Tuesday, October 21, 2014

first day back to "school"

We took off from doing formal schoolwork over Yom Tov (although 10 yo still managed to review the whole masechet Succah and read a ton of textbooks during that time). I wanted the first day back to be gentle, all the more so since I had a morning dr appointment and I was not sure when we would get back.

making "moshiv haruach" signs
First thing that I wrote down for everyone is to make posters/reminders to add "moshiv haruach" (a special prayer for rain). I spoke a bit about it to 8 yo. The older boys copied the text from their siddurim and I was pleased to see that, for once, 8 yo was fine copying Hebrew and even spent some time decorating his wall hanging. 10 yo went all out, with block letters. I printed out a dot-to-dot umbrella for 4 yo, which contained letters of the alphabet, and a regular umbrella image for 1 yo. For a whole five minutes everyone sat at the table, coloring. I even managed to snap an idyllic picture of how it could be...

Then the boys did mineral testing for my geology class. They described their rocks, tested their hardness and magnetism, checked for reaction with vinegar and finally, smashed them with a hammer to see how they cleave. Finally, they got to try to identify their rocks using guides and Internet. I am not sure how correctly they identified their rocks, but they surely had fun!
testing rocks

checking cleavage/fracture
Tums in vinegar
 4 yo said that she wanted to do her own experiment, so I gave her Tums tablet and told her to drop it into leftover vinegar. She giggled that bubbles appeared and took time shifting it around the container. 1 yo was trying to get in on the action the entire time, snatching rocks and other supplies. It is hard to do any experiments with toddlers around, especially with toddlers who are very interested in grabbing, but not so much in looking. I almost wish he was old enough and patient enough to watch TV, so I could buy some time while he is awake to work with others.

I did some math review with 8 yo. We are in the middle of memorizing multiplication tables, and we are at sixes. We did them before the break, but every time I try to review them, he just totally melts down. I do not have a full plan for how far I am planning to review: only sixes, flashcards for sixes, flashcards for all the tables that he already knows, multiplication worksheets... I am open to getting wherever we get on any given day. Most days, unfortunately, we did not get to even looking on the chart which is prominently hanging on the wall. He just drops to the floor: "I don't know it, I cannot do it!" and that's the end of it. I tried persisting, I tried hanging back, I tried pushing, I tried talking, I tried punishing.

Larry Cohen in "The Opposite of Worry" talks about the edge and how to approach it. My child is over the edge at the mere suggestion, and he is not interested in getting back. He is in free fall, and he does not want to practice calming down techniques. He does not want to be hugged, he does not want to be held. He is not interested in learning how not to end up in free fall.

This is the point where I am finding myself despairing. I do not want medication for this child, but, often, we have no functionality. We are to meet with yet another mental health professional, in hope, yet again, that this whole process will go somewhere. I was told how all Jewish kids have anxiety. I know that I have it, and I see where my other kids have it. It is just not debilitating, same way as someone who likes to wash their hands thoroughly is different from a person suffering from OCD who cannot tolerate hands not washed to some utterly unrealistic standard.

So yesterday, I mentioned those sixes and 8 yo promptly dissolved into a puddle on the floor. I said that he should review them from the chart. 4 yo came with me and we went over that row, with him screaming behind us. Then I told him to go outside and not come back in till he's ready to review them. I offered him his shoes, but he preferred to sit on the door mat, sulking. I went on with my activities.

After 20 minutes, I heard him knocking. (The door is unlocked). I let him in, asking whether he is ready. He said that he does not want to do them. I said, I understand, but are you ready to try? He moseyed on to the chart and reviewed them. Then we reviewed them out loud, together. Then we reviewed them counting backwards. Then I pulled our just flashcards for sixes and we did those. Then, seeing that he really does know them, I said, let's go over the rest of the deck, and when I hit a card that you did not learn yet, you can yell: "I do not know it!" He giggled, but he chose to tell me politely the ones that he did not know.

He knows them all.

He knows all the multiplication tables that we have studied.

Some part of him is not ready to own up to the fact that he knows it all.

I was struck by this week's parsha, Breishit. Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge because they wanted instantaneous, magical knowledge of the matters which one normally would acquire through a lot of effort. My son's line is that he just wants to know it already. He wants the tree, and he wants the fruit. Consequences are irrelevant.

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