Day one of home schooling six kids brought with it a fair amount of anxiety as I plunged into the unknown with all the doe eyed innocence and organizational skills of a preschooler. I’d been down a similar road before when I took on Anthony for nine weeks of his second grade year so we could have some bonding time as he adjusted to our family. But never, in my entire twenty-three years of parenting, have I seriously considered home schooling all of my children as a sane alternative. Until now. (read about that decision here)
We started our day by waking at eight o’clock (remember, it’s dark here…) because I’d long since decided that structure would keep us from becoming slovenly and gross. I made myself slip into jeans because it would be very easy to become comfortable wearing the same sweats for a week at a time if I’m not required to leave the house. Very easy. And so the kids (and I) were required to get up, dress, brush their hair and teeth, and eat breakfast as if they were going to a brick and mortar school. At nine o’clock we adjourned to the living room and gathered around the pile of books. We sorted through the lesson plans I’d created, handed out materials, logged onto computers, and Billy’s phone and Ipod became mine until all of his work was done. No negotiations.
Now here is where having a household of special needs kids finally pays off.
Kids with histories like mine are generally obsessive. They are compulsive, impulsive, and controlling. With long histories of chaos, they seek organization and structure. In short, they are control freaks to the very limit of what you imagine a control freak to be. Which is a nightmare when piled in close quarters for a road trip…and a dream come true when it’s time for this disorganized mom to put things in order. Binders came out of closets, folders were labeled, sticky notes on page corners, files, ‘turn-in’ baskets, schedules, lesson plans…all conveniently taken care of by four of my children who couldn’t handle me saying, “I’m not really sure what to do with this…” I figured out long ago that if I look helpless, some OCD kid will take over. Voila. The pay off.
Once we figured out what we were doing, the study time itself went amazing. I let the kids choose where they would sit and four of them hit the couch and pulled out our folding tables for a desk. Minutes later the “mouth-noise-makers” and “pencil-thumpers” were banished to the kitchen table which is really just ten feet away, but it helped. We turned on the radio to our favorite country station and everyone eagerly got to work.
Billy logged into his classes, which are online and monitored by the district, only to discover his classes had not yet been set up. At which point he kicked up his feet and laughed loudly at all the other children who slumped over their work. SO I sent him out to clean the garage…and he promptly stopped laughing.
The one frustration of the day was keeping me from constantly saying, “Stop that…” to Luke. Because Luke…well…he wiggles.
My instinct was to say, “Sit still! Do your work!”…and then I remembered that one of the reasons we chose to try this route was…so Luke could wiggle. Luke is diagnosed “Hyposensitive” (among other things)…which means his body not only seeks out sensory stimulation, it requires it. Luke needs touch, impact, pressure…to feel normal. His body flops, rolls, lays, falls, bounces and constantly moves because without that stimulation, he would simply go nuts and he’d drive us all batty in the process. This is why you will rarely see him in short sleeves and more often than not, he is wrapped in a blanket or wearing tight, long sleeved, spandex shirts. And so he changed locations in the house no less than seven times throughout the day, he finished all his work and he felt good doing it. Success…on day one.
Around noon, just as we were getting into our groove, somebody brought up lunch and we adjourned for bowls of leftover chili and fat, buttered biscuits. The boys asked if they could go sledding since the temperature had risen forty degrees in the last two days and we were in the above zero range. All four boys hit the “slope” behind our house… (which is really just a pile of dirt left over from our shop foundation)…carrying snowboards, sleds, boogie boards…whatever worked.
Two hours later, energy burned, they happily hit the books again right up until it was time to take the small boys to Native Youth Olympics practice. And the girls…they just kept right on working.
Now, I know its day one, and I shouldn’t get too excited over what is obviously a honeymoon period…but I’m just flat out tickled. Robin and Mya both worked on their typing class well into the evening and Mya moved on to week two of social studies. Anthony took his Ancient Times book to bed with him and Steven told me as he wandered off to bed, “I can’t wait till tomorrow!”
Did you hear that? “I can’t wait till tomorrow…” from the boy who struggles with everything academic…who didn’t notice the lower grade level on his books because I covered them with stickers. Who doesn’t have to compete with anyone or pretend he knows what’s going on in front of his peers. Who is the “smiley-est” boy in the world. He can’t wait to learn some more tomorrow.
And you know what? Neither can I.