likes the idea of something different. 

Anyway, they both seem to have fun researching and discussing and thinking about what they'd like one day. 

June 6th

The boys seem to have done a fair amount of ACE this week. Dan got through an entire English pace, although he missed out most of the actual pace-work and didn't re-read 'The Hiding Place', as he did the Literature pace on that book fairly recently. I said I thought he should do a bit more of the next one, which includes writing an autobiography - although of course that's something he did in Year Six at his UK school.

He says the Old Testament Survey paces are easier now it's got past the books of Kings and Chronicles. It seems to be racing through, actually, but then he's on the ninth one which covers Ezra up to Job: quite a lot for one book.  He invented a Gerald Plass type joke, seeing Tim taking a nap one day. He said he was doing a Nehemiah.  When I queried this, he said it was a pre-Esther.  Priesta is a word we invented anyway for a before-lunch nap.

Tim's still struggling a bit with algebra, fractions and so on, but working his way slowly through. All in all, they seem to have done quite a bit. Yet they were only doing ACE on three days.  They were shattered on Monday and did nothing, and today Tim had his guitar lesson, and Dan didn't do anything much - he'd been up till 4.30am last night doing some writing, apparently!

Dan's arm is still troubling him at times, but he seems resigned to it. We've tried just about everything other than surgery, and he certainly doesn't want that. He just downloaded some software for his computer that reminds him to take five minutes breaks every quarter hour, or so, and tells him when he's been online too much! I think
that would drive me crazy, but he says it's helpful. We're hoping and praying that with some rest his arm will get better. It seems to be all right when he plays clarinet now, and he can use the graphic tablet or type for up to an hour without pain, so at least it has  improved fairly significantly.

Dan's really fed up with some of his 'schoolie' friends who don't seem to be interested in
anything much other than heavy metal music and what he calls 'death culture' - I don't know if this is Cypriot or worldwide, but he says they seem to be interested in killing things, although not seriously. He finds it gross, but hates the feeling of being the odd one out, not really part of the group he's with. This isn't even his secular drama group friends particularly, but Christian kids in the youth group. It sounds very bizarre to me. 

June 17th

Dan is really going through a bad patch now, feeling miserable a lot of the time; he's trying to find people - other adults - to talk to, who will understand him, and accept him, and not try either to cheer him up or to change him. But he's not having much success so far - they get far too worried, and don't seem to understand teenage depression, or perfectionism. 

This morning Dan was really tired, having apparently stayed up till 1am working on one of his projects, and he didn't seem very cheerful. However he did most of his ACE work and has spent more time on the computer this afternoon, and is now sitting up a treein the garden reading a book, looking reasonably contented. 

in the past six months he's learned American sign language, after his friend in the next town started learning it via video. She used a Christian course which she passed on to him
as she finished with each video, and part of it was learning to sign to worship songs. So
Dan does that, and people really like it. It looks more like an elegant form of dance than anything else. 

He was doing that in the youth group band for a while until he got fed up with it and confused about what he was 'supposed' to be doing. He gets annoyed that some of the band are more interested in heavy metal than worship music, and also that their leader expects them to smile and 'act' happy and outgoing when they're singing or playing. To Dan, performing on stage (as he does with the theatre group) is acting, which is fine; but worship for him is real, and he hates having to pretend if he's not feeling happy. It seems he's now stopped being in the youth band altogether.

Good news is that, once again, he has passed his drama exam with Honours. Grade 7 is equivalent to an A/S level, apparently. The Antidote leaders say they'll all take Grade 8 next year, most likely. He's also passed his clarinet exam, thankfully. Just a pass - but quite a good one, not far off Merit. Not bad, considering the lack of accompanist. He did actually fail the scales and arpeggios section, but did well enough on everything else to pass overall. It's made him realise that he probably ought to spend more time on what he thinks of as the boring parts of playing, if he's to progress any further. 

June 29th

Life's been a bit calmer, on the whole. Daniel has been talking to me a lot more about life and everything. Then about ten days ago he went to the mountains with a group who were putting up tents at one of the campsites, and got chatting to our closest home educating friend (who lives in the next town) - and, it turns out, she is the ideal person for him to talk to, for various reasons. What he wants as much as anything is someone who can empathise.

She suggested he spend a couple of days with them this weekend as they were meeting some people from the Cyprus Deaf community. Daniel has recently realised that Greek sign language is based on the same system as American Sign Language (which he's been learning) - so he can understand some of the signing on the Greek news, for instance.

So he went there on the bus on Friday morning early, so they could have a long talk about music and perfectionism and so on, and then meet the Deaf people on Saturday. Learning ASL has made Dan very interested in Deaf culture in general, and he's now wondering whether he might one day work with the Deaf. 

They've finished the ACE paces they're on, and although they don't seem to have completed all that many this academic year, I somehow doubt if they'll do any more until the autumn, now the temperature is heating up. Next week they're helping at a children's holiday club at the church in the mornings, and doing afternoon/evening activities with a team who've come over from the USA. 

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