Monday, March 24, 2014

two outdoor experiences

So we are unschooling, which probably causes more eye rolls: what are you teaching? What are they learning? And don't even dare complain how things might not be smooth and easy. Isn't all the pressure off?

This morning we were going to a community garden with homeschooling coop to learn about plants. The trip was supposedly geared towards younger kids, but it included the boys' age range, so I figured on taking the three olders.

The boys started up about not wanting to go about ten minutes before we had to leave the house. 9 yo was pointedly planning to spend the day playing DS, so he did not have a case. 7 yo had a more nebulous complaint. I was trying to get to the bottom of it, especially since we went to this place before, and there were chickens involved that he adores, and friends, so I sort of wanted to figure out why he is resisting, but I could not get that out of him.

So we went as we were. The boys quieted down in the car, and seemed fine once we arrived. They fed the chickens and gathered up for the class. 4 yo sat down with her friends. 9 yo and 7 yo sat next to each other. 7 yo came to me because he was worried about being stung by a wasp, but I said that it is too cold for the wasps to be out ( and hoped that it was true!) As the class went on, I was impressed with the level of info being introduced: plant parts, gymnosperms and angiosperms. It was all OK till 4 yo left the class to go dig in the sand pit, and the kids were handed out clipboards. Next thing I know, 7 yo is in tears. He has to write and he is not going to do it. I said that he doesn't have to. I said that I would help him. I tried asking him just to read what he has to write. But the child decided that he is bad at it, and he is not doing any of it. He did not write, we turned in an empty clipboard (I did it  quietly, without drawing attention). Moreover, for the next half an hour he refused to participate in any activity that the group was doing. Instead he spent his time crying and complaining how he wants to sit in the car and he didn't even want to go to this place in the first place. I was trying to talk to him in the sunshine on the corner bench, out of everyone's way, but he just needed a good wallow in his misery, and a good global misery it was! After listening, after talking, after trying to reason, after distracting, after deep breathing, he was still going at it. I ran out of patience. Glorious sunshine or not, this child had major clouds and he was spreading them around! I just told him that I am not interested any more, pulled out my phone and got engrossed. He moped for a minute, and went off to join the group. By this point they moved onto matching seeds to plants game and planting. Now he was happy as a clam, and I was left with his cloud of misery.

After the class, we drove home. The  boys each brought back radish seeds in a compostable pot. 7 yo said: "So you can eat radishes any time you want, mommy, cause you like them." Aww! Then his pot got knocked over because it was left next to a tether ball... and more anger and sadness followed.

I shut the door and called a play therapist that a friend recommended. Not reaching anyone, I left a message.

One of the deals of unschooling was that boys still continue doing chumash every day. I have done chumash with 9 yo in the morning, but not with 7 yo. Frankly, by this point, I was dreading it. He said that he wanted to do it after the baby went for a nap, and stalling was just fine with me. He ate lunch, played magic school with his sister, and I was quite surprised when he popped out of the sun room and asked when the baby is going to take that nap so we can do chumash?

I put the baby down, and he asked me to do it outside. He found his spot in the chumash, read and translated the previous pasuk, remembered the Rashi we did about the dots on top of "eilav". No, we are not doing Rashi inside, but he knows that Rashi answers a lot of the questions we might have and he actually wanted to know what Rashi had to say about those dots. He read the next pasuk, and translated it with some help. He knows what's coming next in the story and I think he finds it helpful, because it is easier to guess from the context what the words mean. He also instills his own drama into the proceedings: Sarah is about to laugh, they are about to tell them about Itzhak, tumm tumm. Overall, it was such a pleasant opportunity to sit out in the sunshine with this kid and hear him eagerly read...

Some days, I feel like I am crazy. I have this kid with this wide range of emotions, and they change so fast that often I catch myself still processing the last one when encountering a whole new wave. I do not want to be his therapist. I do not want to be always on guard. I do not want to be so flexible that I am negating all that I am feeling because my child is experiencing this, and I need to be in tune to this, otherwise, the whole world comes crashing down. In the parlance of Larry Cohen, I do not want to be a perpetual second chicken.

And I just want to experience sunshine.


  1. Thank you! And, people, do go to the homeschooling conference, then you can get those hugs in person.