Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A walking contradiction

This nine-year-old business is rather funny. Has anyone else noticed their nine-year-olds being suddenly plagued with contradicting emotions?

Sunburst, who is a Very Lovely Child-- and I say this from the deepest place in my heart without any facetiousness whatsoever-- is driving me completely bonkers. I keep reminding myself that this "Thing" she's going through is probably just as maddening to her as it is to me. Her new influx of hormones have her up and down like a yo-yo, pulled every which way with a good amount of tension on the line. Were I in her position, I'd probably handle it much, much worse than she is currently doing.

It's the contradiction of her wants and needs that gets me. It's at once both confounding and amusing. See? Another contradiction. It's contagious! And oddly, it's not that much different than that dance of independence exhibited by a two-year-old: I want to run away from you, but I need to make sure you're still there.

She wants her own room, her own space, and privacy.
And then she asks to sleep in bed with her siblings.

She speaks like she knows everything and anything.
The next minute she deflates and announces her own stupidity.

She's proud of herself and her accomplishments.
And then you blink and she's calling herself a failure.

She pulls away because she wants independence.
An hour later she wants to cuddle in my arms and have me sing her lullabies.

I'm pretty sure this particular "dance" doesn't end any time soon.... if ever, really. I know it will become less pronounced in time, maybe the tension will change or the speed of the reversals, but this push and pull routine is probably here to stay. It's something I still recognize in my relationship with my own mother. Hold me close, but not too close, but then hold me close again. Let me go off and live my life, but still be there. Don't hold me back, but don't turn away. Let me fall, but be there to pick me up and nurture my wounds. Don't tell me what to do, but still encourage me. No wonder the parents of teenagers go slowly mad.

Could it really be as simple as all that? If I just continually remember to "still be here," is that enough? Will she continue to pull farther and farther away because I'm here and constant? And is that a good thing? Do I want her to go farther? Do I really have a choice? She'll go anyway. But will she go with confidence and self-assurance? Will she make good choices? And will she come back? It's such a gamble, this parenthood thing.

And what of the kids who don't bounce back? You know the ones I'm talking about--- the ones that go really far away, like to the streets. To drink. To drugs. To destructive relationships. To the places we never envisioned for our kids. I want to know, were the parents still there, solid and constant, waiting with welcoming arms? Or, as I suspect, was there no one to bounce back to?

Obviously these are all rhetorical questions. I know I'm projecting a little bit, after all, Sunburst is only nine. I just don't want to screw it up. It's too important. So sometimes I feel like I have to look inside and ask myself these kinds of questions. Where are we? Where are we going? What does this child need for the rough road ahead, and how can I best give it to her? What can I do right now?

It's time to get off the computer, hold her close, and sing another lullaby while she's still interested.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Different child, different story

Today I finally pulled it together enough to start Moonshine's first grade story. I say finally because she has been waiting and waiting patiently for it to begin. This is what first grade is about, she says. The story. The long, involved story that she witnessed Sunburst enjoying for her entire first grade year. Moonshine remembers Sunburst's story-- the key players, parts of the plot, and some of the adventures... for although she was but a three-year-old playing in the adjacent room, her ears and heart were finely tuned to the cadence of my voice.

From the start, it was apparent to me that I couldn't tell her the same story I told Sunburst. For so many reasons it is the wrong story for her-- the characters, while captivating, don't bring her the growth and empowerment that she needs. And most important of all, it would be like serving left-overs. Middle children have the feeling of getting enough leftovers as it is. And we just can't have that, can we?

It didn't feel easy this time. But with Einstein's help, I came up with a fairly captivating storyline last night. It mirrors the basic image of Sunburst's story-- there are three travelers setting out on a journey to save their kingdom, but it's a much more involved story. There are visions and wizards and bad dragons, red as blood. And that's just the beginning.

It's still a work in progress. The hard part is done though-- the characters, the plot... and now the adventure begins. I'm hoping for continued inspiration as we travel along with Eliza, the girl with the vision, her father Samuel, and little Gus, the wizard's (mostly) annoying nephew.

Moonshine can't wait to hear what happens next. And to be honest, neither can I.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Passing notes

Friday afternoon I found myself sitting at the table fidgeting with a piece of paper. I was sitting there trying to come up with new and exciting ways to explain how a person can remember 7x8=56, and like Sunburst, I was drawing a blank. We had already talked about how nicely it goes 5-6-7-8 (56=7x8). And we had also noticed how it was 7x4 doubled. But beyond those things, I had nothing. The seven times table can be like that. So I sat there, letting my mind wander, and I began playing with the sheet of paper. With my help, it folded itself into a note.

Do you remember folding notes?

It seems like several lifetimes have passed since middle school, but I still fondly remember jotting down my most important little thoughts on notebook paper, folding them up into little packages complete with tiny pull-tabs and passing them to my best friend. I'd wait anxiously for her reply, and then I'd fire off another note. To protect our identities we had clever nicknames for each other, which we changed mercilessly and often--- Sparky/Shaggy, Nikki/ Vince, Gordie/Chambers, Mrs. Taylor/Mrs. LeBon, Mickey/Davy, Inchworm/Dead Inchworm, Fish-Head/Dead Fish-Head... nothing was off-limits, apparently.

