Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Only Thing I Can Change Is Me

One of the lovely things about getting older is getting over things a bit faster than I used to. I'm not talking about death or injuries (my sore ankles are certainly a contradiction to that statement), it's more along the lines of "hey, this sucks but I'm not getting stuck here". Sort of like hitting a scary and suddenly-out-of-nowhere pothole in a familiar road. Your car is okay, you are rattled for a bit, but then you realize it was just a shitty old pothole and you keep on moving, because you have to keep going.

We've had a tough winter in our family. Last fall I watched as a ballot measure I had cared about deeply and volunteered for fell through on election day. Add to that the end of all logic with the election of a man I personally loathe. Honestly, I felt a bit helpless, like I needed to go hang out in a blanket fort for a few months. Joe and I both have had health issues and Kiddo is... well, a growing kid, with all the fun and love and hard moments that go with a pre-adolescent human being.

Over the last month or so, I've been fighting hard to get out of the funk that I was in. Not full-on depressed, but definitely less excited or motivated about life than I like to be. Some things are practical changes like being more considerate about what I am putting into my body. I've upped the veggies, decreased the 'empty calorie' favorites like bread or pasta to goal of one serving a day, drinking a lot more water.... but not flogging myself for having the occasional burger and fries sort of meal. I'm trying to walk more, which is hard with the ankles, but I still do it. Maybe slower than usual, but moving feels good. Working in the yard feels good. Trying a yoga video for core and back strengthening. None of this is easy, but I don't mind it. I know that change comes gradually, and while my hormones and genetics are ganging up on me, I'm not going to just accept this lying down (in bed with a book, that is). Gotta give aging at least a little bit of a fight, right?

That said, there are also some things which happen that are completely out of my control. Last week I received an email from an old friend. I'd offered to get together and the email response was a surprise, sudden and unexpected exploding pothole of anger. I had been too remiss in making plans with her and she was pretty furious. While I hadn't realized this person was actually holding anger toward me, and had been for a long time,  I was now was painfully aware of it. Her unprovoked attack on both myself and my life was decisive and left me with the impression that she was done with me. Which hurt like hell. I went up to my room, had a good hard cry, which is what you do when someone you care about has let you know you are, indeed, a piece of shit.

What happened in the days after, though, surprised me. I didn't feel the need to defend myself. Instead, it occurred to me that, why should I grovel when this person had been going on for quite some time being angry at me, yet never asking me a simple question about why I haven't been living up to her expectations? It was almost strange to me that, while I could understand the kernel of truth in what she was implying, she was also capable of being an adult and just asking me to change how things were. It would have been simple. I could see my own part in the problem she was having... she wanted to see me more often and I do, sometimes, just get overwhelmed. I didn't communicate enough. When I had said I might be available at a certain time or day, instead of calling or communicating, I figured that, since I hadn't heard from her, she was fine. She wasn't fine.

I wish she would have asked me a question, made a request. "Hey, can we get a date on the calendar today? I hate wondering..."  "It really works best for me to make a plan right away instead of the long email back and forths"... none of these would have been upsetting to hear. I'm an adult. I'm sometimes a flake and I'm the first to admit it. It's also the case that I perhaps don't communicate well as to why these lapses occur. I don't want to bore her with the same old story: sick kid; husband working late sometimes--makes it harder to plan things; just plain effing tired from being teacher and mom all day... It's the same reason I don't tell my husband all of the things I do all day: because it would bore me to death. And when you have a friend who doesn't have kids, it does feel rather lame to say "I am feeling overwhelmed and sort of don't even want to plan anything beyond what can be cancelled at the last minute because I don't know if any of the things which could happen will, and frankly, I'm cross-eyed and want to be left alone."

So, I said nothing, and she said nothing... oh boy, it would have been good if both of us had said something.

I can see my part in this, but I also see, now, that apparently I was being tolerated. That my status as a homeschooling housewife is not worthy of respect because I'm not earning. Everything in her response to me was a vivid comparison of our lives and I came out looking pretty bad, from her perspective. "If you still want to get together, I'm available on X, Y and Z dates."

