homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Midnight Hour

Although age and circumstance are conspiring to make me follow a more traditional schedule (being a mom kicks me in the butt!), I am a night owl by nature. Always have been. It's far easier for me to stay up late than to wake up early when extra time is required in my day. I'm more likely to be awake blogging at midnight than watching the sun rise. So it really has come as little surprise to me that my children seem to share my nocturnal-leaning tendencies. Whether it's by nature or nurture is something to ponder another day.

C is strongly nocturnal, and I have some fun stories (and memories of exhaustion!), but tonight's tale is about T. When T was a baby, I learned that an interruption in his sleep pattern often heralded a developmental leap. We room-share with our babies, so when they get too active (crying *or* cooing) in the wee hours, I often take them to the living room to wait it out...so maybe Dad can get at least a moderate amount of sleep before he has to leave for work at dawn. T's first time rolling over? About 3 AM, living room floor. First time pulling himself up to stand ? Ditto. And so on.

I flashed back to those days tonight. It had been a rough day for old Mom, courtesy of  a crabby and overtired J. We finally got him conked out in the swing (see previous post) and I was feeling major stabs of guilt for all of the time I didn't spend with the other two. So I read a chapter book to them at bedtime.

The entire thing.

Okay, it was a Magic Treehouse book, but even so. It was a nice long reading session. I finally got everyone "sweet dreamed" and tucked in, and headed out to the kitchen to load the dishwasher. It wasn't long before the kids pitter-patted out to find me. I took a deep and patient breath. Long days with the baby for me mean long days without me for them. Yes, it was late. But they missed me. I'd let them stall just a little more before sending them back to bed.

T had a book with him...

this book
...and he asked me a few questions about it. First, he admitted that he knew the title because he is familiar with the book, but then turned to an illustration within the book and asked, "Why does it say FerdinandO here?" He also asked about several other words, all in illustrations, and all in Spanish.

Yeah. My reluctant reader was suddenly trying. On his own. And asking for help.

I will not lie, I was tired...both physically and emotionally. Why now? Why couldn't he show an interest in reading oh, I don't know...when I was actually trying to teach him to read?

Okay. So what, it's past 11. We are going to read.

The dear thing...he attempted a few storybooks on his shelf that were far too difficult given the skills we've worked on so far. Simple phonics are not going to help a kid through, well, words like through. I patiently watched, though, as he used his knowledge of some favorite titles to guess his way...using word length, first letters, even pictures to help him. No, he wasn't doing perfectly. But he was trying. On his terms. And using a number of tricks that up until now he has dismissed as "not reading". (Says Mom: if the context helps, embrace it!).

I hesitated. Yes, he was happy and engaged. If I pushed, would I ruin the moment? Or cement it?

I took the risk. I chose an easy-reader book. Another title with which he was familiar, but which had words that were a lot more phonics-friendly. And with only a few stumbles (and--ye Gods be praised--no self-loathing and quitting following the stumbles)...he read the book.

It was a big night. I just hope this is a harbinger of a shift in attitude toward this whole reading thing. If it takes more time, well, I'm in it for the duration. All the same, seeing him want to do it...seeing him happily try...made me feel really proud of him. And really excited to be a part of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The song that never ends

OMG people, can I just rant for a moment here?

Of course I can. It's my blog. I can do whatever I damn well please.

Okay, I have an infant. A gorgeous, scrumptious, snuggly, smiley, wonderful infant. Who, like many of us, turns downright miserable if he's overtired. And yet, he fights naps. Well, who could blame him...there's some pretty novel stuff happening around him and who knows what he might miss if he loses consciousness for a bit?

But I don't so much enjoy his company when he's miserable. And also, when I haven't had a break from the constant tending of him--to the point that I will rant and moan about how I wished I could do housework for a little change of pace--well, I really need for him to nap. There are two surefire ways to make this happen. The first is nursing, but that isn't foolproof. Yeah, I can knock him out with a little of the ol' Mom Juice, but the problem there is that he's a bit of a gulper. This means that his nap time can be counted in minutes...usually on my hands...before he's up and squirming for a burp. And no, I can't nurse, then burp, then expect him to sleep. The act of burping wakes him up enough to realize that I was trying to trick him into missing stuff with that whole sleep racket. The eyes pop open, he coos (or cries), and we're back to square one.

