I don’t have a whole lot of first memories for Andrei. I don’t have memories of him rolling over for the first time to pulling himself up to taking off running. I didn’t hear his first words. When he learned English it happened so fast that there was barely three months of cute babbling talk to endear me.
But he has been homeschooling since the day he came home.
My imaginary kids that I homeschooled in my mind (before I became a mom, we were all perfect, right?) were supergeniouses. They loved learning. They never balked. They knew three languages before age 10. They impressed and delighted everyone with their articulation and deep knowledge of the world. They read and read and never watched TV or cared about anything but books.
So the first year of real life homeschooling was a bit of a shocker. I was trying to teach Andrei to read within a year of coming home. He was 8, and barely even had a good handle on the language, but all I could see in my mind was “HE CAN’T READ!!!” and we worked on it every day – through tears and yelling and failure and giving up and trying again and giving up again.
Then showed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie at the library. And I said what every homeschooling parent says – “You can’t watch it until you read the book”. He explained to me in his broken English that he had already seen the movie already – in Russia – and proceeded to explain the entire plot. “Nope,” I still said, “gotta read the book”
So the beginning of 4th grade I bought the first Harry Potter book. He was going to read it whether he liked it or not. It was his first chapter book. He cried, I cried, the book was thrown, torn, and abused. But at the end of the school year, he had read the whole thing – out loud, on his own. And we had a huge party and watched the movie.
I remember thinking – is he going to be in high school before he gets through this series? Is he actually ever going to do this? Would he fully understand and appreciate all the nuances and subtly of the story?
“Now I can watch them all, right mom?” “Nope, kid, gotta read the books first”
In 5th grade I told him he was going to start reading one per semester, so better get busy. When he got to the fourth book in the spring, it came in the mail and he cried. It was over 700 pages long! I assured him it was the longest one of the series and I knew he could do it! It took him well into the summer but we got through.
At the beginning of 6th grade, the fifth book came in the mail and it was even longer! Oops! Well, if you read the other one, you can do this too – I know you can! We started school early that year because he was so excited to start the book.
I started hiding the books after reading time – partially so he couldn’t read ahead, and partially so I could…
I sat rapped with attention when he got to That Chapter in book six (yes I still have readers that don’t know the ending) and we discussed and cried and theorized.
In March, book 7 came in the mail. It was a behemoth. One chapter a day, and when he was done with the book, he’d be graduated into 7th grade. He started trying to trick me by not pausing between chapters and trying to read extra, but I always caught him.
This week we were scheduled to finish. I told him if he read two chapters per day, we’d be done before going on vacation – could he do it? YES! And yesterday, I couldn’t do anything but listen to him read. The pinnacle, the ending to it all – and when he pretended to not stop at the chapter ending, I pretended not to notice. And he read through the end (six chapters in all). And it was only 4PM so I told him we weren’t done with school and I cued up both the movies and we watched them both right then and there.
So I don’t have first memories of him. I didn’t see him from babyhood into toddler into young man. But this was a pivotal thing for us – we started and finished – together.
Andrei, my wonderful boy, my brave, brave man.