The answer, basically, has to do with the school they go to.
Julie and Alexis go to this really cool-sounding little private school where they are allowed to go on family vacations whenever they want provided they make up the work and do a report on what the vacation taught them when they get back. I asked, and Julie says no, they don't have to make up every single assignment, they just have to meet the learning objectives. This week she was supposed to be learning about the writing of the Constitution, so she'd decided to do that on her own by paraphrasing the whole thing. I'm serious. Here is her version of the Preamble:
We, the United States of America People, do hereby make this Constitution in order to better organize ourselves so we can have a fair, peaceful, safe, prosperous, and free country, forever and ever.
Pretty good, huh? I also asked whether Alexis really has to write a report, given that she's only six.
"Well, sort of," she told me. "She's going to draw some pictures and do a class presentation--it's sort of like show-and-tell."
But the school only goes up through eighth grade. Julie graduates next month, and David graduated last year. He would be in public high school now, only apparently there was a big blow-up this winter when the family realized that if they took David on the traditional trips, the school district would mark the absences as unexcused and initiate various disciplinary procedures. And with those absences, if he missed just ten more days this year for any reason, he'd be expelled (because he's a minor, he'd be automatically re-enrolled the next year ab a freshman again).
I can imagine that caused some uproar--Allen, for one, never handles bureaucratic nonsense well, especially when it hurts children, and I've heard that on the rare occasions that he gets angry or anxious he works himself up pretty badly. I don't know Lo as well, but I imagine that something like that coming up in the middle of the school year would be pretty intense.
All that David told me was "getting expelled didn't sound like a lot of fun, so I quit."
"Yeah. I told Mom and Dad I wasn't going back after Christmas break. If they wanted me in school, they could find me another one. Meanwhile I'd teach myself, like Kayla does. Public school was boring anyway. They wouldn't give me enough work."
Kayla, you remember, is technically a college student, but since she's only fifteen she's actually doing high school-level work as a series of independent studies.
So, they withdrew David, enrolled him in the same home school program Kayla belongs to, and they went on their vacation. And now they are on their other vacation, which is this one. I expect they'll have the same problem next year, when Julie is in high school, but at least they'll have a whole year to figure out what to do about it.
In the meantime, yes, I've been hiking and biking all over the Island with David, but today we didn't go anywhere except down to the rocks by the sea near camp. There are these cliffs there and we all had fun climbing around on the rocks, except maybe for Lo because she was worried about Alexis maybe falling off--but she let her climb around and explore anyway. For once, David let himself act like just one of the kids again,getting way too close to the waves and shrieking.
Me, I found a tide pool.
It was about as long as I am, and maybe as far across as I could reach if I were in the middle of it, which I wasn't. The bottom had little patches of seaweed in it, several different kinds, all branched and brown and short, like a living shag carpet. Otherwise, the bottom was white and red with some kind of smooth crusty stuff, also alive, I assume, and there were little empty snail shells in piles here and there. Once a sort of claw-like thing came up out of the seaweed and submerged again, but I didn't see it after that and I wasn't going to reach in and try to grab the thing.
And there were barnacles along the sides, just a few of them, opening the doors of their little white houses and reaching little feathery feet out into the water over and over again.
I lay on my belly on the warm rock and watched those barnacles feeding for a really long time.