Daily Archives: September 30, 2016

A day worth documenting…

I already posted early this morning, but we had such an amazing day that I wanted to document it here.  I am posting a second time today, as a reminder to myself, as a future reminder to Berrik, and mostly because I am so proud of my boy for how hard he works and how much success he achieves in spite of whatever life throws his way.

First thing this morning we did a quick review of sight words.  We typically do sight words by making a trail through the house and jumping over them as we read them, or lining them up in a row and bouncing a ball beside each one as we read them.  The extra movement/activity makes Berrik at least twice as fast at getting through his sight words.  There were a couple of newer words that were stumping Berrik this past week, as well as a couple BRAND new words.  He flew through the words and got them all!  He has many many sight words mastered now… well past 200. We don’t review them all each day.  I usually do all the newest ones, plus about 10 – 20 of the ‘old ones’ and over the course of a couple weeks he ends up reviewing them all.  The newer ones he does daily until they are totally mastered.  Because he is reading so much now, we add words from his books as well, so he is picking up new words at a pretty impressive pace.  Which of course makes his reading that much better.

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After breakfast and getting dressed for the day, we headed off to Sound Connections.  Berrik was focused and worked so hard with Lucy.  He never ceases to amaze me with what he knows how to do, and how he can figure things out.  He impressed both Lucy and I today in several areas, which means he’s moving on to more complex things.  The line to learning for Berrik (and everyone else, I would imagine) is not linear.  He progresses so quickly, then plateaus, sometimes regresses a bit, and then leaps ahead again.  This post is a reminder to me that when he plateaus or regresses that I need to breathe and let him get through things at his pace.  I think those plateaus are when he’s really processing things in his head and by relaxing and staying with him where he’s at, he’s able to create a solid foundation, maintain his confidence, and leap ahead when he’s ready.

After Sound Connections we headed to Phoenix Foundation for Count Day celebrations.  September 30th is the final day for registering with the school board of your choice, and therefore after today, wherever a child is registered is where the government sends their funding, whether it be a homeschool board or public or independent or whatever.  At Phoenix this is a big day with lots of fun activities scheduled.  There was a huge bouncy castle which was a big hit with the boy… and I was so proud as he was extra careful around the littler ones, and even used his own body to shield a toddler from a very rambunctious bigger kid… I love that he is aware – it isn’t always the case, so when it happens, it’s exciting.  Self-regulation doesn’t always come easy to kids like Berrik.  They also had a school photographer there to do school pictures if we so desired.  We so desired.  Berrik sat up there and worked so hard to follow the photographer’s instructions.  It melted my heart to see him trying so hard and doing well.  I think it’ll be a fantastic photo.  At noon, there was a hot dog lunch that consisted of a hotdog, a bag of cheese puffs or Doritos, and either a pink or purple pop of some kind.  (GROSS).  As usual we had packed lunch so Berrik happily ate his veggies, fruit, cheese, crackers and a homemade banana coconut flour muffin.  He doesn’t even notice that the other kids are eating all that other stuff.  There was a bake sale going on as well, so many kids were walking around with candy apples, cupcakes and other sugary treats but again Berrik didn’t even comment.

When we were finished lunch, we rushed into the gym for the Karate demo.  Berrik loves Karate (and was pretty sure the two guys were real ninjas).  When the one guy broke through 2 pieces of wood at one time with his bare hand, Berrik just about lost his mind.  It was awesome.

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Next on the list of activities was Mad Science.  All the kids that had registered in that class were called into the classroom about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to start and asked to sit at tables.  I went in to observe, although most parents did not. Many of the kids (likely hopped up on sugar and chemicals) were bouncing out of their seats, banging on the table, scrapping with each other, and even melting down completely.  Berrik just sat there holding his stress puck (more on that later) and watching the chaos, but not participating in it. Not a very scientific study, but I’d say in the case of  Sugar Lunch v. Healthy Lunch, sugar lunch was the LOSER.

Finally Mad Science started and the teacher went over a few ground rules and then started her presentation.  She asked the kids what electricity was for.  Berrik’s hand shot up and she called on him.  He said, “Electricity is what powers everything we use like computers and electronics.  Electronics… electricity…see?” (emphasis on the ELECT) After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I almost cried.  Berrik didn’t have the opportunity to participate in class in this way when he was in school.  Twenty seven kids in a class, and being slower to process information due to expressive and receptive speech delays meant the chances of Berrik being able to answer a question in class were slim. I think he even surprised himself!  What a kid.

 

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At Count Day there was also an opportunity to buy resources from KidsSource (I think that’s who it was).  I bought Berrik a stress puck (one of those squeeze toys shown in the photo) as he focuses better in class if his hands are kept quietly busy.  The one he chose was black (it was the only color left).  He held it up to me and said, “Mom, what if this was red?”  And I was like, “Um, ya.  What if?”  And he persisted, “Mom, if this was red it would be just like those little things that float around in our blood.”  Again, jaw drop.  “Um, you mean red blood cells?”  “Ya, ya, red blood cells…  it totally looks like a red blood cell.”  Indeed it does my little smarty pants.  Indeed it does.

Berrik does amazing things every day. But today was one of those days where he just rocked it out the whole darned day.

