Halfway Through Kindergarten

So here we are–the halfway point of our first year of homeschooling.

How is it going, you may ask. If you’re a random stranger on the street, I may answer, oh, it’s great! If you’re a casual acquaintance, I’d probably say, We have our challenges,  but it’s going well. But you, dear reader…well, you get the truth. It’s…going. 

I do not mean to make it sound like we’ve been having a bad time of it. We did a lot in the fall and the beginning of winter. We’ve spent a lot of time outside, examining nature and observing what happens to plants as the weather cools. We’ve studied dinosaurs, our community, dinosaurs, maps, and dinosaurs. We’ve built cities that have been attacked by Darth Vader and his army of storm troopers and set up a jungle with miniature figures in our front yard. We’ve dug holes and glued things. Oh, and we learned about dinosaurs.

Here are my three big takeaways from the first half of the year:

  • When JC becomes interested in something, he wants to learn IT ALL, age appropriate materials be damned. For example, he really enjoyed the Peanuts Movie that came out earlier this year, especially the part with Snoopy as the Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron. For a stretch, everything we did had to do with The Red Baron. We did research (and I edited as I read out loud). We built model planes, recreated battles, wrote our own chapter book continuing the story. Everyone who came in contact with JC got a lengthy lecture on WWI. We had similar obsessions with At-At Walkers (I managed to create a word family tree activity with that one I was pretty proud of) and of course, the aforementioned dinosaurs, as well as pilgrims. He still requests to read all the first Thanksgiving books we have  This is great–it’s what project based homeschooling is all about. Sometimes worlds collide and I walk into his playroom and find T Rex has gone over to the Dark Side and the brachiasaurus barely escaped Hoth because the Flying Ace comes to his rescue. Oh, and there’s a feast at the end.
  • In a similar vein, because that’s the way my kid functions, long term planning isn’t a reality right now. I do plan activities around a theme each week and JC enjoys them…but we often blow through them in a day or two and he goes back to focusing on whatever has his interest.
  • As he gets older, JC really needs a schedule. He was a super flexible, roll with the punches baby and toddler. He was the kid that took naps when he felt like it without too many late afternoon meltdowns, the kid who handled crazy long drives and late nights at Disney World like a champ. Then he turned five and, overnight, BANG. A different story. He needs his morning and nights to be the same, and he does way better when he knows what’s going on. Too much decision making sends him into a tailspin. This has been a really big–and evolving–change.

With this knowledge in hand, here are the three things I’m changing up for our winter and spring kindergarten:

  • We’ve established a “wake up” and “go to bed” routine, but I want to give JC a “morning” routine: updating the calendar, going over the day plans, maybe making a morning basket with a book and a short project that goes along with our theme.
  • We need to get out more. My child and I are both introverts–big crowds, flurries of activity and prolonged socialization wear us out, so we have a lot of solitary time. Which is perfectly okay. I’m not trying to change that about either of us, but I am still hunting for that perfect “tribe” that really suits us. I also think that regular routine will help with this–knowing we’re going to our co-op or kid book club in advance can prepare him (and me!) for the process.
  • I need to stop reading every book I come across on homeschooling theories and just do it. I like to research, I like to know what other people are doing so that I can assure myself I’m doing it right. Which is silly, because I have a smart and healthy kid. I’m doing it right. So my personal goal for the second half of the school year is to stay connected but not second guess myself (probably something I could carry to all aspects of my life!).

We’re “back to school” for the first time in 2016 tomorrow! Are your kids–homeschooled or not–back to reality? What’s new for them this year?

Five.

long days

I remember the early days, the long hours at seemed to stretch on for eons. The way the afternoon sun would shine into the living room where we would sit, toys and books scattered around us. Those hours–lets be honest, those days–are all in my memory under a haze of new mom exhaustion. They are all in my memory as beautiful moments. Even the three AM ones, when I would groan in frustration when I heard that tiny baby cry.