I don't remember ever getting caught, even by the dreaded Ms. Yanagihashi, who as the detention marm, inspired dread in the souls of all sixth-graders. We were careful and calculated, Sparky and I, and our passing of notes continued for many years... crammed through locker vents, hastily pressed into each other hands in the hallways and courtyards of school, and when our paths diverged into separate high schools, the fancily-folded notes of yore gave way to entire notebooks of random thoughts, odd doodles, and teenage rants exchanged at length over phone calls or weekend sleepovers.

It's been a long time since the days of passing notes with Mrs. Taylor. A few years ago she sent me one of the notebooks of notes I had given her during our Freshman year, after extracting an explicit promise from me to mail it back to her or suffer the dire consequences of her wrath. It was awful and embarrassing as an adult to comb through those pages I had written at 14-- so much angst, so much uncertainty. But like it or not, those were my important thoughts back then, both the good and the ugly, the silly and the morose. For whatever reason they must have meant something to her, and she kept them all these long years.

I sat there basking in nostalgia and idly playing with the little pull-tab I had crafted on the note in front of me. Suddenly I knew what I had to do.

I picked up the nearest pencil, and in teeny tiny letters, I wrote on that tab: 7x8.

I opened up the note, and inside, I wrote the words: "the answer is 56." I folded it back up again and slyly passed it to Sunburst. She took one look at it and grinned. She unfolded and folded that note many times. And then she wrote me a note of her own, folded up in just the same way.

About fifteen minutes later she passed me a note of her own making. I was giddy as I imagined what exciting bit of news or sweet words of endearment she was passing me. The little pull tab said, "Sara" on it, and inside I found the words: "Is it time for lunch yet?" Endearment? I suppose with a nine-year-old that's close enough.

During lunch she told me 7x8=56. So I took that as a cue and secretly made her two more notes folded in equally enthralling ways. 8x8 made it into a heart-folded note, along with the answer and my own words of endearment for her. She found it on the stairs on her way to bed. She snatched it up quick as lightning and hid it under her pillow. When I came upstairs to tuck her in, she was smiling brightly, but didn't say a word about the note. After I said the bedtime prayer and kissed her goodnight, she told me, "64. 8x8 is 64." She pulled the opened note from under her pillow and asked me to show her how to fold it back up again.

We folded and refolded the heart-shaped note several times, and she admitted to me that she thought this was the neatest way ever to learn the times table. She couldn't believe she was actually learning this stuff, that she only had two more problems to go, and she was so proud of herself. She said, "I doubt teachers can pass notes like this in public school, and I bet no one has ever learned the times table like this before. It's so interesting mom. Interesting and creative. I'm sure glad I'm homeschooled." And if that wasn't enough sugar-coated syrup to melt my heart, she looked at me with shining eyes and said, "Everyone should feel lucky to have a mom."

Yep, she had me in tears. Does homeschooling get any better than this?

The next morning at breakfast Sunburst discovered an arrow-folded note that read 8x12. She looked at me knowingly before slowly and carefully opening it. She read the answer inside, and closed it back up again. A little while later she told me the answer.

"Only one more problem to go," I told her. "Do you remember which one is left?"

"12x12," she said. "But I think it's 144."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Being old

Somehow I have gotten old. Not just simply old, as in where did all this gray hair come from, old. No. It's worse than that. Apparently I'm not just old, I'm old and crotchety.

Sunburst had the audacity to ask me the other day if I ever wished that I could still get crazy excited about things. Crazy excited? It hadn't even occurred to me that I wasn't, that I don't... The possibility of crazy excited had never even crossed the threshold of my mind, which undeniably solidifies my fate. At 36, I am old.

While I was standing there dumbfounded by my aging predicament, she then backed up her question with another question. "Do you even remember getting excited about things?"

Do I remember?

I think it's time for me to invest in pills and a walker. Do I remember? Hmph! The scary thing is that no, I don't remember. And suddenly my nine-year-old daughter sees me as some crotchety, grumpy, stick-in-the-mud, old person who lacks even one excited, fun bone in her body.

That can't be true, really. Can it? I mean, sure, I'm not so much fun as I used to be... wiping butts and cleaning up vomit and getting woken up in the night for almost a decade takes its toll on the fun-making, surely. Surely! Honestly, I don't even remember my life before motherhood. It's all a blur... a hazy, loud, caffeinated blur. But I must have been a teensy bit fun. I had friends... none of whom I'm much in contact with anymore. All my cohorts now tend to be people who met me A.C. (after children). Their visions are skewed by their own monstrous brood. We A.C. friends tend to back each other up out of parallel experience. We recognize the squeak of that hamster wheel going round and round and getting nowhere fast. Like me they have succumbed to the reality that we'll always be making breakfast, even though we just made breakfast. Oh, breakfast-- here it comes again. Those gals would tell me I'm a hoot without even blinking.