What I am Learning About Homeschooling (& Myself)

We are one month into homeschooling officially.  Unofficially we’ve been doing it since June, but those first three months were mainly focused on language and literacy, with a small amount of math.  Now we are into Science and Social Studies, fully into Math and continuing along with Language Arts.  Phys Ed is less a ‘class’ and more a daily survival method.  And a teaching strategy.  Art is… well, Art is something that Berrik gets quite a bit of in his classes at Phoenix as so much of what they learn is through creating.  So we don’t focus on art too much at home.  Thirty days in and this is what I have learned:

  1. I am competitive. I want to win at everything.  (I don’t… but I’d like to).  Homeschooling is not a competition.  And ‘winning’ is not the same in this context.  This has been something that I have had to really spend time with, inside my head.  Winning in this context is many things.  A productive, grounded, confident adult (it’s important to have long range goals, right?).  Literacy. Numeracy.  As Berrik develops skills in both of these areas, we continue to win.  There is no end goal in these skills…. my literacy continues to develop still.  I hope his does throughout his life as well.  Last Monday, winning was getting through the afternoon without resorting to threats or bribes (ok, so I didn’t officially win that one…  Next time.  Maybe.  Probably not.  Sigh).  Because of the humanness of good days and bad days and good hours and bad hours, and unexpected interruptions to our day due to a sick or injured sister (both on the same day!), winning is sometimes just still being functional at the end of the day.  Or maybe even just still breathing.  I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday who I love.  She gets me.  She works with kids like Berrik so she knows what’s what.  I don’t have to explain things like that to her.  And she’s a killer mom too.  She told me that I was good at homeschooling and that I needed to cut myself some slack.  She’s right, but it’s so much easier said than done.  I’m riding that roller coaster and learning to brace myself through the downhills and spirals, but darn it, if Berrik has a good ‘learning’ day, and I feel like we’ve made progress, then I feel like I’m winning.  When everything goes to hell and I feel lucky that everyone’s been fed that day (and let’s be clear, they are usually fed on those days because I’ve ordered in), then I start to doubt myself and feel like I am ruining Berrik’s life.  Dramatic, I know.  Ask my mom – I have an incredible flair for the dramatic.  And lucky me, I passed this trait on to 2 of my 3 children.  I guess I should feel more for Kevin on that.  Sorry dude.  Genetics are funny that way.  Ha ha.  Joke’s on you. 😉  But I digress.  My point in all this rambling is that I’m beginning to realize that the wins are not the higher level of reading that Berrik has moved to, or the new math concept that he has mastered.  It’s the time I’m spending with my boy, and my whole family.  It’s the ability to eat dinner together at the table and talk about our days (even if we’re eating take out and I look like I’ve been through the ringer).  It’s the deeper understanding of what makes all my kids tick.  It’s learning to cut myself (and my kids) some slack.  I read yesterday a quote that said, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.”  This is something I need to remember.  And with humans, failure is relative.  We may fail at one thing on one day, but in the big picture it’s all success because we are happy, healthy, learning new things, and moving forward.
  2. Learning happens all the time, not just 9-3.  This is something that I really love about homeschooling.  I feel like there is significantly more ability to foster creative curiosity about the world around us when we are homeschooling.  And not just in Berrik.  I am constantly looking around now, looking for opportunities to show Berrik something that might help him understand a concept.  I’m noticing things more.  And now Berrik is too.  The more I try to show him things, the more questions he asks.  This is such a significant life skill, and one that I am re-developing right alongside Berrik.  This realization helps me somewhat with my issues in point #1.  Even if we get through exactly zero ‘official’ school work, Berrik is always learning.  Sometimes he’s learning patience as we wait in Dr. office with sister, or get in the car, AGAIN, to get sister to her acro class, or pick up sick sister from school.  I have purposely refused to allow him technology in these circumstances because patience is a virtue (which means we are BOTH working on this in these moments), and knowing how to entertain yourself is a critical life skill.  In this age of technology, most of us have lost the ability.  And if you’re bored in the car, there is nothing else to do but look around you and see what’s going on in the world.  Berrik fires questions at me like an interrogator in the CIA in the car (and don’t think it doesn’t occur to me that if I just gave him the Nintendo DS, I could have a little peace and quiet while we drive!), and I like that (In theory.  I like it in theory because it means he’s curious about his world.  In reality I’d like to listen to Alt Nation and pretend I’m on a fun road trip back to Kelowna to hangout with Dorrie and Jon in their VIP house with their VIP food and visit beautiful wineries…)
  3. Every homeschooler approaches homeschooling differently.  For different reasons.  At Phoenix I have talked to a few parents. And I have a few friends who homeschool.  Their reasons and approaches are all different.  I’ve come to realize that’s a good thing.  The competitor in me tends to want to compare what I’m doing to what others are doing and see if I measure up.  I’ve had to consciously decide to stop this. More than once. Everyone is different because everyone is different.  Duh.  The only question to ask myself is whether our approach and reasons are working for us as a family.  So far, I would say yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  And if I ask the kids what they think about how things are going this year, they all tell me they like it.  Kevin is 100% behind me on this too.  Not that it hasn’t taken some adjustments….  “Oh, you’re not working this year?  Super, I’ll just stop doing all of the things I used to do to help out…”  Um, no.  I’m actually working quite a bit more this year….  just different work (and super crappy paycheque).  We’re adjusting and figuring things out.  Kevin knows now that if I appear that I’ve been through the ringer that day, I likely have, and he should tread carefully.  “Hi honey… um….how was your day?…  Thanks for ordering dinner in tonight…Great idea.  Why don’t I take Berrik outside to play ball for a bit?”  Hahaha.  He’s so smart and catches on so quickly.  (For the record, this only happened one day this month, but I foresee more opportunities for Kevin to apply his learning in this area….).

It is early days for us when it comes to homeschooling.  I feel like I will learn more from this experience than anyone.  And I am pretty sure the ‘wins’ for the year will be much more significant than literacy or numeracy.