In April, our year-long paid subscription to Reading Eggs for Matthew will be over. This week, if it weren’t for a little make-up work, Mary would be on her final project in Mechanics. The year is winding down like an old, extended tape measurer someone just let rip. I can’t believe daffodils have already sprouted with the promise of anything, anything other than winter.
On Tuesday, Mary helped me to pack up all of the kids and the new dog to go for a run. It was nothing big, just a jog around the block – but it was. It took us twenty minutes to get everything we needed for it in order, which wasn’t expedited by Scarlett taking off her jacket and leaving a shoe by the sofa every time I did anything at all that did not involve my hands being clasped directly on her zipper. It wasn’t a big deal because I just didn’t have it in me to actually drive us all down to the park trail we used to try this at when I was a more ambitious homeschooler. But it was a big deal because managing a crew the size and general demeanor of mine while taking care of myself – if only in small ways – is a feat, and I did that shit like a boss.
It was kind of symbolic for me, the way everything went so well on our little run around the block endeavor. In the beginning of the year, trying to keep physical education a thriving part of our curriculum was a fiery disaster. Not only did she fight me every step of the way like she did with everything back then, but I was less equipped to handle her combativeness from the exhaustion of my own workout, while working with only a sliver of patience after juggling the younger two. She had gym two days a week at her old school, and I was eager and enthusiastic to keep up with that. In the end, it just wasn’t worth the battle and I chose instead to focus on her core subjects while we straightened out behavior issues that interfered with other, more elective courses.
While we missed out on important classes like phys ed and art, we did a tremendous amount of character building over long, no pressure, time wasting talks that we would have never had otherwise. It was that imperative down time which ended up making all the difference in building her trust and turning her behavior around.
So now that behavior is virtually a non-issue, we can finally start having a lot of that fun we missed out on before. I love working with her now. For a long time, to counter all of the criticism she threw at anything I considered fun, I kept all of our lessons bare bone dry. No frills, no fun, but no fighting. She couldn’t argue with assignments that were straight out of the text.
Now she asks for science experiments to do when all that’s required for the day’s lesson is a crossword puzzle or simple demonstration. She asks to learn about things that aren’t even part of the curriculum. Sometimes she’ll ask to do more than one project suggestion for a lesson that she comes across in her book; and the extra credit she gets for going above and beyond the minimal requirement are a total afterthought. It took a while, but eventually, the results of not forcing fun on her had an unexpected benefit.
It helped her take the initiative to make learning fun, herself. That’s a skill she can carry with her back to GRM, and a skill that’ll serve her well throughout life, if she can hang onto it.
Much to my comfort, she’s asking a lot about art and ‘gym’ lately. (Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-y-y-y-y-y!)
She walked into the kitchen holding a pair of pink running shoes I bought her from Target back in September, while I dressed Scarlett for our run. It was a pair that she begrudgingly picked out for home school phys ed. because I made her, and immediately hated once we got home. She admired them in front of me. “I forgot how cute these shoes were! It’s funny how these ended up being, like, the style now. Everyone I see wears shoes like this for working out. I’m glad I still have them!”
The loud, messy, geek-out, break-a-sweat fun I get to have with them now has been a long time coming. Not every day looks like exactly what I imagined home school would, back when it was but a dream that hadn’t yet been squashed like a total bitch by reality. But some days really, really do. And I love that.