But what of the other people? Those friends from my youth? Surely they remember me differently. Maybe as focused, inspired, creative... giddy. No, giddy is probably going too far. But excitable? Enthusiastic? Was I any fun at all?

Sunburst's load of questions came streaming at me. Her inquiries about my youth have taken a turn lately... was I ever bad? Did I ever do anything I felt bad about? What did my friends and I do? Did I ever get in trouble in school? What was the worst thing I ever did? What was I like?

Of course I try to answer these things, but the one question I keep returning to is one I'm asking myself. How am I fun now?

Granted, I've been really stressed out lately. The move. The adjustment. And in the last two weeks I have suffered a huge loss... my stepmother passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. I'm still trying to come to terms with that, something which seems so senseless. And so I feel entitled to a free pass on my "lack of fun" lately. But to the kids, my grieving and adjusting excuse doesn't fly. It's ongoing and timeless, and they are just desperate for some happy times.

Obviously that's an exaggeration. We do have fun times. It's a good life--- they skip around bursting into joyous singing. But I figure if one child is grilling me over the coals about my lack of excitement, then maybe I should stick that free pass back in my pocket and make more of an effort.

How am I fun now?

I'll post what I come up with. In the meantime, what makes you tick? Are you any fun? Do YOU still get crazy excited? Or are you just as crotchety as I am?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

For the LOVE of Math!

Not that long ago Sunburst announced that she didn't like math. She wasn't good at math, and could we please just not do any math. Ever. Again.

At the time we were reading one of the Little House books --I forget which one, but I think it was one from the Caroline series-- and we read that Caroline didn't like math. It was said plainly, like that. She didn't like math.

Now, I don't know about you, but when my kids and I read through a book we usually start to identify with the main character. I mean, that's the point of a good book--- suck you in, make you care, etc. And you care because you identify. So there we were reading along, being Caroline, and she announces that she doesn't like math. As if her racism in the Laura series wasn't bad enough. She. Doesn't. Like. Math?

Immediately I saw this as a problem. Statistics used to show that girls' interest (and self-esteem) regarding math and science took a huge dip around puberty or pre-puberty. If you ask me, anything that whacks at a girl's self-esteem needs to be nipped in the bud. Pronto. The exact wrong way to do that? Suck girls into identifying with a female character who doesn't like math.

I'll admit, math gets hard when you start having to remember multiplication facts. It's tedious work. We've been working on it for a long time now. Making progress. Losing progress. Math is a slippery slope. You use it, often, or you lose it. So we've gone round and round with it-- telling stories, playing games, singing songs with math facts, the whole shebang. Even with all that, I still wasn't sure how well it was sticking. I was still convinced she was being Caroline about it. Until today.

Today she was fascinated by the idea of these math problems:

I have to thank my sister for sending them to me. They provoked some interesting discussions about what math is and can be. The idea of a maths riddle was irresistible.

Lately, Sunburst's math skills have taken off on their own. She's five problems away from having the multiplication table memorized, and she's faster at it than I am. She seems to understand it in a way that I never did in school, and I was relatively competent at math. I could memorize. But it was a static, surface relationship. I didn't feel them. Math was never a deep and fluid thing for me. I didn't see numbers as relationships and interrelationships. But in working with Sunburst, I'm starting to get it.

Sunburst doesn't like math. She LOVES it. What's more, she confided to me that she thinks she's good at it. Good. At. Math?

You know, I think she's right.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grade Four Resources

Our lessons

Everything Cows

As always, this is a work in progress. We'll, see how many of these we actually use. It's in no way a complete list... but a good start nonetheless.

Millenial Child Grade 4 files - Eugene Schwartz
Path of Discovery: Grade 4 - Eric Fairman
Spiritual Syllabus Grades 3-4 - Alan Whitehead
Waldorf Curriculum Overview - Christopherus
Grade Four files at waldorfhomeeducators - M. Johnson

Math Lessons for Elementary Grades - Dorothy Harrer
The Man Who Counted - Tahan
Multiplication Clock - Robinsunne

An English Manual - Dorothy Harrer
McGuffey's Fourth Reader
McGuffey's Speller
Kalavala -
Ursula Synge (didn't use)
D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths (loved this!)
Thorkill of Iceland -
Isabel Wyatt (used as an independent reader)
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils -
Selma Lagerlöf (read outloud, hard to get into)
Nordic Gods and Heroes - Padraic Colum (so-so)
The Human Being and the Animal World - Charles Kovacs (loved this!)
Drawing from the Book of Nature (loved this!)

Form Drawing/Artistic EnrichmentInspiring Your Child's Education - David Darcy
How to Do Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting... - Russell
Form Drawing: Grades 1-4
- Embrey Stine & Schuberth
Form Drawing - Barbara Dewey
Form Drawing - Niederhauser & Frohlich

Fun with German

Assorted picture books
Neue Fibel: Teil 3 -
Paul Dohrmann
Kinderlieder Kinderreime

Singing Every Day - Lila Belle Pitts
Folksongs for the Pentatonic Flute - Miles
Waldorf Teachers' Companion to the Pentatonic Flute - Miles
Beginning Mountain Dulcimer
Various piano books
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter