All posts by Terry Holt

Second Thoughts about Homeschooling

Some days, I indulge second thoughts about our decision to homeschool our seventh grader. I think about the friends she doesn’t get to see in the hallways. The experiences she’s missing. Grumbling about homework with her peers. School dances. Stealing glances at your school crush.

And I worry about the future. What if she chooses to remain a homeschooler, and decides not to attend high school? I think about a girl who may not go to a prom. Who won’t be sent to the dean/principal’s office when she screws up, and doesn’t get to learn that valuable lesson about cheating/skipping class/getting caught smoking or making out in the hallway.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s getting experiences. And social. And there are opportunities for proms and school dances for homeschoolers. And so much more. Unhooking her from the system frees her up to experience a world of learning opportunities I certainly never had access to. But I’m hard-wired to visualizing her having those same positive and negative experiences *I* had in public schools. I have to let go of those expectations, disassociate from them, to help her find her own unique path. I admit — I find that challenging some days.

And it makes me wonder, every day, if I’m doing right by her.

But then there’s days like today. K learned a new song with her piano teacher, and she came right home and has been working on playing that song for hours now. She has the music in front of her, but she’s transposing the music up and down the keyboard in different keys. For fun. Sure, she’s totally procrastinating doing her physics homework that’s due tomorrow, and I’ll have to deal with that soon. But that’s typical behavior anyway, and I can handle that. But she’s working hard. Right now, she’s fighting the physics homework, but tomorrow she’ll enjoy going to the class for homeschoolers and seeing her new friends. And when she comes home? She will beg me for quiet alone time so she can get back to her writing. She’s participating in National Novel Writing Month. She’s almost 18,000 words into her novel, and her goal is 50,000.

Since August, she has not had ONE pill for ADHD. Her total books read thus far is 32. And I know she’s missing things in middle school. But on the other hand, I know she’s learning a lot, every day. And I think the pace we are setting is totally realistic and do-able for the way she learns, even though we’re taking the month of November off to, ya know, write a novel.

I ask her every week if she still agrees with this decision.

And every week, without hesitation, she says, with feeling, “Yes!”

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“Over the Rainbow” in the key of G, and F#…

The Futility of School Lunch Prep

 

Lunch: 2 pepperoni. One bite of sandwich. Half cup, juice, and 2 bites of apple.
Lunch: 2 pepperoni. One bite of sandwich. Half cup of juice, And 2 bites of apple.

I make my pre-kindergartener a beautiful, well-balanced lunch to go in his robot lunchbox. Every day. Seriously. This morning, the yumminess included a deli sandwich with German bologna, American cheese, and pepperoni, all on fresh panne bread. Plus, dried apricots, Trader Joe’s Cheesy Poofs, Blueberries, and fruit juice in his matching robot bottle.

Every day, I wonder why I bother.

My son is picky. And he’s probably so busy talking the ears off the kids around him, opining endlessly about super heroes, that there just isn’t time to eat lunch. He might eat the cheesy poofs. And drink the fruit juice. He might even pick the pepperoni out of his deli sandwich to snack on. But if I’m really honest with myself? I’m really not expecting that he will eat most of the food I provide him.

I used to do the same thing for the girls, when they brought lunches to school. Before I gave in to the much simpler choice of paying the school to provide nutritionally inferior school lunches. I would buy/prepare wholesome foods for my kids. Pack it lovingly into lunch boxes, sometimes with a note, because I suffer from that horrible sickness where I have to tell my kids EVEN IN THEIR LUNCH BOXES that I love them. And most of the food would return home, mushed up in the lunchboxes, uneaten. For two years, the middle child even renounced sandwiches altogether. I got creative. I made deli roll-ups. Pasta with chicken. I cooked hot dogs, and cut them up, mixing them with macaroni. I filled thermoses with hot foods every morning.

