Thursday, April 28, 2016

Big Pumpkin!

Our baby pumpkin is 18 months!!! It's amazing how quickly time flies! Being number 4 in the family has a way of making you rather independent and chill. I'm always a little stunned to see her toddle off to play on her own then occasionally coming near me to jabber for a bit as if to explain her latest fun and then return to the task a moment later.
She's oh so snuggly, I love how she comes to just get a hug and a kiss sometimes and then wanders off to do her own thing. Her head tilts to lean in is particularly endearing and anyone who holds her can't resist snuggling in a little closer.
This girl is a chatterbox! She'll talk your ear off and if you listen carefully she's often saying full sentences. She came up to me once after having accidentally spilled water on herself with her little brows furrows and a tug at her shirt saying, "Sa-wet, sa-wet" It took me a minute but then I realized she was trying to say, "It's all wet." When I said it out loud she grinned and pointed saying, 'Yah, dat!" which just had me laughing again. There are times in the car on a longer drive she will start voicing her complaints and usually I'll tell her, "We'll be there soon!" and I hear a very audible sigh and "Sokay" in reply While she is still shy and quiet around others, she is understanding the power of communication and I have a feeling we won't get much quiet later on.

I can already see how our examples have such a powerful effect on her. The other day I was using some latex gloves to wash the dishes and clean the tables. Somewhere along the way she found one of Isaac's mittens and had stuck her tiny hand in it and grabbed a sock the kids had left laying around and proceeded to wipe down each of the kitchen chairs. Just today at the library I was anxious to get going and urged her to follow. She shook her head and proceeded to push in each of the chairs we had sat it, something I normally do but was in too much of a hurry to think about. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and she smiled and said with a tilt of her head,"Eh-come!"
In some ways she is the 'big sister' when it comes to Eli. If he's doing something he's not suppose to she's sure to point it out and 'correct' him. Any task that he is doing she often wishes to help much to his dismay. In other ways she is the adoring little sister, mimicking his jokes and games getting a giggle from everyone.
This time as the 'baby' is passing all too quickly. Part of me is so sad to realize this but the other part of me is filled with the wonder of who she'll be. Life is so much richer with her and I have a feeling she'll be an amazing young lady someday!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

First Month

We can happily say we have all survived the first month of homeschool and actually enjoyed it! While the transition to it has not been necessarily easy, I can already say that the things Kent and I hope for in our children will be better reached this way.

I've been asked by a number of friends who view our decision with mixed derision and curiosity what exactly 'drove' (and yes this word was used) us to homeschool and what in the world would we hope to accomplish by it. I think they view this weighed against the fact we have Eli with Down Syndrome and a family of four children, one with anxiety issues and another with ADHD, it does seem like only adding more weight to our load. We've actually found it to be the opposite.

Picture of impromptu lunches at the park following:

In my time teaching I knew that what I taught would very likely be forgotten, but the habits learned would not. We were seeing some negative habits in our oldest two, ones we felt would be detrimental in the long run. One is so bright he barely works to accomplish given tasks. He flys through them and has even found ways to 'cheat' the system so he works less and still get the top grade. The other child was so inundated with social drama that it was distracting from learning. Her teacher found when she was removed from it all, she preformed wonderfully on her reading and math. Both were physically exhausted but not able to sleep well. In light of all this we knew something had to change.

Since being home much has changed. There's been LOTS of physical activity, more play time and tons of reading time. They are both happier, less anxious with the run around or drama and learning in all sorts of ways.

Week one was the roughest. For Keila, she felt she was only learning if she had to do a worksheet quietly sitting still otherwise it wasn't learning at all. (another huge thought pattern that scares me to death since Kent and I have tried hard to model life long learning) Since everyone was home it was a given that they would have more work to help keep up the house, we were all irritable, me with patiently teaching them these skills, them with doing something unwanted. As the weeks have gone one, the house has stayed surprisingly neater than it was and I no longer feel the weight of keep it up. It's become team work, they have a greater appreciation of the efforts that go into it and are more careful to keep things neat. Toothpaste is no long flung to the far reaches of the bathroom, spills are cleaned up without asking, laundry is habitually folded and put away each day. We've also worked on life skills of cooking, some of which I had them learn over the summer but never had time to practice. Now they alternate making lunches at least twice a week. They love that they can decide the menu and while the repertoire is small (bean burritos, egg and cheese sandwiches, PB&J, quesadillas, bean dip) they are getting good at it and we can expand it as their skills grow. It's been predetermined that mac and cheese from scratch is next.

Isaac and I run together each morning. As long as he isn't taking any sugar in (which it's extremely apparent when he does) he hasn't needed any meds to keep the ADHD in check. He eats better and sleeps better. He has always been a sponge when it comes to learning. We go grocery shopping together and I'll have him weigh some of the items and without asking he can estimate how much it will cost us. Then of course he begins to wonder randomly how much each apple will have costed and he's begun to do division without any struggle at all. Keila is often reading as we go down the isle searching for the next item on our list. We don't have to fight or make her read it, she wants to and it seems just so natural to do so. We have a laminated calendar up on our wall because Eli has loved his so much in his class. Everyday she or Eli places the next number up, counting as we do so or noting the pattern that's there. They have LOVED the books on tape which keeps the car rides peaceful when we travel for Eli's therapies. Consequently their vocabulary has made some leaps an bounds. This was particularly evident while we listened to Anne of Green Gables. Soon Keila was referring to something being 'simply marvelous', or her brothers 'giving me great grief'. These phrases pop up often and make us laugh.

They've learned to get along better, much better. Admittedly they have been at each other's throats often but we've found a solution that seems to work for us. If they have energy to pick on or annoy each other, they have energy to work or run. We've kept play dough in the fridge so if there's a lot of frustration, they work hard to soften it and before you know it, they've moved on to the artistic task of making food for their play dough bakery. Isaac likes the sprint to the stop sign at the end of our street (visible from our front door) and it seems to have helped him on our morning runs and what's more is he is learning to add to the spirit from our home rather than to distract by little annoying tactics. Keila is learning to work through her negative emotions better. It's no fun when you are sent away for rude behavior or angry growling and yelling. Letting go is hard, but ever so much better because then you can join in the fun.

What do I picture for us in the future? In all my reading I've begun to think of homeschooling as being similar to an living organism, growing, developing, changing as it responds to the environment around and inside of it. For us right now we are in what's called the 'deschooling' or 'detox' phase. (Yes, homeschoolers have their own lingo and so I'm experiencing my own steep learning curve) Learning through play and day to day tasks is more of what is occurring. With less taxiing of kiddos to places, we've had time to take up soccer, judo and even painting. I want to teach them the basics of music and guitar. They have interests in science, history and building. Really, everything is open to us and just depends on what we want. Once the fall comes I'll start taking them to homeschool co-ops and expanding their circle of friends. Right now it's just nice to really see us as a family unit, working together, learning together, having fun making memories together. We are really becoming a team.

In the meantime I have to nod at the mom who has all her school age kids about her at the grocery store. While others wonder at us why we have them around during the day, or what makes us so very unconventional (despite our rather conventional appearance) we smile at each other with a secret smile. There are certain joys to be found only in experiencing this thing called homeschooling!