Um, really? You think that was a prelude to a friendly lunch?

What I realized, though, was that there were two things possibly going on here: either she had deliberately torpedoed the relationship and the dates thrown out were facetious, or that she really thought I was going to apologize and beg forgiveness for something I hadn't really known was a problem. Which might be a reasonable expectation in her own mind, because that's exactly what I've done before.

 I used to be a pushover and that's what she had come to expect from me. The only thing is, I've changed over the past few years. Somewhere in my mid forties, going toe-to-toe with my son's school, managing my family... I grew a backbone. It was liberating to learn that I am not responsible for everyone's feelings, a falsehood which had been instilled in me from a very early age. In the past, when conflict arose, it was my habit to regularly accept the blame and try to smooth things over. I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be true to myself, and that caused a lot of problems with how I valued my own self. Now, on the other side of that, I am more than happy to share the burden of blame when it's truly mine, but I won't be responsible for what other people do or don't do.

Sometimes, there's no win available. There was no good way to meet up, feel safe, and respect myself. So, a short note: sorry, didn't mean to hurt you, we are at different places in life, I wish you and your husband well. Portland is a small town; I didn't want her to feel weird if we ran into each other. It was obvious the friendship had run its course with her, or why would she write what she did? "I think we are both too intelligent to pretend that you didn't mean exactly what you wrote." I wanted to give her an easy out. Forgiveness and no hard feelings.

I have changed.  A lot. I can't ungrow a backbone. It just doesn't work that way.

A few days ago, I received another angry email, 'sad that you are throwing away years of friendship'...No. It wasn't thrown away that; it was sacrificed for the sake of my own self-esteem.
She gets the last word: what response is there to more insults and anger? Only walking away and moving on.

People close to me will know that I've come a long way from where I started. I can't really fix what she thinks about me, or her anger-- I can only fix myself. Walking away from a soured relationship is not easy. Even with this hard exchange, one doesn't stop caring for someone. I had a dream last night that we had the conversation we should have had months ago. "I can handle it if you say I'm being flaky and you need me to be better about making plans, okay?"  It would have been nice to be given this opportunity in real life, instead of in a dream on roller skates, but maybe this is one of life's lessons. When you hit the pothole, it's okay to pull over, catch your breath and take inventory. Make sure your muffler isn't hanging off the back. Call Triple A if you blow a tire and need roadside assistance. But by all means, get back in the car and keep going forward. Don't get stuck.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Multiplication Dice Game for Skill Building

(note: as with all good ideas out there, I'm probably not the first to come up with something like this. That said, I hadn't seen this anywhere else as of yet, so I'm sharing this idea knowing that some of you also have little learners struggling with learning their factors and products.)

Dice Multiplication/Addition Game

I came up with this game to help Kiddo review basic multiplication of factors 1-6. This is for kids who need some reinforcement of those skills with low stakes-- in short, keep it easy, keep it fun, keep it within their grasp.

You’ll need:
1 large piece of paper
2 dice (1-6; I am hoping to purchase some Dungeons and Dragons multi-sided dice to 10 and 12 as we progress)
Small objects to serve as ‘tokens’, one for each player

Take the piece of paper and make a ‘path’ which will consist of a start, an end, and 100 spaces in between.. Number each space in numerical order. Make sure the spaces are large enough to hold a token, one inch square is fine. I let Kiddo do some of this with me.

First player rolls both dice and then multiplies the numbers. So, if one die reads “4” and the other reads “6”, your product(result) is 24. Move to that space/that number of spaces.

Go round the table, each person gets a turn.
Next time around you can:
Add the product to the number the token is already on
Let your child count out the spaces.

Be sure to provide scratch paper, or allow your child time to do the computation in their heads.
This is a great time to teach little shortcuts: “Oh, your token is on 47 and you get to go forward 25; we know 50 plus 25 is 75, so…?” Let them figure it out or not. Don’t get stuck on this if they have their own way of working it out. The point of the game is to keep it moving and keep it fun.

