I had a bit of a stress meltdown at the end of this last week. Actually, the week of home schooling was a reasonably good one. I think that the added stress of Andrew being in job hell, working crazy and unpredictable hours, not being home pretty much at all during waking hours (and many sleeping ones) just put me on edge. Home schooling is a wonderful experience in many ways so far, and I can already see the bond between Alli and I deepening and some of the everyday struggles between us easing as a result of this new sense of partnership. I am also becoming more aware of the tremendous opportunity we have to both work through some of the challenges Alli still faces and really engage some of the amazing strengths she has – both areas that I think aren’t possible to do under the confines of school. But it’s also still a huge adjustment for both of us. For me, without a partner in parenting this last week of Andrew’s work insanity, the 24/7 intensity of being teacher and parent felt incredibly heavy. Andrew and I often move as one in our marriage partnership, and we haven’t had much time to connect on this new experience – really bad timing with this big transition in our lives and the crises at his workplace. It’s also caused us to fall behind on a lot of non school-related stuff at home, which tends to stress me out as well.
Of course, both Alli and I are still adjusting from being a part of a greater school community – Alli seems to have adjusted to this easily (as she makes connections with others far more easily than I do); for me, it feels right now a bit like I have taken on a new job but without coworkers for chatting, sharing and commiserating. We’re continuing to work on developing relationships with the home school community, and are making headway, although this takes time. Classes are starting to kick in little by little and will be in full swing over the next week or two, so I know that will increase our sense of community. In general, I have found area home schooling families to be very generous with the sharing of resources and support. But it’s also a group where everyone’s philosophies and approaches are different, and folks tend to be somewhat protective of talking about the specifics of what they do (and also a little bit in who they allow into their already well-functioning close networks of friends). I’m used to being incredibly open, and like the process of sharing this kind of detail and bouncing ideas off others as part of the support process – something that I haven’t necessarily found a group of peers yet to do that with quite to the degree that I’m craving. While there are many things I like about the flexibility of our 1:1 time, I still harbor a desire for a bit more co-operative schooling model, and I haven’t really come across the right fit and interest level for that yet either.
Anyhow, I’m hopeful that as Andrew’s work settles down and we continue to find our groove on this new path, things will settle into a good place. I am looking forward to getting a sense of how things feel with our new schedule of classes, and have noted already that once I get a sense of things I need to devote some energy to finding more time and space for “me” in all of this.
Balance. I think this week just felt a little unbalanced for me.
But really, it wasn’t such a bad week. We had a great field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday, and Andrew was miraculously able to join us with only a few urgent phone interruptions, although he still pretty much worked a full day, working well into the night upon our return home (long story, one which has me ready to unionize the IT field). I’m so glad we waited to hit the Harry Potter exhibit (nice exhibit, btw) until school was in session – made the whole museum a much more manageable place for Alli and I, both crowd-phobes. Alli no longer refers to it as “the loud museum” – she had pretty much the run of everything she wanted to do, and had a great time. We came home with some owl pellets that we’ll probably be dissecting this week in an effort to see what kinds of things owls eat. Sweet.
We continue to forge along in Math, and I’m blown away by how strong Alli’s thinking skills in the number theory arena are. She really gets some pretty advanced, well beyond her years concepts, and it makes for some really fun problem-solving and discussion. Still, there are some mechanics we need to hit on so that she can do some of the more advanced things that she’s craving to do. So we’re working on things like building more automaticity in basic operations to support her in that. We continue to play a lot of games, and we’ve had 2 sessions of the multi-age Math Games sessions I’m running weekly for a small group at the public library. That has been going well, and I’ve gotten great feedback from the families participating. I enjoy supporting the kids as they learn to work together, and it’s a great experience for Alli too. She’s exerting more patience and more willingness to be a mentor to other kids, which is a lovely thing to watch develop. Her competitive need to trounce others when playing them in games? Well, that is still a work in progress…
We’ve also mainly kept up with some form of writing every day, and continue to focus on editing skills. This week Alli also created a spelling list from words she’d accumulated (she jots down words she comes across that she either doesn’t know or wants to learn more about or wants to challenge herself with), and she had to be able to provide definitions for them as well as take a little spelling quiz (the latter was at her request). Despite her strong spelling skills, she does still struggle (and resist) looking things up in the dictionary (I think dealing with alphabetical order poses a challenge to her still), so I’ve added a little bit of focus and support in this area for her. We’ve also continued a lot of reading, silent and aloud, and have started the book for our upcoming Mother/Daughter book club meeting (Wednesday Wars), the content of which is occasionally a bit above Alli (she’s just under the general age range for the book club girls – plus the book is set in the late ’60’s with several Vietnam War references), but it’s well written and funny and with some support and extra discussion, she is engaged.