The other method is The Swing. Nothing like a little soothing repetitive motion to zonk a kid out. I'm a big fan.

As you are probably aware, modern baby swings are pretty much all equipped with a music feature. Ours plays 15 nursery-rhyme songs, in chiming digital tones.

Boop beepy beeping BEEP! Bee-bee-boo-boopedy BEEP!

After a while that can really get under your skin. It can drill right into the brain of an adult with all the subtle grace of a relentless toddler. (Hm, perhaps this is meant to break prepare us for that stage? I wonder.) It's gotten to the point that my husband and I will exchange long-suffering "help me" looks every time one of the Helpful Older Brothers turns on the music to aid in the baby's relaxation. I hear this music when it isn't even playing. On the day that I finally snap, my Clockwork-Orange violence montage will be ironically punctuated by the Graco 15 Top Hits soundtrack.

Bee bee BOO Bee bee BOO beepedy boo bee bee ba BOO!

Yeah, so, the baby is a bit "Hell no, I'm not napping" fussy this afternoon. I plopped him in the swing. Turned on the motion. And, since Helpful Older Brothers are outside and not here to interfere assist, I did it sans music.

Kid stayed awake.

I turned on the music, and...
MAGIC!
I'm not sure whether to grudgingly admit that the manufacturers of baby equipment know something I refuse to accept (namely, babies find electronic beeping soothing), or to be resentfully sullen that, with my compliance, the Graco company has conditioned my child to like this.

They should include earplugs with these things, that's all I'm saying...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Which I am Thankful for Self-Directed Activity

T is smart. Smart, but stubborn. Throw in a little bit of perfectionism and a whole lot of self-doubt and you have...well, me. I could give this a positive spin and call him a skeptic (which he is, and it's a quality that can serve one quite well as far as intellectual inquiry goes, thankyouverymuch) but right now I'm going to just sigh and lament that he can be very frustrating to teach. He's easily discouraged, and it doesn't take a major setback to get him throwing up his arms in defeat; just the mere suggestion of having to put forth effort, and you can see him shutting down. He doesn't want to *learn* so much as to *know*...and the thought that he isn't a natural and instant master at everything he encounters just bothers him to no end. He has no patience for trial and error, or for practice, and Heaven forbid I should even look like I'm trying to teach him something, because his defenses go into full protective mode and that's the end of the party.

But, um, at least I can see through the drama to the underlying stuff, right? It would be terribly easy to write him off as lazy or defiant...and I'm sure many professional educators, tasked with getting an entire room full of kids motivated at once, reasonably might. I know that it's just a matter of cracking through those self-imposed obstacles (fear of failure?). However, that is easier said than done. There are days that I am not creative enough, or patient enough, and I just cannot get through to him. As a result, he is behind in certain academic areas that he certainly has the aptitude to handle.

So what do you do with the kid who can sense "teaching" like a shark tasting blood on the current?

Sometimes you're lucky and hit on just the right "yay! This is fun and not at all educational!" game-play that sneaks a little something in without them noticing. It's like Jessica Seinfeld masking veggie puree within baked goods. Yeah, the content is getting into him, but I have this nagging feeling that without context, it isn't particularly valuable. And he's really good at spotting the camouflage.

I spend a lot of time banging my head against the wall on this matter, but sometimes I get lucky and he will take on a task all by himself that--surprise!!--requires him to pursue exactly the skill he's been resisting when I try to introduce it.

Our most recent case in point came in a box of assorted goodies from a neighbor who is cleaning out her basement in preparation for a move. Remember these?
I wish my blog photos looked this good. My arms are full of baby most of the day, not camera:
so I stole this image from someone else's blog. I have no shame.
Not only has the boy who hates writing practice been gleefully labeling everything in sight (board games, treasured possessions, the dog) but he has also done so entirely on his own...not asking me to spell out every word because he fears getting it wrong. There are embossed labels all over our home...some correctly spelled, some with interesting invented spellings. The invented ones are a Big Deal to me. First, it shows that he's able to let go of the perfectionism and self-doubt and just try. Secondly, it gives me a good idea of where he is as far as understanding phonemes...so I know what we need to work on.

As soon as I can figure out how to do that without him noticing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

this moment: serenade

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.