The first one to 100 is the winner. Play again!

I’m going to add in some fun things over the next few days, like having Kiddo write in silly activities for the spaces which are products of factors squared. (like 4, 9, 16, etc.) You can also have them count the spaces in between those products; they actually have a pretty interesting pattern. Or have multiples of 5 colored in, signalling ‘get up and dance’, that many jumping jacks, or a simple “woot! Woot!” for kids who are less inclined to do the physical things. :) Again, the point is to keep it fun, keep it moving.

If you have a child for whom losing just destroys them-- play it as a cooperative game. Maybe make a prediction at the beginning of the game to see how many turns it will take for your ‘team’ to reach 100. Like all open-ended games, make it work for your kid!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Can't Sleep.... Clowns Will Eat Me

It's 11:37pm. The kitchen is dim and quiet, a bowl of oatmeal sitting placidly on the counter. It's one of those instant packets Kiddo likes, and I'm about to find out how it tastes. I've never had one of these before and I'm hoping that wallpaper paste is not the first thing I compare it to.

For the past few days I've been dealing with a doozy of a cold. I don't usually get colds this bad; usually garden variety sniffles. This one has featured fever and chills and moved into my lungs. The cough syrup is a new one and I wasn't expecting this wakefulness. Nor was I expecting to be so hungry. Here's to hoping a bowl of oatmeal will take the edge of, make me feel warm and cuddly, and help me get some rest.

After a few bites, I decide that,while I prefer my steel-cut oats that take 20 minutes to cook, this stuff Kiddo likes is passable. That's a plus.

A lot of things go through our heads when we are laying there with nothing to distract us. I'm not the only person in our family to deal with this problem; Kiddo, too, gets the 'lie awake and think about stupid worrisome stuff' gene from me. Joe, on the other hand, can sleep through pretty much anything. I cannot recall any time in my life with him that he was staying awake, worried. Well, maybe once, when I was at the ER and sent the guys home because A. I knew it was kidney stones and B. who wants an audience when they feel like crap? Otherwise, the guy has an ability to sleep which rivals Sam-I-Am's ability to eat green eggs and ham. In short, in a box, on a train, in the rain (okay, in a tent in the rain), at a play (it really happened!)... the man has amazing sleep abilities. I am in awe of them.

Apparently, the oatmeal has a limited window when it comes to keeping a desirable consistency.

Sometimes I lay awake and try to console myself with what I think is the funniest idea in that moment. Usually it is a phrase of odd reassurance. My new favorite: "Don't worry, it's not like you'll never fall asleep ever."

It is a small consolation, but the effect it has is a good one. This is not an insurmountable obstacle. It's one night in a chain of many nights, many opportunities. It's just.... I want to sleep.

If you tell me that I shouldn't have my computer on, well, you are right. That said, I finished my book a few hours ago and wanted to write. Oh, and I guess I wanted to get freaked out a little bit because a centipede just scampered across the kitchen floor and in the time it took to get a killing device (paper towel!) it had disappeared. And now I've got the creepy crawlies. Sheesh. If you came to the conclusion that I now am No Longer Relaxed but am now on Alert Mode, you win the prize.

Can't sleep. Centipede on the loose.

I'd actually prefer the clown. The clown is a joke, a line from The Simpsons. (Homer gives Bart a bed with a clown headboard. A really creepy, psycho-looking clown.) We have it on a bumper sticker on our car. Just one of those funny things both Joe and I, and now Kiddo, really dig. If I could fall asleep to The Simpsons, or better yet, Perry Mason, without waking anyone up, I'd do so in a heartbeat. Perry Mason is great for that. I've seen all of the episodes so many times and since they are on disc, there are no blaring commercials to deal with. I've nodded off to Perry many a time.