My efforts, for the most part, went sorely unappreciated. Over the years, I’ve thrown out so many room-temp yogurt containers, half-eaten applesauce cups, quality-made deli sandwiches, and one-bite apples that the starving children in China from my parents’ threats in the 1970s are still sending me hate mail back through time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am one of the following. Or quite possibly all of the following:

  1. An eternal optimist. Someday, he will hunger and discover that I make tasty lunches! And he will eat ALL of his lunch! And glory in the energy and power of his well-fed body! He will defy gravity with his bounds on the playground!
  2. A hypocrite. Maybe I’m just making these lunches as proof to the teachers that I really am a good mother. I might not brush his hair for a week or clean the dirt out of his too-long fingernails on a monthly basis, but I care about his nutrition!
  3. A bit of a masochist.

I’m already looking forward to next year, to Kindergarten! When I can begin sending my son to elementary school with lunch money so he can get the damn school lunch.

Homeschooling & ADHD: A Distracted Day

Today was frustrating yet filled with learning. I knew there would be days like this, when I’d end the day worn down to a nub. What I didn’t expect, though, is the feeling of empowerment and validation that comes from getting through it.

Our day of learning starts off with my compromising on the start time. K was working on an art project in her room: making her bed into a fort. Which I fully support because I am 44, and damn it, I want a fort too.

“Cool. Middle School sure wouldn’t let me start late to make a fort!” she says gleefully, bounding back to her room to finish the awesome fort of awesome.

We start an hour late, after she’s fed herself breakfast and a snack. Pre-Algebra gets done in an hour and a half. It should take 30 minutes. But she’s up every 15 minutes to get more food. Yogurt. Raspberries. Cheese sticks. Goldfish. Three food groups into her belly. Yay! Bowls and cups start to collect around her work station at the dining room table.

I remind her of the History that’s due Wednesday, and I ask to see the notes she’s been working on from the two chapters she’s been reading. She can’t find them. This is classic behavior, and something she really struggles with — organization and having a process/method. Executive Functioning skills! I have to help her get on top of this. Starting now. Even though it’s not on the schedule. In retrospect, this was folly.

So, we find a permanent place for notes to live (no loose-leaf paper anymore!), and I tell her to start over with the first chapter, skimming through the material she’s already read, and taking notes. It’s a consequence. But she really needs to learn the lesson that using a consistent methodology for note-taking while reading is crucial. Nine pages of reading/note taking. I actually figured she’d get it done in an hour, tops. Because obviously I didn’t really think that through. Those of you who have or have children with ADHD may now snicker at me.

Reading/taking notes on a subject you’re not passionate about is incredibly hard for kids with focus challenges. After the first 20 minutes of redirection and watching her struggle to focus, I bring her some tactile toys. A balloon filled with flour to play with. A jar of Floam. She gets back to work. Ten minutes later, she’s somewhere floating in the solar system, her eyes glassy and dreamy. I give her an elastic for her wrist, so she can snap herself back to Earth. I bring her protein in the form of deli meat roll-ups and slices of cheese. After she eats about half of it, she returns to work. But not long after, she’s above the clouds again. I direct her to the piano, to work on her scales. She plays some scales, figures out the vocal part of “What does the fox say?” and then sits back down to work.

It’s 2:30pm, and I’m wishing I hadn’t assigned this consequence. Because there are still 2 more subjects to get through today. Plus practice work in math and French. I’ve been busy preparing lessons and reviews for the week, but I keep my eyes on her as much as I can, redirecting her with a glance, a raised eyebrow. Three hours in, she is finally finished.

She does the French lesson while I’m away doing errands with the other two kids. She texts me in French while I’m gone. Which reminds me that I really do need to stay a step ahead of her! (“Est le chat noir?” she asks. I reply “Oui! Le chat est noir”) When we return, K still has 3 assignments to do. We put on classical music in the background, and she gets through the assigned work for math. She copies the French vocabulary words into her notebook.

She takes a break to sit down at the piano with her sister, and they play “What does the fox say?” with L belting out the lyrics. RockStar runs into the room at the perfect time, making very un-fox-like sounds.