There weren’t a lot of times when I left infant JC with someone else. I wanted to be there for everything and not miss a moment. Call it attachment parenting, call me overprotective and sensitive, call me just plain crazy–it worked for me. I didn’t know–still don’t know–if the universe would see fit for me to have more than one kiddo, and I wanted all the moments. Because I knew one day, that tiny baby would be blowing out five candles on his cake. I knew that he would want to play with his friends and not need–or necessarily want–my constant supervision. I knew that there would be other people he would learn to adore–and I’m lucky that there are people in his life he loves so much that when they walk into a room, it’s like I don’t exist. I knew there would be a time for baby-sitters and date nights for my husband and I and sleepovers with his grandparents, and I knew when that time came, I wanted to be able to give him his freedoms and not regret missing out on his babyhood.

I realize to some of you–nonparents and parents of older, college-aged children–I must sound dramatic. After all, he just celebrated his fifth birthday. He’s hardly calling home to tell me he’s going on a ski trip with his frat brothers instead of coming home for Thanksgiving. But he’s growing up. The days were long but the years are short. Suddenly he’s not a baby, or a toddler, or even a preschooler. He’s a legitimate big kid.

I’m thankful for his health, his sense of humor (which he only has when he’s in control of the situation), his creativity and his quirkiness. As much as I loved those baby moments, I’m ready to embrace the big boy ones, too.

It’s hard not to wax poetic on his birthday–to recall the day he was born, how I labored at home for hours after telling my husband to get some sleep, quietly spending those last few hours with my boy while I still carried him under my heart;  how the doctor laughed at me when I told him I didn’t take the birthing class and I was going to need a pretty specific overview of how things were going to play out; calling my mom at 5 AM and saying, “the nurse says he’ll be here by lunchtime, it’s for real this time!”; looking at him the first time and thinking, of course that’s him, and knowing I would have recognized him anywhere; knowing something was wrong with his breathing before the nurses did; the panic of having to leave him in the NICU and the joy of getting to bring him home a few days later.

Right now, JC loves hearing about the day he was born. He loves to pore over pictures with me, listening to the story over and over. I know one day he won’t want to hear it, he’ll groan “Mo-ooooom!” when I talk about the day he came into the world. So I’ll tell him as many times as he wants until that day.

After all, it’s one of the best stories I know.

Today I’m linking up with Mama Kat and her writing workshop and blogging about something sweet. 🙂 

Imaginary Friends

Imaginary

You’d think I’d completely understand my son’s imaginary friends.

They say that children with imaginary friends are extremely intelligent. I take comfort in this knowledge, because my kid’s imaginary friend is quite the character.

Ansel is, without a doubt, a trouble maker. When something goes wrong in our house, Ansel is behind it.

Ansel does things that JC would never do. Like pull every container out of the cupboards and fill them with unpopped popcorn and my very fancy pink Himalayan salt. Ansel encourages very naughty behavior, like sneaking out of bed at 3 AM to swipe the iPad and watch train videos. He is the driving force behind all the bad words that come out of JC’s mouth, the reason he whines for oreos, and the mastermind behind the million selfies of JC sticking out his tongue on my phone.

These are the things we know about Ansel, via JC:

  • He’s usually a boy, around 11, an age which apparently boasts supreme wisdom. Occasionally he’s a little sister.
  • His favorite color is green.
  • Despite this color preference, he drives a pink Mitsubishi Lancer with the word “whatever” written on the side.
  • He has a Playstation 4 and an Xbox One, and no, he doesn’t consider than overkill.

In an interesting turn of events, JC informed me a few weeks ago that Ansel had been sent to jail due to his very bad manners. In his place, Christopher Casey–who hails from Hawaii, has more toys than JC, and excellent manners–would be arriving soon. He had, apparently, let JC know he was arriving via text message.

Sure enough, 36 hours later, Christopher Casey and all his imaginary luggage had joined our family. Christopher Casey has impeccable manners–even correcting me sometimes.

But being good all the time can get boring. Ansel, JC told me one morning, was “reformed” in jail and got to come home.

We are now a happy little family: myself, husband and son, and his two imaginary friends that serve as the devil and angel on his shoulders. They are constant companions–they even play with another little girl’s imaginary friends at playgroup– acting as guideposts and feelers for how the world should work. And even though Ansel still causes trouble that Christopher Casey cannot talk him out of–“Ansel TOLD me to squeeze all the toothpaste into the sink, mom!”–a little mischief does a 4-year-old good.