Perhaps I'll start earlier tomorrow night. Put some Perry on at 9 and hopefully doze off. Fictitious, 1960s pretend murder is better than both hypothetical clowns or real-- very real--centipedes. In any case, Kiddo's got a workshop tomorrow morning that I have to get him to. I'll take him to lunch right after, and then home. For a nap. Because centipedes and creepy clowns don't keep daylight hours, right? At least, I hope not.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Planning Time

This weekend was a wonderful treat. Joe and Kiddo took off for a Cub Scout camping trip and of course, I had to stay home and take care of Milton and Sally Lou. Well, maybe I didn't really have to, but after a few months of homeschooling, it's been great to take a break alone. It was a weekend to visit with friends and relive some of my old life, BC. (You know, Before Child.) My ventures out were delicious and provided me with great conversations with dear friends and food for both sustenance and thought. One friend has her PhD and we always end up having discussions about life and the choices we make in how we live. She mentioned an instruction in the practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, namely the idea that one should plan, each day, one activity which brings the self joy. Ideally, once a day for the person and 2-3 times a week for the family.

Finding joy for a family isn't an easy task, but I do consider this as I sit down to plan the coming week's lessons. One of the very real challenges of homeschooling is building in time to just be and enjoy each other, enjoy the moment. It's all too easy to do school and, at the end of the day, not have a lot left. My goal for each day is about four activities and to keep balance. So, we do things like walking over to the park (fulfilling PE requirement as we go) to do a survey of colors of dogs: "out of all of the dogs we encounter on our walk, how many are white, or tan, or black and white, etc" and then using that information to solve math questions and make a graph. I try to incorporate as much real life in his arithmetic as possible, and if we are being truly honest, I sort of geek out on creating these activities.

But I digress... as I was saying, planning joy into one's day is easier said than done. So, I look for times when he solicits me for my company in what he's doing. Sometimes, we can plan some daytime 'joy' together. No longer constrained by the school calendar, I can do what I damn well please. A couple of weeks ago there was a painting at the Portland Art Museum I really wanted to see before it left. It was a huge painting of cats. Because I used to be a preschool teacher, I suppose I am in the habit of curious observation. It was just as much fun for me to see what interested him (the glass art was the big deal this time) as it was to see the art itself. We had packed a picnic lunch already, yet the Farmer's Market called us and we took time to get a few treats and that night's dinner. He practiced finding the totals for items he wanted (all in his head), what sort of change would he get back on a three dollar item with a five dollar bill, and he practiced doing those transactions on his own. After that, we hit the library and he read for the rest of the afternoon.

This is not a kid who needs to be forced to read.

In fact, I often build our days with little scheduled reading time for him. I start our morning reading aloud to him, and we do also read as we research bats (our bee unit is complete for now; we'll move back to that when we harvest the bees this fall) or look up affixes. Hazel Philosophy here: I love words and the best gift I can give my son is that regard is the tools to decoding language. Prefixes and suffixes are a big part of our summer schooling time... we handle the root words in the moment as the initial word comes up, however, a knowledge of affixes can get you partway there. (This, by the way, is an extension of our Greek mythology study-- many affixes were given to us by the ancient Greeks). With math we work on one new skill a day and review some other, previously-learned ones as well.

Yet, what he also is learning isn't straighforwardly academic. One of the concerns I had regarding conventional school is that he wasn't being given much room to think for himself. Now, I'm not saying this is true for every kid, but a bright little boy with slow processing abilities needs more time to get to the same answer than most of his peers. It also takes longer to learn and understand new skills and techniques, especially for computation and composition. Along with finding a well-scaffolded writing program for him, what has worked for us is going at a slower pace in introducing new information and being able to present information in multiple forms. I would wager my favorite pair of shoes that one big reason kids 'goof off' at school or aren't attentive is that they don't  understand the assignment or what they are supposed to do. The hurried teacher in a larger class may often tell the student to ask a friend or three before asking for help, which is nice in theory, but in practice, some students will think you are bugging them, some students may not undersatnd how to explain the process/instructions and by time we get to number three, I'm sure the student feels daunted and, if we are being honest, probably not great about him or her self as a learner. So, instead of risking more frustration, the child sits at their seat and plays around, does other things, lets themselves be distracted or becomes a distraction.

