Monday, April 7, 2014

my homeschooling style

It took me a few years, but I think I finally settled down on a homeschooling style. It will give all the newly-minted homeschool moms jitters: how can you go through all this time and NOT KNOW which way you are planning to educate your kids? They think that if you have been doing it for a while, which usually means longer than they have been doing it, that you have it all figured out.

Drum roll, please...

My homeschool style is "Whatever Works at the Moment". I think I will patent it and hand it out to people on a little card. Maybe "Fly by the Seat of Your Pants" sounds better, but then people will assume that I wear pants. But, seriously, some days it is structured, and some days it is a total free-for-all. 

I stayed up late last night writing up a rough schedule for today. My assistant was supposed to be coming, so I was planning on taking the older kids to paint some pottery for Pesach (with a Groupon, of course), and then I was going to come home and take the baby to his physical therapy evaluation. I even asked my assistant to stay a bit longer, so that I would have time to get back.

This morning, it was very stormy. I also arose at 6 am, not of my free will, to discover that the mini sump pump that pumps water from the perimeter of the house and prevents it from being flooded is not working and the alarm is blaring. So, using whichever brainpower I had sans caffeine, I saw that the power was off and the battery ran down. The pressure to prevent the basement from flooding was enormous. Thankfully, once I flipped the breaker switch and reset the system, the pump started churning again. I felt like I could sit down and start drinking right then and there. Oh, and my husband was on call overnight, so I figured I have to give this thing a good shot before calling him because what is he going to do, from miles away?

After this little event, I was in no rush to bring in the kids for breakfast, except for baby. When they finally came up and opened the blinds, they were treated to a view of a giant puddle right in the middle of out front lawn. Immediately, 9 yo got dressed and got his rain gear on; he just had to go out there exploring. A homeschooling friend just posted about how not every activity will have a tangible result and I knew that the only tangible results I will see are the mud puddles in the entryway.

When he did come back, I heard how he examined the overflowing pit, saved earthworms from a certain death down the sewer, even looked at the rain gauge (2 1/2 inches overnight). I knew that on some level, going out there, into this storm was very important to him. 

His brother did not follow so quickly. He probably would have stuck with the list, but now he felt that he had to match his brother.

When it was time to daven, 7 yo threw a fit about too much noise from the rain. An excuse? A real disturbance? I don't know, but I was working pretty hard on getting the baby to nap before his appointment. Then I got a text that my assistant's daughter is sick, so she is probably not going to make it. Scratch painting pottery and try to figure out what to do with the older kids during the appointment. 9 yo did his chumash (we started on Vayeshev). He asked me why in one pasuk Yakov is called Yakov and in the next, Israel. I explained the possible national significance of what is happening. Rashi did not comment on that. Then he did Lashon HaTorah and filled in 10 blanks for his mishna teacher. His last activity was to clean out two utensil drawers in the kitchen for Pesach. He did it, too quickly, so I had to encourage him to do it better.

7 yo told me that he is worried about Lashon HaTorah. Then he said he is worried about Chumash. Then he moped. Then he yelled. Then he did Lashon HaTorah, as long as he wrote 7 lines and I wrote 7. I thought we would finish with this partial writing business by now, but we do whatever works.

Then he refused to do Chumash, and I felt all my patience wearing thin. Then I got a text that my assistant is surely not making it. As I was trying to feed lunch to 4 yo and the baby before heading out, I got a call that my MIL will not be making it to watch kids later duirng tae kwon do. Ok, scratch all the plans, be flexible, deal with it,

We drove to the appointment. In the good news, chances are that my son is only a month or so delayed, so hopefully it means no therapy is necessary. I did not like the therapist: she kept talking how her daughter walked late. My kids walk late too; I am not concerned about that, I am concerned about the way he holds his foot and how he's not cruising. Then she said, it is probably not CP (cerebral palsy) since he can flex his foot so well. Then asked me about tremors and said that she possibly saw one when he threw the ball. I only saw a baby who was very excited to throw a ball. She started mentioning seizures, which he does not have... I feel that she was the anxious mother's nightmare. 

But she also said something interesting: since 4 yo came along, she was very interested in all the toys and was building a wall with the giant blocks. She said how people bring in their kids and they need to get tested on whether they can stack up blocks and then the mother says: but he's never played with blocks before, so it is a good idea to have all the necessary equipment at home. Apparently, even in PT evaluation there is a need to "teach to the test". We have come far.

In the meanwhile I am getting a phone call from the boys. They served themselves lunch (graham crackers and peanut butter) and now they want to watch TV. I asked whether all the kitchen drawers were done and they said, um, no....

When I got home just a few minutes later, I sent them back for some baby carrots, to round off their lunch. 9 yo finished his half of the drawers, but his brother resisted. Eventually, it boiled down to him not being sure how to do these drawers, so we did them together. Then he really wanted to watch TV with his older brother but we still had to do Chumash. I took a deep breath. I poured myself a cup of tea. I snuggled with him on the couch. I offered options. I was patient. He absolutely refused. When he believes he cannot do it, nothing on this fine earth will make him do it. His new scream: I do not belong in this world. 

I ran out of my patience. Maybe if I had my assistant, maybe if he did not throw fits earlier, maybe if 9 yo would not have gone outside, maybe if I was annoyed at going to the not-so-helpful therapist, I could have tapped into larger reserves of patience. But instead I felt like hitting him over the head. 

It is almost time for tae kwon do. We will not be going next week because of Pesach, and the boys might need this workout today. The baby is sleeping, but I hope he awakes on his own. My husband will probably not make it back in time to pick up the boys, so I will need to scheme and figure out something to do with the littles while the boys train. The nearby park is wet. It is too early in the week for farmer's market. The baby will not sit still in Starbucks if I decide to get 4 yo a hot chocolate.

Yes, this is "whatever works" homeschooling.

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