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.