The end result of this is that the student falls into a habit of not completing work without adult prodding.Thus, one absolute I have for our school is that we complete what we start. At public school, without help to organize himself and get going at school, a lot of work didn't get done, was misplaced or not handed in. I needed a way to help my son help himself; school really did not help him with was time management and admittedly, that would have been hard. He is easily distracted as it is and loves to be with his buddies. Keeping him on task is a lot to ask of any teacher; it's something he has to learn himself.

This means, contrary to popular thinking, that I have to give him control over this. Each morning he has a checklist to complete. Everything is on there, not just learning. He's more involved in helping with daily chores now that I have more time to teach him. Some things--like the oddly folded-but-still-neat clothes-- I let him do his way. Some things, well, you have to do them my way because my way is the right way. (Don't tell me you don't think this too. Of course you do. The Queen of the Castle likes the towels folded a certain way after she's washed them.) Life means doing basic tasks for one's survival. In some families, this means milking cow at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. In our family, it means soaking your dishes after you eat from them, or you know Mom is going to make you wash that crusty oatmeal bowl yourself. Managing his time is his new skill to learn. I allow media time at 3:30, not a minute earlier. That said, I tell him each day "Look at your list. I'm available for instruction until 3, and then you have to work independently." Frankly, I got tired of trying to coax him away from what he was doing--you know, the fun thing-- and being the heavy. So now, he has to be the heavy on himself. No media time until the list is complete. This is where the emphasis on completing work comes in. If it's not done, it's not done.

He is finding different ways to manage this. One afternoon he asked to work for ten minutes and take a break for ten minutes. He found the material demanding and needed to take the breaks, but when he came back, he worked the entire time before the next break. Finding ways for learning or work to be doable for each of us is a life skill. As an adult I have worked at some jobs which were not particularly engaging or demanding, but you have to work to eat, so I did it with my headphones on. Finding ways to endure either tedium or demands is a good coping skill to have in one's back pocket. I hand this responsibility to him knowing he's going to have bumps and failures. We've done well so far, and I know there will also be a day he goes on strike and will be sad when the end of the day rolls around and he can't play his beloved Minecraft. We've created a situation which can motivate while being emotionally safe enough that he's not devastated. Will there likely be tears? Yep. And tears are okay. Often, they are instructive and teach us not to repeat mistakes.

Will we one day return to public school? I cannot say for certain. What I do want, though, is time and situations for him where failure is not penalized, but a learning tool. It's a fact of life that one must complete one's work before leisure and that time commitments have to be met. Better to learn that now than in high school or adulthood, right?

We keep on together, in this dance where he is learning about real life and I am learning as a teacher and we are learning about each other. I've been touched recently at a new level of consideration he has shown for me. Kiddo's perception of himself as a learner is improving, and that is worth every minute of work on my part. Knowing that he can learn, he wants to learn more. His questions become deeper. I am enjoying this time with him, knowing that it is a moment in life which we will grow beyond and leave in the past. Today, rather philosophically, my friend stated "well, if managing his time is all he learns, then that's what he needed to learn." Truer words could not have been spoken, but he-- and I-- are learning more. So much more.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bee Progress Report

Today we went outside and observed the Mason bees. The Mason bees were flying in and out of their reed tubes where they lived. We noticed the mud in two reed tubes. The female puts pollen and nectar  in a ball together inside the tube and then lays an egg on top of it. (Of course, she has to resist eating it for herself.)  She uses mud or plants or both to block of the entrance to the nest cell. The mud keeps the eggs inside the tubes until they are adults and hatch next spring. The female seals off the tube with mud to protect her eggs.

We also checked how many Mason bees had hatched. Out of our ten bee cocoons, now there is only one unhatched. We planted African daisies for the Mason bees to pollinate. Some other plants in our yard which have pollen for the bees: blueberries bushes, dandelions, the pieris shrubs in the front yard, tulips, and the cherry tree.

