Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confessions of a Supermom

Well, today was tax day on Guam, and as usual, I was down to the wire on getting them finished. But I was successful. The tensions that lead up to tax time for me, always leave me a bit drained afterward. As a result, I arrived home from the day with a raging headache.

Alas, Supermom cannot take time off for headaches, so I whipped up dinner (teriyaki chopped steak with rice and peas). After dinner, I was resting my chin on my hands at the table when Cassie brought over an alphabet stencil card and asked me what it was for.

She stood before me in stained shirt and shorts, grubby hands clutching the plastic purple stencil.
"You need a bath." I said, before answering her original query.
"You mean a shower, " she said, since our new house doesn't exactly have a bathtub, more of a high tiled large shower stall.
"Bath...shower.....whatever. You need one before bed." I answered.
"You mean like other kids get before bed?" she asked.

Uh, oh. My supermom status was at risk here! I had been found out. No regular nightly baths for my kids? Truth is my kids are always in the water - whether at our beach office or at a swimming pool, and so often the rinses after swimming sufficed for their daily bath time. But sometimes, like today obviously, where Cassie had had an active day playing at the office, inside and outside, riding her bike and attending jump rope class (she can now do "kriss kross" jumping!) a real bath was necessary.

But before bath time, we needed to address the alphabet stencil question. I found an old bill on the table and flipped it over to the blank side and showed her how she could use the stencil to write her name. That lead to her wanting to try and she wrote "Mom" and "Dad" after a few hints on how to find the letter "d". Some letters just like to give kids trouble! From those two words, Cassie proceeded to find and strace out "Adam", "Stephanie", "Eric" and "Kevin", (learning some important phonetic rules along the way). Her interest in the process lasted through some cat names too - Daisy, Pillage, Wafflebox, and Nobby.

At one point during this impromptu writing lesson, Eric came along and bet me $5 he could write "Pteradactyl aquarium of the legends in industries" with less than 10 spelling mistakes or "wrong letters" as he put it. So the game was on. He made it with only 8 wrong letters and then wrote the sentence "Thanksgiving plan doesn't work out as expected." with only 3 mistakes. So as soon as I get some more money in hand, I owe him.

What I loved about this evening is that both children enthusiastically initiated a learning task appropriate to their level. More learning occurred in that half hour of interaction than an entire day in school would have accomplished.

Bath time happened (shower actually). Chocolate cookies were baked and eaten. Legos were played with, and now one child is asleep curled up on a bean bag chair while the other is reading a science book "Kid's Ask Where" and sharing tid bits of knowledge with me as I type. My headache has abated and it's time to call it a night.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who's Business is it?

In the past few weeks I have had various people comment on my children and their future plans. It seems that people are concerned that my children seem directionless and too "shy" to amount to anything. Hence the title of this blog post.

I have been homeschooling my kids for over 20 years, with a few minor forays into public or private schools. Over the years I have come to follow the unschooling philosophy. It suits our lifestyles, my personality and the personalities of my children -- which are varied.

My oldest son was very self motivated. Taught himself to read at 2 1/2. Knew what he wanted (most of the time), and how to get what he wanted. During his stint in private school he saw his own learning gaps and figured out how to fill them in. Now at 24, he is an active member of the US Air force and has just CLEP tested his way to an associate's degree. He's currently taking a break from his learning to assess just where he wants to go before declaring a major and pursuing his Bachelor's degree. Unschooling was ideal for him as it allowed him to pursue his own interests and excell in them.

My second son is an artist and a dreamer. He is the one "people" are most concerned about. Friends and family seem to feel it is necessary to question whether we are doing the "right" thing with him. From birth he idolized his big brother. As a child he was sensitive to sounds, smells and touch. He never liked to play in the sand at the beach. He liked to line his cars up in rows and he liked to keep his toys neat and organized. In 1st grade, his one year in public school, he hid under his desk during times of stress, had few friends, didn't talk to people and was labeled as "shy". His teacher tried to blame my homeschooling him through kindergarten for his behavior. However I had been a preschool teacher, and he had come to work with me for the first 5 years of his life, so was always exposed to groups of children and learning situations. Since kindergarten in Canada was just an extension of preschool, I really don't think he missed a thing. This was just Adam. After we moved to Guam, Adam and Kevin were forced to spend a lot of time together, and with their uncle Mike, (same age as Kevin). Together they wrote their own newsletter and created their own videos. An artistic streak began to emerge for Adam. He loved to draw and create and write stories and poems. At the same time he prefered to keep to himself and did not attempt to make any friends. And he was happy. When he was 11, our family had a little snack shop in the preschool I worked at, and Adam became the main counter attendant --selling the snacks to the parents and children, keeping the shelves stocked, making change, using his organziational skills to keep the counters neat and clean. And daily interacting with people. Still he prefered to keep his thoughts and voice to himself. At 16 he expessed an interest in music and asked for an electric guitar for his birthday. Alone in his room, he taught himself to play guitar and later piano and before I knew it, he was composing his own music on computer. When he turned 18 we declared him graduated from homeschool. Now it was time for him to decide what he wanted to do with his life. He told us he didn't want to move out. He wanted to stay home and work on his music. Since he was such a great asset to our household, helping out, looking after his younger siblings, cleaning, cooking, and (once he got his license), driving them around, we agreed to let him stay home as long as he was willing to help us in our family business. So now at 20 he has composed over 50 songs and compiled them on CDs. He has competently run our northern office for the last year, keeping it clean, maintained, dealing with clients and employees, and handling the finances. He is learning business and management skills that are invaluable. At the same time he is allowed to continue to pursue his music. So what if he still prefers not to talk unnecessarily, or he has no "friends". Sometimes I think his silence is what scares people. They can't understand why someone would prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves.

Then there are the rest of the kids. All different. All unique. And since this is getting so long I'll have to tell you all about them in another post.