Her last subject today is science, which is one of her favorites. She read a book on Edwin Hubble Friday, and today she has to write a one-page biographical report. She gets through 1/2 of her report, and there is still the homework that is due tomorrow. But it’s almost 6pm, and I have a meeting at L’s school in 10 minutes. K is toast, the husband is busy finishing up dinner, and I’m out of time. I push the due date back on her assignments.

School ends with a hug. Some days are just going to be exhausting. But she hasn’t had ritalin since we started. And, most importantly, she is still smiling at me. SHE is still convinced that we are doing the right thing.

The littler kids are in bed by 8:30. K is allowed to read until 9:30, and then she will turn her light off and sleepily come into our room to say goodnight before returning to the fort of awesome.

The day is done. Even though I feel like I borked the schedule, was too inflexible, and didn’t achieve the goals I had set, I think I’m just going to forgive myself, eat some ice cream and watch some frivolous comedy with Allen. Tomorrow is a fresh, new day.

Homeschool doesn’t have to take place at HOME

Today in homeschooling, we did consumer math.

And by “consumer math” I mean that we went to Market Basket.

On the way to the store, I shared the story of Market Basket. She learned terms such as profit shares, a living wage, controlling interest, corporate structures, corporate greed. We talked about store loyalty, and what it means when workers strike. What havoc boycotting a business can wreak. How customer support can make or break a company. In short, I was damn eloquent.

Then we discussed shopping on a budget. Taxes. Being frugal. I challenged her to pick out a number of items, satisfying at least 2 different food groups. She could only spend $5. She had to get as close to $5 as possible without going over to get a prize. She spent $4.64 on items in dairy and fruit. So, her grade would be a $92.8%. That’s a B+. Not bad.

And the best part? I got help with the groceries.

WIN.

 

On the Eve of Homeschooling Day One

It is bedtime, the day before the start of the school year. Two of our kids are abed. The soon-to-be 5th grader is trying to settle down, even though she’s so excited about school that she will toss and turn most of the night. Her new clothes are laid out with precision by her bureau, her backpack waits by the door. The pre-kindergartener is already asleep. You can barely see the outline of his little form, lost among the pillows and the dozen stuffed animals who accompany him to dreamland.

The oldest, however, keeps bouncing guiltily into the living room, and then sulking away when I look up from my book and give her my patented mommy stink eye.

She’s supposed to be in bed. But, unlike all the other school nights that preceded this one, I’m not enforcing bedtime very stridently this time. I’m kinda enjoying watching her struggle with this concept. She knows that the early morning school alarms aren’t for her. Homeschooling starts tomorrow.

Finally, she flits into the room and sits down beside me, her eyebrows furrowed.

“I can’t sleep.”

I put my book away.

“So,” she says, sweeping her hair out of her eyes to glance at me sideways. “How is this homeschooling thing going to work, because, well… you’re my mom?”

“Well, for comparison’s sake, how does the dynamic with your teacher usually work in the classroom?”

She thinks for a minute. “We sit there in our seats, and our teacher is like… the sun. She (or he) shines the information onto us, and we are like plants, soaking it in.”

“Good analogy. And you are expected to be rooted there, in your seats, right?”

“Uh, yes.”

“And be nice and still, like good little plants?”

“Definitely.”

“Well, for one thing, you’re going to take a much bigger role in your learning. Because you are about finished with being a passive recipient of information, right?”

She nods, uncertainly

“So then. How would you like us to work, in our homeschool?”

She blurts out, with barely a pause, “Can I.. have breaks? Can I eat? Can I play music while learning? Can I learn JAVA programming? Can I homeschool in my pajamas?”

I’m nodding the whole time, smiling at her.

She continues, a little breathlessly. “And, I mean, what if I answer your questions with sarcasm? I can’t do THAT in school. Will that be OK?”

“You know our family. Sarcasm is definitely, without a doubt, forbidden.”

*she grins*

I think we’re going to have a wonderful year.

*waving goodbye to her little sister, who is off to enjoy her first day of school*