Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Boy Child Vulnerablity

My son stands in the door way, framed by the morning light. He has paused to look in at the baby before heading to the bathroom. He is so scrawny and gawky now. His thin arms seemed to bend awkwardly at the elbows. His skinny knees turned in towards each other. His ribs protrude out over his enclaved stomach. I often joke that he looks like a starved child. This morning his thinness does make me laugh or joke. It makes my breath catch in my throat. Early morning risings for this child always make me nervous, anxious. Is he about to fall to the ground in a seizure? If I ask if he's okay, he'll roll his eyes and say "Yess...mom." in an annoyed preteen voice. But today it's more than just that anxiety. I can't talk for a moment overcome with the vulnerability he excludes. My heart is breaking as I wave him over, and he comes to closer to our room.

I love you, I whisper.
He smiles, his teeth too big for his face, no doubt needing braces.
I love you too. He grins again, shy around this intense love. He pauses and then coos "I love the baby too." The said baby, smiles and coos at him. Like his other sisters, she's already in love with him.

He leaves for the bathroom, and I cry softly as I nurse the baby. My son is so fragile. His preteen years compounded by the seizures. I think he is one of the most beautiful creatures to grace this Earth but I worry that others will not see this. They will see the way his arms seem to turn into his body and how his legs bend instead of laying straight. I worry they will see him seize one day and find it horrifying. I worry that they will mistake that vulnerability as some kind of affront to the stupid notions of masculinity that fill our society.

Love is not an easy emotion. This love I feel for him is unconditional but filled with anxiety. I know that others do not see our children as we see them. I worry that other boys will see my son, who does not wrestle or play sports, as something less than a man. I struggle because I don't want Umberto to be a man in that way. I appreciate my son's compassion, his quiet ways, his gentleness. I do not wish him to be a jockish type guy who not only plays sports but watches them constantly. But I of course worry that being this type of man will be hard. I worry about his health. I worry about a future where the epilepsy will not go away and he will have to keep taking ever stronger drugs with worst side effects. And I wonder what effect this will have on him finding love.

He comes out of the bathroom and looks in one more time. His eyes are glowing with some kind of mischief. "I'm going to sneak up on Dad." He grins widely, like a ten year old boy is apt to do.

I Suck At Blogging But Make a Passable Homeschooling Parent

Obviously blogging everyday was a big fail. I should know better than to make such grandiose promises. New baby plus three homeschoolers doesn't equal lots of leisure time to write languidly about homeschooling and parenting. Foolish me. I'm too busy DOING to write. And by the time the wee beasties are tucked into bed, I am right behind them snoozed out with my tiniest beastie nestled close.

So no commitments. I just hope to keep a somewhat regular of what's going on with us in terms of homeschooling and also some thoughts I have about the whole experience. Really a day in our life is kind of boring written out. The doing is infinitely better than the reading.

Learning is such a subtle thing. It's often hard to pinpoint just when someone is learning something. And let's face it, how often have we thought someone (a friend, a student, our child) was learning only to discover that well, they didn't really get it? Homeschooling is not exception to this, and frankly, most of our learning happens when I'm not looking for it and when I least expect it.

So stayed tuned for some posts. I have some in my head that I need to write out and I'm sure newer post ideas will pop up.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 3 Small Miracles

Excuse the lateness. Beer on the patio with H took precedence over writing in the blog. I should be in bed, saving this entry for tomorrow but a small miracle compels me to stay up a bit later and record our day.

Those who know us or who have read this blog know that U struggles with reading. Struggles is actually too light for a word. U was a total non-reader until he was eight, and even then he was very slow. I listened to a lot of different opinions on what U's problems were. Some people told me to ignore it. He would read when he was ready. Others told me he had a learning disability. A few suggested that he might just have low intelligence. The last suggestion was particularly hard for me to hear and process. I knew it was my own expectations that fueled my disappointment at even the idea of low intelligence, and I tried very hard to come to terms with this as a possible reality. The academic world is an important part of who I am and I assumed it would be for my children as well. Now I was looking at having a child who might not be able to make it in that world. And less nobly it was hard to be the academic at the party who did not have the seven year old who was reading War and Peace.

In November of last year U had a grand mal seizure. He underwent an EEG and an MRI. The MRI came out clear, showing no brain damage. The EEG showed that he had petit mal seizures and some myclonic activity. He had another grand mal seizure in January and shortly thereafter began meds. Within a month of starting the meds, we noticed an improvement in his reading. Nothing big just small changes. H did some research and found that much of our learning takes place while we're sleeping. Once we enter deep sleep, our brains process what we have learned throughout the day. Umberto, according to the EEG, was never getting into that deep sleep. Now he was and it appeared that he was processing better than he had before.

I did some work with the kids but honestly this was all happening at the end of my pregnancy. I was tired and having lots of contractions that went no where. I did read to the kids all the time (as did H) but we didn't do much in terms of formal learning. We figured we'd cover ground lost during the summer. I did have U read to me as well. Meanwhile U kept doing his things. He played X-Box, messed with the computer, and got even more into comics and graphic novels. He always had a book on him. In fact, whenever we went somewhere he always had a few comics with him.

My mom started tutoring about two weeks ago. She was using Words Their Way and was telling us he was making rapid gains. She was impressed with how quickly he moved through the lessons. We did some things with him at home as well and I also noticed that he didn't need as much time between lessons to get the thing being taught. Before it would take many lessons and then days for him to process what we were doing. Now it seemed like I gave him a rule and he just knew it.

