Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To School, or Not To School?

For the second or third time since becoming the mother  of a school-aged-child in 1991, we have opted to homeschool.  The very first time, our dear oldest daughter was trying out public school after several years in a private Christian school.  Her third grade year was fine--she knew a lot going in.  Fourth grade brought myriad problems as our daughter's hip, young teacher was very quick to tell her Jesus was a religious figure and ABSOLUTELY NOT a historical figure.  We fixed that.  Then I caught the teacher screaming (literally, and name-calling) at our daughter in the nurse's office--she had no idea the phone on the nurse's desk was off the cradle and I was on the other end of it.  After a very direct meeting the next morning with the teacher and her boss, we fixed that one, too.  But fifth grade was another story.  We were no longer dealing with religious issues--these people were making our daughter dumb.  And it was only the second week of school!

Somewhere along the way, our local elementary school convinced our daughter that quantity was better than quality.  The teacher reported happily that our girl was smart as a whip and completed all her work, and then some.  One day, while sifting through her Friday folder, a social studies test caught my eye.  I was thinking it was one for the refrigerator since it had a great big 100% at the top.  And then I looked closely:  Our daughter believed Pennsylvania was the capital of Philadelphia and so did her teacher.  (The converse isn't even true--it's Harrisburg!)  There were several other--five in all--equally ridiculous answers marked correct.  I ordered a fifth-grade curriculum over the weekend and she never went back to that school.  At some point, she went back to her former private school.

The next time we attempted homeschooling--about a year later--was a disaster and some of the children are still in therapy.  The baby was in the playpen; the preschooler was learning her letters; the first grader DESPISED reading; the fourth grader kept feeding his pencils to the dog; and the sixth grader (dear oldest daughter) was just trying to do the right thing.  And then I turned up pregnant.  The poor kids didn't know which way was up!  Half the time I was Mary Poppins and the other half I was Cruella de Ville.  Then, one day, my precious husband walked in early from work and after looking at his children's tragic expressions, said the most beautiful words:  "Call Cape Christian and see if they'll take all of them on Monday."  They did.

I am no longer Mary Poppins or Cruella de Ville, 11 years have flown by since then, and there's no way on earth I'm turning up pregnant again.  This brings us to our current homeschool experience, a story that will come in just a short day or so.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Harder Than I Thought...

This is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought.  I don't mean having the grandboy with us; I mean, packing him to go home.  I will allow that it has been very busy at our house for the past three weeks.  His mother has been gone, and we have had to add the wants, needs and habits of a potty-training, nap-forsaking two-year-old to an already almost impossible schedule.  (Did I mention we have also agreed to adopt our daughter's six-month-old lab?)

Our grandboy spent the first week of his adventure adjusting.  He, like a tiny preschool liquid filling the spaces in an existing container, poured himself into our home and hearts.  He was compliant and pretty flexible.  He became less picky about his food, hung out with his older aunts and uncles, didn't assert himself very much and was generally well-behaved.  In short, he went with the flow. 

Then, the slippery slope, the point at which he began to create the flow.  We think he spent his first week observing our behavior and storing data.  His tendrils sought out the chinks in our armor, the weak spots in our hearts.  He is absolutely the youngest unschooled--but very accomplished--psychoanalyst we have ever met.  Bumpie and I were completely unprepared for this savvy new generation of toddler.  He became enamored of his beautiful aunts, and ran to them at even the suggestion of discipline from us.  He decided to use his little blue potty only when he wanted candy, forced the girls to stay awake with him when he couldn't sleep (once until 5:20 a.m.) and trapped Bumpie in his web of sticky fingers and cute baby words.  None of us tired of him, though; not once has he been a pain.

I thought I would be okay about packing his things.  But as I folded his tiny clothes and sorted his little wee toys, I began to long for the child who was still here.  I lingered over his sippy cups, smelled his no-tears baby soap.  Like his mother and Uncle Raymond, he hid a most odd assortment of objects in secret places.  I couldn't help smiling at their discovery.  In a compartment in his riding toy I found the dog's baby, a flat-head screwdriver, a soda bottle wrapper, purple Mardi Gras beads and a hairbrush.  In a cabinet, we found some crackers, the Wii remote, a shoe, some batteries, a comb and a fork.  I am sure there are undiscovered treasures yet to be found.

Yesterday, a few chicks hatched here.  He promptly named them after his brother, his grandfather and his aunt.  The chicks are named:  Baby Miam (Liam), Baby Bumpie and Baby Aunt Mawie (Molly). 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Importance of Being Scheduled

Having little ones on schedules is really important.  We live in a scheduled society, and unless we are fortunate enough to design our days without input from life's demands, they are good for us.  Rigidity is not good, but as our children grow, the notion that things just happen when they happen, doesn't serve them.  It hinders them.  (Refer to the beginning of sentence #2:  We live in a scheduled society.)  They become people who arrive places--like work--when they feel like it and lose entire days without accomplishing anything.  I am not opposed to losing a day here and there as a mental health fix, but if some type of order isn't followed, a day becomes several, becomes a week, a month, a year, a lifetime.

I have found that having the grandboy here helps me keep a schedule.  I don't think his mother will be very happy to know that he goes to bed much later than he's used to and, thus, sleeps much later.  You see, I am a morning person and she is a night owl.  I need the wee hours to make things happen in the house, and in my work.  That way, I belong to my family when they wake up.  We do keep regular mealtimes for both the kids and the animals here at Open Hand Farm (that's us) but most activities tend to start later and wind down later here.

In the bigger and extended-out sense, kids who don't value compartments of time, will become adults who don't value compartments of time.  I declare this entire discussion null and void as it relates to the people predisposed to completing tasks--I think they will naturally create the schedule that works for them.  I also know that if you give a baby the opportunity, he will create his own schedule and, initially, it will revolve around the basics--sleeping and eating.  (Could you see a little baby's TO DO list?  Wake up, eat, drift back off to sleep, wake up, play, poop, eat lunch, sleep, wake up, eat, play with sibs, cry while the rest of the family tries to eat supper, play with Daddy, bath, late night snack, sleep.)  My mom came from the school that told mommies to wake their babies up EVERY FOUR HOURS on the button or they would grow up to be delinquents.  Guess what?  I still grew up to be a delinquent.  (I'm much better now.  LOL)  I don't actually think the schedule had anything to do with it.  

All this to say:
1.  Schedules are good.
2.  The schedule that suits your family is the best one.
3.  Like it or not, we live in a world ordered by time and, thus, schedules.