(This progress report was a result of a conversation between Kiddo and Mom, consulting "Pollination with Mason Bees by Dr Margriet Dogterom, and lots of dictation and refining)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kiddo's Mason Bees Progress Report

Kiddo asked to use my blog to post this. You might see little things like this from time to time because A. Mom can control the medium and B. he likes to feel he's sharing his work. 

Hi I am Kiddo and I am going to tell you how to get mason bees ! First make a budget. For example if you go to Portland nursery than your budget will probably look like this. (this was mine.)

Daisies(you plant these for the bees) 4 inch starter size 3.99 
Mason Bees(the actual bees)  price 4.99, box of ten cocoons
Reeds(you put these in the bee house) box of 25, price 8.99
Bee House(where the bees go) price 29.99

  Then you get the mason bees and the other objects you need.Then set them up facing south then wait for the mason bees to hatch!
                                          THE END                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dipping Our Toes In....

Long-term investments are my game. Last year for Christmas, Joe gave me some money to spend on myself and I brought home a big, tall, four-hook birdfeeder pole. For the past couple months, I have enjoyed the show in the backyard. Here's one of my buddies, a bushtit. They travel in groups, are rarely ever seen alone. Safety in numbers, I suppose. Cute as can be and excitement for the cats on cloudy days when they want to stay in.

In any case, one of the things about birdfeeders is that you have to wait for the birds to find it. They rarely just fly over, go 'Hey, lookie here, there's some food in that yard', and stop by. It happens more often than not that one or two birds somehow accidentally discover the goodies and then the other birds -- who are likely observing those first two- go "hey, what's that?" So, we now have a regular group of visitors: the black-capped chickadees, the bushtits, some juncos, and more. It took a while, and yes, I was a little impatient for my favorite avian visitors because you know me, I love my birdies. That said, the long-term investment is my thing. I value long friendships, long-term commitments. When I was a nanny, I toyed with the idea of becoming a doula. Ultimately, though, the idea of working myself out of a job on a regular basis meant a lot of change, and while I have learned that change is okay, as a rule, I try to cultivate consistency and stability. It's no coincidence that most of the families I worked for ended up being jobs over at least a few years.

Last month, after increasing feelings of conventional school not really meeting Kiddo's needs, Joe and talked (and talked and talked...) about the idea of doing something different. It's hard to be in a classroom where instruction happens faster than one can catch. It's hard to be in a classroom where other kids are big distractions for both the students and the teachers. Since our school district has worked to phase out what are typically called 'behavior' classes, there are a lot of children who are not getting their needs met in a standard classroom. Children who have a hard time of life in general, who need smaller groups, sheltering, and nurture from strong and caring teachers. Not as a punishment. Not because these children are bad kids-- they aren't. They are hurting kids. They have holes in their lives somewhere. I know some of their stories and they are heartbreaking. The typical classroom only becomes another hurdle to deal with. Too many children in their space and not enough loving arms to hold them. Teachers are being forced into roles more ideally suited to behavior specialists. Everyone feels the strain. This morning I walked home from drop-off after I'd had to report a full-blown fight between two youngsters on the playground. Things are not getting better for these children.

Kiddo is what one might consider a 'silent struggler'. He's not creating misbehavior, he gets along okay in class with his peers. Yet, when so many other kids are acting out, the fact that he's not keeping up with the instruction goes, in the moment, unnoticed. The rest of the class continues on with learning, and for typical learners who can keep up, this isn't a problem. For atypical learners, this can make them fall further and further behind. Self-esteem is eroded. A child declares himself 'stupid' for not being as fast and fluent as other classmates.

So when Kiddo was able to articulate that school was going 'too fast', I paid attention. Some days at school are good days, where he seems to have things down pat. Off routine, he struggles. In fact, he works so hard on a daily basis to do well at school that when he bumps into challenges, he feels bad about himself.