Today we got a surprise in the mail. We don't often get those so we were very excited to see a note that we had a package waiting from my friend Phil (Uncle Phil to my kids). H picked up on his way back from the gym and we happily tore into it. The kids were thrilled to get tee shirts but almost exploded with joy when they came across four Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I suggested we could read them aloud as I thought there was no way U would be able to read them. We all gathered on my bed while I nursed R and read a few entries to the kids. After I read, Umberto grabbed the book from me. I had Camille read to me as we were almost done her unicorn book. I looked over at Umberto as Camille read, and noticed that he seemed very engrossed. I asked him to spell "pluck" as we had been working on blend sounds last week. He looked up and spelled it perfectly before going back to his book. I was pleased but still didn't think he could be reading much of the book.

I went to the gym and H walks the kids to the Harris Teeter which has a Starbucks inside. He likes to bring them there to read and chat. H reports to me when I return that U had read the book at Starbucks. U read the book all night. Finally, I can't stand it and I ask him "What's going on in the book?" I try to sound casual not like it's a test and he TELLS me. Then throughout the night he keeps coming over and reading us funny bits. I figured he must be getting something from it because while the book has some illustrations, there is not enough to hold his interest for hours. He is actually reading this book.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Day 2 What Do They Do in the Playroom?

Today was pretty lazy. I slept in again. R had a better night but I'm so exhausted from the bad nights that I don't really ever catch up. H was up early as usual. When I got up Beasties 1 and 3 were already up and about. Beastie 2 was starting to stir in her typical grumpy way. All day there was this kind of disconnect...we were all in different spaces, not meeting up very often in terms of goals. By the time, I showered, made dinner for later, and soup, I was tired, R was crying, and the kids were immersed in their play. I actually thought "Crap, what am I going to do to show that we did something today?" as I lay nursing R. The day looked like a bust. "At least I'm doing something." I thought as I read Ann Tave's newest book Religious Experience Reconsidered.

When I got up from a totally unintentional nap (nursing lying down will do this to a woman), I decided to see if I could make what the kids had been doing all day school like so I could have a convincing blog entry. C came out and asked H to put the arm back on a Lego person. Sensing a perfect opportunity to elicit some material on learning I said "So what are you guys doing in there?" Now I need to qualify that "in there" refers to the master bedroom in our apartment which has been transformed into what my mom called "Kids' Heaven." This is where we keep all their toys, the T.V. and the X-Box. One would think they'd love it there but as often as not, they lug half their toys into the living room. So anyway, C looks at me all scornful and says in a lofty tone "We're playing." "Okay," I answer "But what story are you playing out?" See I'm thinking that if she tells me the plot of their play, I can write about how brilliant and imaginative my children are. Their play is all about learning! Look at how they create intricate plots and well-developed characters. She gives me a look like I'm really stupid. "Oh we don't do that." And then she walks off.

And then it hits me. What do the kids do in the playroom? I know that sometimes I go in to kick U off the X-Box (he's pretty good about self-regulating but he has a new game so he'd play all day if I let him). But for the most part, I just leave them be. It's their space, and I don't want to intrude on it. I feel very strongly that kids need a place that is really theirs. Sometimes I go in and pick up. I always find amusing things like a line of My Little Ponies facing off a line of dinosaurs. Or multiple Lego scenes acted out on a green Lego board. It's obvious that they do create stories but they don't see it as that. To them it's just play. It's not something to get all worked up over or that even needs to be shared. This is their learning that I am not privy too, and I have to be okay with that. I have to trust that this learning is something that will reflect upon the more formal learning they do with me.

Plus they did do some more formal stuff today. C read all day long in the broken down brown recliner. U had to be told to not read during dinner. P made cool paper masks for R and her (pictures to come later). And Camille topped the day by drawing on the white board. I was so excited that I was going to have something to write about so I took a picture.I didn't really look at first as I was overcome with joy that she was "doing something I could blog about." I noticed that a girl was lying on the ground with a huge thunder cloud with lightening coming out of it and rain over her head. I asked her "What's going on?" just as she moved away. I saw a girl person with a gun and a dog. "Ummm, " she answered, "It's a person killing someone." She acted quite uncomfortable. I said "Is that Piper on the ground!?" She refused to answer but blushed and since they just had a fight....but she did reassure us that she didn't want to kill her little sister. She had been mad but now she wasn't.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Day 1

I didn't have big plans for today. H had a job interview 2.5 hours away and I've gotten rather use to him being around. Plus I was anxious about this interview. It's a great job and it's in a place where we would LOVE to live. But it means moving again. But it's a job! A good one. With a three year contract. So you can see where my mind was when I got up.

Mornings are always a little hectic. H has pretty much taken over breakfast duty as I am usually pumping. I need to get a store of milk up for the Fall when I go back to work. But this morning H wasn't around and of course as soon as I got, beasties 1 and 3 got up as well. And they wanted food now. For the last week or so, I've been rereading John Holt. Now I have lots of thoughts on this stuff but for now I'll focus on a positive: letting kids do their own thing. So I said "Hey why don't you make your own breakfast since I'm busy." I directed Umberto from the chair as he put the kettle on, turned the stove on, got out an oatmeal packet, etc. Piper choose to have a taquito which she microwaved herself. They were so proud to do this simple task. I realized I really do need to let them have more freedom to take care of themselves. It is often easier for me to do just clean up after them or make their meals but they take a lot of pride in doing things on their own.