I never thought we’d naturally gravitate towards a more unschooled approach, but it’s happening… all the color coded binders and folders I bought, the weekly summary sheets I designed and printed about 2 dozen of, the wonderfully organized box of supplies, the worksheets… it’s all collecting dust, for the most part. Since we pinpointed the Bipolar diagnosis (with some characteristics of OCD and just general mood disorder) I have learned that on an unmedicated road, reducing conflict is really the best practice. We try to work around him and his wants/needs whenever possible.
But there are some things I won’t budge on;
- We’re still trying to figure out how we can fit video games into his life, since it’s one of his major passions… but in a way that’s healthy and constructive for him and us as a family.
- He’s going through one of those “I hate everything” phases and I just can’t deal. If something is served to you at a meal, and I spent time, effort, and cold hard cash on making it as likable as possible, avoiding foods that I know you genuinely dislike, you’re damn well gonna eat it! We’re done here, sir!
- The tv is not on in this house unless there is something specific we are planning to watch. A movie, an episode of Top Gear or Jeopardy, etc… no channel flipping. That goes for Seth & I, too. I grew up in a household that almost always had more tvs than people living there. Currently my parents and 16 yr old brother have 6 tvs in their possession. We have one. At times I wish we didn’t have any, but I’m just not THAT crunchy. Silas likes watching Back To The Future and epsiodes of the Simpsons. I really like No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. We’re human.
We’re finding opportunities to learn in really odd places. We’re rarely sitting down to do anything structured. Worksheets are rarely done and are a major power struggle between us, causing stress and grumpiness… and it’s going really well. I’m as shocked as anybody.
- I’ve noticed that he wakes up in a much better mood when he gets up on his own, rather than being woken up. Understandable. How could we get him to wake up on his own on mornings where he goes to Grant Street for the first part of the day, when we’re short on time? Maybe I could open his door when I first get up at 7:15, but not go in & bug him. He might wake up & come out on his own by the time I’m out of the shower and dressed (the time I normally go in & wake him up).
- He has had major stress lately cleaning his room. It’s a huge struggle most days. The key to avoiding conflict on this is not to leave him alone. I shouldn’t send him off to do it & then stay in a seperate part of the house. He doesn’t necesarrily want help, he just wants company & encouragement, and I have no good reason to “put my foot down” and make him go without that.
- Stop using threatening statements entirely! If a sentence comes out of my mouth that starts with “If you don’t stop…” or “If you keep on doing…” then it is inevitably followed up with some kind of threat or consequence… these get us NOWHERE. I need to find a new way of conveying what the expectations of him are, in a way that isn’t authoritarian. This is gonna take some practice.
- I have some regrets about taking a break from video games… But he has stress with them, especially games where he is by himself, building things, and can OCD out on the details. He loves to create and he’s quite good at the technical aspect of it, but he gets VERY easily frustrated. When that happens, it usually causes a fit, a meltdown, that leads to a downward spiral that is near impossible to climb out of. We need to find him a different creative outlet that will encourage, rather than frustrate him. Something he can do with his hands that will focus his energy and interest on the task. Or a way to regulate the games that all of us can live with.
- There is no point trying to force structured school activities on him during the times of day when he has zero focus. This only teaches him to see learning as a chore. Doing school after lunch doesn’t work for him, we’ve tried… but what does work? We could try doing school from 3 to 5, but that tends to be a time of day when I am lacking focus and motivation… It’s going to take awhile for us to find our groove. I also need to remind myself that Seth is willing, able, and interest in being more involved. There is absolutely nothing wrong with school in the evenings if we find it works for us. We don’t have to fit into anyone’s idea of what’s normal.
We’re almost done with our 4th week of homeschooling… It’s been an interesting adventure so far. Halfway through that first week I sat down with Silas’ teacher and principal and got some things taken care of. I didn’t want him to go from full school days, 5 days a week, to never seeing any of the kids from his class, never seeing Peter, etc… so we worked out a plan. He attends the first 3 hours of the day Mon, Tue, Thur, & Fri. This is the class’ literacy block where they read to eachother, do writing projects, work on grammar, spelling, editing, share their stories…. Sometimes a tiny bit of Math or Science is thrown in during this block, but not usually. No music, p.e., or art electives during this time frame (all that happens after lunch), so it’s worked beautifully for Silas. He’s with Peter the whole time, not some other teacher who’s doing crowd control. There is one recess during those 3 hours, but him & Peter have worked it out so that he stays inside and reads or draws and has a snack. It’s gone really well so far.
Our afternoons are relaxed and slow. We do a little bit of penmanship worksheets, history, and art appreciation. We read a lot and do random projects… still holding off on Math. I got all the books and I just need to figure out exactly where he is and what he already knows before we jump in. I also plan to add in some hands-on science and spelling, but am waiting until I can order the materials. Sometimes I worry that he isn’t focusing, some days we skip school all together and just exist… and I worry he’s not retaining anything we’re doing. But then this morning he started rattling off stuff about the nomads during breakfast… and I just knew. He gets it. He’s absorbing.
It’s really quite helpful that not only do I have a little brother who has been homeschooled all the way through (he’s now 16), but that Silas’ stepdad is from a VERY similar situation. His younger brother is the same age as mine, and has been home from the get-go. His 12 year old sister is in her very first year of public school. So Seth’s mom has amassed quite a collection of books, materials, and experience. She ended up bringing us a big box of books last week, when Seth updated her on Silas already being out of school. There were about twenty of these books in the mix!
I’m already figuring out ways I could use them along side these to further explore each era of history. She also included a couple of art books, a book full of projects relating to Celtic culture, and some random atlases and reference books! Today I plan to order the first volume of The Story Of The World and the math program I’ll be using, so we can get started on those first…
I decided that with the abrupt change to homeschooling instead of the fresh start I had originally envisioned, we needed a little time off before we dove into actual structured anything. Today was one of those relaxed days where we just ran errands, ate deli food for lunch, and went to the beach. I don’t understand how the weather can suddenly be SO nice, but I’ll take it. I’m going to officially start ordering books and supplies next week, I think. Until then, we’re just relaxing….