Alli’s also been working on some crafts that she’d like to sell for a homeschool craft fair in December, so she’s put some of her planning, sewing and crochet skills to work again this week. Choir started too, and piano resumes Monday, with art class starting the following week – so I’m glad that the arts are feeling more integrated into her day. I have officially committed to resuming my Halloween seamstress duties (skipped a few years by buying costumes), so I guess I’ll be having to nurture my rather lacking skills soon to come up with some form of vampiress costume.
Thursday we went to an area nature center with the goal of trying some geocaching, but as the equipment was down, we had to settle for checking out an “Explorer’s Backpack” for a nature hike with a great new friend/fellow homeschooling family that both Alli and I connect with. Alli and Noelle were given complete responsibility for navigating the guide and map, and got us all back to the finish line with only one minor directional debate (and a fair number of insect bites)- a productive afternoon of exploring!
Our project this week was inspired by our visit to the Science & Industry museum, yet one more place where Alli got absorbed in an exhibit about outer space and demonstrated her obsession with size, distance and scale. A perfect opportunity for some integrated learning! While discussing whether we could construct our own scale model of the solar system, I offered up the task of finding out using real numbers, and Alli was all in. With little support, she was able to find the diameters and distances from the sun for all of the planets (she included Pluto, but isn’t sure whether she really wants to include it – an ongoing debate that makes me giggle every time), and she input all of the information into an Excel spreadsheet. I gave her a little help in then setting up a formula to convert the large mile measurements into smaller centimeter scale measurements, in such a way that she could simply play around with the scale factor and it would recalculate all of the formulas for her. She really got this concept, and could predict with surprising accuracy what would happen to the numbers when she changed the scale up or down. We then got sidetracked by her trying to prove or disprove a fact that she’d taken in from a book that she read – that Jupiter was almost 1.5 times bigger than all of the rest of the planets combined – because we had built a “how much bigger/smaller than Earth” column from just the diameter that wasn’t showing this (her quote: “Excel must be wrong then, because how could they publish a book that had something wrong in it?” – LOVED that!). Anyhow, I had to go a bit above her head finally for this one and build for her a “volume” formula for spheres, but we ultimately were able to support the books assertion, and my child could not have been more delighted with herself.
We moved on to reach the conclusion that we could not use the same scale for the size of the planets as we used for the distance from the sun and come up with a model that would fit on our street block. Conclusion: it is NOT possible to build an actual scale model of the solar system in which the planets would all be even as big as a pinhead but the distances could be contained to even several street blocks. An awesome piece of learning, and a lot of fun! We might still do some form of model at some point, but we learned that we’d have to use a different scale for planet size than for planet distance, and we learned that the exhibits we’ve seen at museums thus far have all had to do that as well.
One more little artifact – I found this later in the week and realized that Alli must have written it just after she watched Obama’s speech to kids on Tuesday. She told me she wanted to ‘take notes’, but apparently it morphed into this. So cute. (Btw, the ‘principle’ she’s referring to is one of the 7 principles affirmed by Unitarian Universalism – the adult version has to do with the “inherent worth and dignity of each person” – Alli knows it as “we’re all equal and valuable”). I find it so interesting to see what she takes away from various experiences in her life – referring here to both Obama’s speech and her experiences in UU religious education:
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