Summer “break” began six days ago, and for my 7-year-old daughter, that means more time to read and play Harry Potter. She would scold me for saying “play,” because this is real life; it’s not a game. And after today’s Harry Potter pentathlon, I can assure you, it is for real.
Today’s Hogwarts’ course schedule commenced with Charms – practicing the Confundo spell to cause confusion, and learning the tickle incantation, Rictusempra, while swishing and flicking our chopstick wands.
Fortunately for Care for Magical Creatures, our family’s extensive Beanie Boo collection consists of four owls, one unicorn and a dragon. Today, students taught the baby owls (aka mini boos) how to fly while carrying letters, constructed new cages (aka shoe box structures) for the owlery, and prepared dragon eggs (aka glass marbles) for incubation.
Next came triple Divination. While I agree with Hermione that this is the softest of all courses of study, I happen to have the most appropriate supplies for this class and was able to keep it going for quite some time. We studied Palmistry using ink pad hand prints, introduced Seeing with our Magic 8-Ball, and read tea leaves which allowed me to use up a bit of our stash of loose tea leaves that has taken up valuable space in the cabinets for years.
As this Hogwarts castle lacks a dungeon, and my nerves can only tolerate a reasonable level of mess and chaos, Potions took place outdoors. Potions class is a regular and favorite activity around here, and consists of asking Professor Snape (aka me) for any and all ingredients from the kitchen and any soap-like item that I might be willing to part with. These items are mixed together in a manner deemed intentional by the students to create colorful, sticky, and often smelly potions in the tupperware containers that somehow went missing from my drawers.
We finished with Muggle Studies, providing me with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate fixing two broken kid chairs using only muggle tools, and no magic.
My studious daughter has created course books for all of her classes and spent time writing up her lessons and doing homework. Yes, at her insistence, I assign Hogwarts homework. It keeps her busy and allows me time to breathe (and clean up from Potions class).
Harry Potter only recently entered our house, and has subsequently taken over our lives. In fact, earlier this year, we tried reading The Sorcerer’s Stone, but after three chapters, Zara felt too scared to continue. But as more first graders were introduced to Harry Potter at home and talked about it at school, Zara’s curiosity and ego surpassed her fears, and she asked to try again.
She approached our second attempt timidly, reading one chapter at night together before bed. But that plan quickly evolved into one chapter together at night, then one more chapter alone in bed, then another chapter at school, and another chapter after school. This school-loving kid even faked illness to stay home and read all day.
And even though I have already read the books, I want to keep up with her, which means reading several chapters on my own late into the night, often out of order.
So in less than three weeks, we have read the first three books. She is off to sleep-away camp next week, and we agreed that Harry shall remain at home, as I don’t want her spending this life-enhancing (and insanely expensive) experience in her cabin behind a book. The coming week will also provide some time to consider my approach to the more challenging books, starting with book four, The Goblet of Fire, and the death of Cedric Diggory.
We made it through scary scenes like the death of Harry’s parents, a ferocious 3-headed dog, the Basilisk lurking beneath the school, giant man-eating spiders, and the Dementors. We survived Harry’s emotional hardships like his mistreatment by the Dursley’s, being bullied by Malfoy, being suspected of attacking fellow students, and receiving unwanted attention because of his past. And we talked through confusing elements like Tom Riddle’s diary, Hermione’s time turner, flu powder, and the how Voldemort’s face became attached to the back of Quirrell’s head. But that was the easy stuff. The books now double in length, confusion, drama, and trauma.
My own adventures with Harry Potter began in my mid-twenties while traveling through Southeast Asia. In Vietnam at the time, industrious booksellers could be found on every corner hawking counterfeit books appealing to the masses of backpackers. The HP craze had kicked off and I decided to grab Book 1 before hopping on a bus heading north. The bus ride was horrendous, as the one and only “highway” running up and down the country was under construction, meaning we moved at a flobberworm’s pace. But now that I could escape into this magical world, I didn’t mind the ride, nor future rides spent reading the next few books in the series.
Years later, Book 7 was released the day after my wedding, and my new husband begged me to leave it at home while we took our three-week honeymoon to the Western Balkans. HP fans will understand that I couldn’t agree to that, but I did severely limit my reading during the trip.
Reading Harry Potter was one of the things I most looked forward to sharing with my children. (Amusement parks are another.) But I had no idea that “reading” Harry Potter would take over our family’s lives to this extent, just as I did not suspect that I would stop appreciating violent loopty-loop roller coasters when I turned 40.
That said, I love our dinner table discussions concerning which Hogwarts house each family member belongs to. After extensive conversation, the Sorting Hat has placed Brian and Zara in Gryffindor, 4-year-old Wynton in Hufflepuff, me in Ravenclaw, and Baby Juno in Slytherin (it’s okay, she kinda deserves it). I love the children brandishing chopsticks around the house yelling Wingardium Leviosa and Alohomora. I love everyone taking on alter-egos: Zara is Ginny (oddly, not Hermione), Wynton is Ronnie (a younger version of Ron Weasley), I am Professor McGonagall and any other professor needed at the time, Brian is Professor Dumbledore and sometimes Hagrid, and Juno is whoever her siblings deem her to be at the moment.
And while I also love the art gallery of Harry Potter character portraits forming on our walls, I am stumped by all of the Hogwarts exams I have to administer (how many facts can I quiz her on?!?!), I am annoyed by Zara’s constant requests to dye her hair orange, and I am thoroughly exhausted by the unending demands of imaginative play. I am also amused by the baby’s ability to cast spells although she is just starting to talk.
Lucky for me, I get to live this two more times with my younger children. For all this hard work, I think I deserve a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, don’t you?