Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homeschool Report: Week 32--I Mean 31B

Here at the tail end of the school year, would you like a peek inside our ordinary day? Just a warning, it may not inspire or encourage. Hopefully it will not cause you to turn away in disapproval, but I tell myself I don't seek your approval anyway.

So far today we have learned about Judas Maccabee and the origins of Hanukkah. This is new for me, and I really enjoy learning the story for myself. I think about digging up 8 candles and lighting them to show a visual for the Menorah which would likely turn into a fun 90 minute pyro experiment on the back porch involving testing every piece of flora and trash in the back yard for flammability. But when I take a breath the kids ask, "Is that it for the lesson?" I answer, "Yes..." and one bolts for the Lego room and the other dives behind an armchair to snatch a few more words from the latest Warriors book and I decide to be happy with having finally addressed last Wednesday's lesson.

Boo's painting from a craft party last weekend

I consider panicking that we must now finish three more lessons by Friday in order to finish the history course by the end of May. Instead I fantasize about spending the next two days catching up on timeline and reviewing facts from earlier in the year, and allow myself a choice from two more palatable options: choose three lessons to skip in the next four weeks, or fudge the end of school.

In reality, I think we will both skip lessons and end the school year early, without completing the timeline. But I still have hope that in the end we will have created a host of pegs on which to hang future learning experiences set in the BC era. So I shrug, cross my fingers that I am right, and keep trudging through the lessons.

Next I direct kids into math activities. My brilliant, creative 4th grader is moving into multiple digit multiplication and long division, and still using an abacus and hashes on paper to count her way to solutions. So before today's lesson we just review simple facts up to 9 x 5. Today all the 2's represent watermelon vines, the 3's represent ears of corn per stalk, 4's represent peas per pod, and 5's represent fingers per hand. It may help, I can't tell. Two times through the review, then I set her up at the table with today's lesson, a pencil, and headphones to block distractions. I take the other two kids upstairs and challenge her to complete the lesson (5 practice problems and 22 graded cumulative problems) in 30 minutes.

The math corner in Boo's room

Lulu plays happily with manipulatives from the math bin while I introduce Rooster to subtraction. He catches on with lightning speed and soon grabs the flash cards from my hand so he can go through them faster--both sides. He also takes to the Learning Wrap-Ups like a duck to water, wrapping cord around keys to solve simple subtraction problems. At the end of 30 minutes I set him up with a time-telling game on my iPhone and go check on Boo. She has ditched the headphones and left me a note with an arrow: "Room". Hash marks cover the entire first page of the lesson; she has completed a single practice problem.

I offer to talk her through some of the problems, and she gets through half the set in 10 minutes. I see the remaining problems include four long division and the rest geometry (her favorite). So I leave her and go make lunches. I also have an enjoyable ABC flash card session with 3 year old Lulu, who, as it turns out, already knows most of her letters.

Two hours later I notice the kids playing counting games with money, and let the task-mastering slide. Then i notice Boo has finally gotten dressed and eaten lunch, but she sits reading in her armchair, insisting she cannot finish the problem set without me. How much do you help, as a parent? She is brilliant; I can't tell if the genius is locked up in the attention-deficit, or if she is just too lazy to try. Some days I try yelling; some days I try not yelling. Sometimes she responds with anger and fits, sometimes it comes out with tears and remorse. It all leads to the same end of non-productivity. This is where I am so stuck, and burned out on this kid.

Meanwhile, Rooster has built Lego machines, played bubbles with Lulu, and now sits in the garage powering a computer fan with some doodads he found out there. Perhaps later he will play in the neighborhood, but he is really hoping Boo will finish math soon so they can play on the Wii.

At 2:00, battle weary, I finally promise that for every minute she finishes before a 45 minute timer goes off, she may play for a minute on the computer. She finishes in 15 minutes. Odds are better than even I would have let her play anyway, but the challenge got the job done. And I declare this ordinary school day over, despite a lack of any language practice outside of Boo's pleasure reading. Rooster gets to start his Wii time, and I need to move on to my own agenda if I can focus on it. At this point I don't even enlist their help for dishes, I just need to get the job done.

We are moving in a month and it's time to start packing in earnest. What's more, we will be having open house most of this weekend to coincide with the new builders' Parade of Homes, so it's time to whip this house back in order. And it's Tuesday Wednesday already. If only I still cared...

I do care. A lot. But do you find sometimes that pretending apathy helps reduce your perception of stress? I suppose that sounds the same as an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. Which is where I probably am at this minute. Unfortunately, life experience has already taught me, that leads to greater stress later.

As I keep reminding myself, all my momentary stress is voluntary, and for a good cause. And I have hired a neighbor to tend my yard before the weekend, leaving me free to focus on the inside and perhaps some flowers in the front beds. It will get done.

Now, what to do with the kids for the next 90 minutes? Maybe it's time to turn them outside with eight candles and a match book.

Don't worry, I supervised.

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