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January 9, 2012: Winter Home Schooling

I’m not really gung ho about the idea of parents home schooling their offspring. I think it’s better that this be done by trained educators who have familial distance. Too often, familial dysfunction circumvents the learning process. If I had children, their getting a good education would be my number one priority. There would be no sitting around in a classroom, watching the clock, and feeling like time was standing still. They’d be engaged, alert, active learners.

I didn’t have children because way back then, I knew that this would require something that neither Pete nor I had – a great deal of money. Some might think

differently, but I have always, and still believe that those who get the best education are those whose parents are well off financially.

I think this way because I am, at heart, an educator. My parents and sister were all teachers. And I too have the gene. Now my having this genetic make-up is playing itself out in a rather roundabout way. I’m now home schooling horses. If I had my druthers, I’d have someone with more horse expertise and knowledge working with me, Raudi, Siggi, Tinni, Signy, and Hrimfara. I don’t. So I’m figuring out things as I’m going along. And I’m very much enjoying what I’m doing.

I’m calling what I’m now doing winter home schooling because this lends my ongoing task some legitimacy. I’m sure my neighbors, who see me out there, day in and day out, going up and down the road on my seemingly innumerable ponies, think that I’m brain dead. If this is what they think, so be it. I know differently. I’m educating my ponies, getting them ready for the equivalent of graduate school. They’re now, to varying degrees, reliable trail horses, and this didn’t just happen. It’s the end result of my intensity of focus and high degree of discipline. There are days when I, the teacher, feel like blowing off class. Like this past week. I’ve been sick and so all I’ve wanted to do is crawl back into bed. But no, I got out and continued with the ongoing lessons. As my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Westcott might have said “How the hell else are they going to learn?”

Like any teacher, I’m having to find ways of using my teaching time wisely. It takes far more time than I have right now to ride or walk each horse individually, which is why, right now, the focus is on ponying the horses. This is, not coincidently, the way they do it Iceland, so we are following suit. I figure that this is more fun for the horses, which are by nature social animals. And it is maybe safer, since a horse in the company of another might be less inclined to bolt.

Today was a very good school day. They’re not all this good, although most come pretty close. It was sunny, maybe five degrees out: a good day for a workout for us all. We began the day’s lessons by incorporating Pete into the mix. (He too, by the way, is a teacher.) I rode Signy, he rode Siggi, and we ponied Hrimfara. The latter involved that Pete and I carefully coordinate our efforts, especially early on. I ended up leading Signy to the driveway’s edge, and Pete followed, walking Siggi and Hrimmi. I held Hrimmi as Pete got on Siggi. I’ve been working with Signy on standing still while I mount up. This time she stood still. The ride went well – our one challenge was getting past the ice floe. (Cold temperatures have caused the creek to again overflow its banks and flood the road.) We decided that I would first cross on Signy, and Pete and Hrimmi (now off lead) would follow. Siggi followed Signy. Hrimmi followed, nose down, going across the ice v-e-r-y carefully.

I asked Signy to trot when we got to the upper road. She did not hesitate and did as asked. This in turn motivated Siggi to trot. We continued on, down Murphy Road. Signy, who foresaw that she was not immediately going home, began acting goosey. I kept her moving forward by using my seat and my legs.

On the return trip, I asked Signy to canter. (The old saying is you tell a gelding what to do, and you ask a mare.) She did so in a very willing fashion. Hrimmi and Siggi followed at a good clip. I also had Signy walk and trot ahead of and behind Siggi, so that she becomes more practiced at this.

Once I was back at home, I considered taking Signy out with Raudi, but figured that she, by doing so well, had earned time off. So I instead elected to take Raudi and Tinni out. I ended up riding Tinni to the Murphy Road turnoff, and ponying Raudi, then riding Raudi and ponying Tinni on the trip home. There were, on the way there and back, several (ahem) teachable moments.

Pete had taken Rainbow and Jenna out ahead of me. I’d asked him to take a photo – he decided to do something more interesting this time, and instead of taking a standing photo, took one of me with Tinni and Raudi on the move. In order to get this photo, I had to change gears, and point the two horses in the direction of home. I was reluctant to do this because I knew that Tinni, if given an inch, would take a mile and bolt. But I did it anyways. What both horses had reinforced was that they were required, even in the vicinity of home, to listen to me and do as I say.

Then, further down the road, Tinni startled and jumped forward. I then dropped Raudi’s lead. Of course, this happened as a car was approaching from in front of us. I could see Raudi’s mind at work – she was thinking, should I stay or go? She opted to stay and was of course given a treat.

We got to the turnoff. It was now time for me to ride Raudi and pony Tinni. I soon realized that I’d forgotten Raudi’s reins. Tinni’s were attached to his bridle, so I couldn’t use them. So I put Tinni’s bridle on Raudi, and Raudi’s lead line on Tinni’s bridle. All the while, both horses stood quietly, even when a nieghbor’s truck, complete with dog in rear bed barking loudly, passed us.

On the way home, Raudi was extremely forward, moving at a fast clip. I was really pleased with this, because this is what I want her to do. I did ask her to trot, but felt resistance, so we continued to work at maintaining her fast walk. And Tinni, who previously didn’t like being the pony horse, did just fine.

Lastly, we worked on waiting by the driveway gate, and going through it one horse at a time. The second time was better than the first.

So many details here, and there were more. Suffice to say, all in attendance continue to do quite well.

Next: 10. 1/10/13: Home Schooling Part II—Crossing Ice Floes