You would not know that this avid reader, bright-eyed boy was hurting unless you curled up with him as he was falling asleep and entered that magical time of sharing heart secrets. Or saw him wrestle with homework. Or noticed that his work doesn't always appear on the walls in the hallway with the rest of his classmates. You sort of have to be the kid's parent to notice those little things, to have that special time with a child when they drop their guard and share their world with you.

I am fortunate and blessed beyond measure to be my child's mother. We are fortunate and blessed for me to be able to be home during the day. With this little, hurting boy in mind-- a child who loves learning when it is at his own pace, broken down to his understanding--  we have decided to homeschool for fourth grade and see how things shake out. I am starting to dip my toes in already; we have been doing alternative homework for the last three weeks or so. When Kiddo chooses his homework projects, he is fully engaged. He can sit and work for far longer than he typically was able to before. His brain is hooked into his interests, he's learning things more easily because he finds the study interesting.

There are parallels to be noticed here, between myself and my child. It's easy for me to collect and remember the names of birds or plants because I am stimulated by them, fascinated, intrigued. If I see a bird I'm unfamiliar with, the information is searched out with a ferocious intensity to know. The worlds and study of birds and plants have their own esoteric languages, descriptions of attributes, their own rhythm and 'reasoning', as it were. Plants which were historically in cooler parts of the world often have more serrated leaf edges, to maximize the surface area of leaf to collect the most sunlight for photosynthesis. Flamingos are pink because they eat so much shrimp. Hummingbirds make these almost electronic sounds when they call to each other, but it's their notched tails and a speedy drop from the sky and a miraculously fast sudden rise which makes the male hummingbird's mating call.

Because I know these things, the world has become a richer, more amazing place for me to live. I want that richness for Kiddo, and I don't want to have to wait forever for him to get it. There is something so wonderful and yet so fleeting about childhood. My best memories are in the long, silent pauses in my young life. Laying in bed on a snowy night and then looking out the window to discover how bright and white everything is, almost like day. Walking alone and finding mule deer on the lava beds out in the Oregon Desert. Staying awake at night to watch a summer lightning storm and wondering if the light traveled from the sky to the ground or was it the other way around?

So many of those experiences could have been expanded on in study, exploration, and talking to those who knew the subjects better. Unit studies have always been attractive to me. It was primarily my modus operandus as a preschool teacher. We call it Emergent Curriculum-- find what the student is interested in and voila-- so much can be taught through that one theme. One of my favorite unit studies was sparked by the children's curiosity in holes. Holes. What are holes for? What is the purpose of this kind of hole, or that one? Humans and animals create holes for different reasons. My teapot has a hole for the tea to come out. Why do we have those holes in the wall? (electricity, folks!)
People have holes in their bodies, all around their bodies. Why?

Can you see I'm on fire? I'm dipping my toes in and the water is beckoning me. We will start in late June, do year-round homeschool with chunks of time off, shorter school days. Kiddo has already declared he wants to learn about Greek Mythology, so we'll start there, along with reading, writing and arithmetic. I'm assessing resources right now and things look promising. There is more room for choice for Kiddo, more room for him to take necessary breaks. "Scooter around the block two times, then come in for a snack and we'll move on to XYZ".... or doing nature studies at a park, or participating in labs at OMSI.

It's the long pauses, the long game, I want to live in. I know that education is a hot topic, no matter how you slice it. We have a long row to hoe, as it were. I want him to come out of his school years with a love of learning and not the weariness of having to manage himself in a chaotic, distracting environment. We'll still get together with his friends. We'll still see our neighbors and do things with them, just as we always have. It is great that we are so tied in with other loving adults, good friends, people to laugh with and learn from. I'm excited to see where this goes. It's not a reaction, this desire to homeschool, it's a measured response and also what Kiddo wants as well. He's been asking for it since kindergarten. It won't be easy. There will probably be more than a few days I will ask myself "what the heck am I doing?", but hey, parents have those days anyway. Just less, sometimes, if their kid is at school away from them.

I'm ready.