Accidental Homeschooling: Week 17

In which we combine the best of the old world with the best of the new

Sarah Cords
Jan 15 · 5 min read
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Image courtesy of Goodreads.

One of the things we have been doing in our homeschool experiment is setting aside time each day for me to read a book or longer story to both of my boys.

This is not earth-shattering pedagogical stuff, I realize. And we have always read to the boys (and also around them, as my spouse and I both love to read). But in days past when they were both in school, everyone was too exhausted by the time they came home (and after supper and piano practice and swim lessons and everything else) to sit down and listen to longer works of fiction. Mostly the books the boys asked us to read them were the same Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Press Start! Super Rabbit Boy or Dogman or some other such series that my inner librarian might have, in my younger and more judgmental days, referred to as the printed equivalent of junk food.

So now we do our reading in the morning when we are all fresh, and we’ve been reading some well-known books that I never got around to reading myself: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Paddington by Michael Bond, among others. The boys are generally good natured about my hammy desire to try out different voices and accents, and I allow them to loll about whatever room we’re in while they listen.

This week we started George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.

I am trying not to let on how excited I am to be reading this book, because it was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid. I bought my own copy during a rare day in my youth when I got into a bookstore; it’s still around here somewhere. For our reading fun, though, I ordered a larger copy (the illustrations by Garth Williams are delightful) from the library.

If you’ve not read it, please do consider it. It would be a great short read to cheer you up during this long winter. The story starts when a cricket named Chester shows up in the Times Square subway station (he was carried away from his Connecticut country meadow home in an urban picnicker’s picnic basket). There he is adopted by a young boy named Mario, whose parents own a small newstand in Times Square. He also meets and befriends a scrappy mouse named Tucker and a giant cat named Harry (who just happen to be best friends with each other).

Mario’s family’s newstand business is not going very well, and when he asks his parents if he can keep the cricket for a pet, they are unenthused but obviously feel the boy needs a bit of fun and allow it. And they all get a bit more fun than they originally bargained for when it turns out that Chester is a musical virtuoso who starts to stun the Times Square subway crowds with concerts performed entirely on his wings.

I was a little farm kid when I first read this book, but something about New York City already called to me (I’ve only been twice, but I LOVE NYC). I loved the setting, I loved Mario and his joy in taking care of Chester, I loved Tucker’s focus on scrounging only the choicest food tidbits and fallen coins from the Times Square area, and Harry’s teasing of his friend Tucker for his hoarding tendencies. It’s a great book.

So we started it this week, and the boys seemed quite taken with it from the start, which is by no means guaranteed. After we did our reading one day, I looked up Times Square on my best homeschooling friend, YouTube, and was able to show the boys what Times Square looked like on a regular busy day in 2019.

I called this Social Studies (the eldest is learning about all the states for his curriculum — we’ll be talking about New York and New York City soon) with a little bit of grief counseling thrown in. We talked a little bit about how we miss going out and about and seeing people, and our hopes that someday Times Square will look more like it used to with more people around, even if they might be wearing masks for a good long while. (Assuming people are still wearing masks now, which is also by no means guaranteed.)

Then we looked up a video of the Times Square subway station, and that was a lot of fun to watch too. We were even gifted with a quick shot of a modern newstand with magazines and candy on display, so I hope the setting of our book is a little clearer to the boys now.

I am no great lover of technology. Part of the reason we are homeschooling is because both me and the two boys were heartily sick, last spring, of staring at computers all day (the youngest particularly hated using the mouse). I recognize cell phones can be good in case of an emergency, but mostly I just hate mine. But YouTube? Seeing a video of the Times Square subway station one day, or a tour of the Seattle Space Needle? (We did Washington state earlier this week.) That’s good stuff.

It was nice to combine my first and true love — books — with the technological wonder of traveling without having to travel. And that was our week.

My wish for you this week is that you can rekindle an old love at the same time you enjoy a new one. And also? Stay safe out there.

Here’s all of our accidental homeschooling adventures: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Weeks 12 and 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

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