Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012

We started September off with a day trip to Gibbons Creek Reservoir.  I like finding all the little fun spots around us.  They had a roped off swim area and we took our neighbors canoe out to do some fishing.  It still gives me a burst of cheer to get paddled around pretty nature spots by Caleb and Jon.  I love sitting behind Caleb and watching him paddle; he’s growing up right before my eyes.  It’s crazy!  How did he get so big and capable all of a sudden?  I especially enjoyed all the gigantic and beautiful lily pads, the stunning cranes perched on tree stumps that were intermittently coming out of the lake, drinking my coffee while my boys rowed me around, shoring up on the back side of a fun little island for a bit, and tying off to one of the random stumps so Jon could bait the fishing lines with super, super, super stinky bait.  Good memories.

Caleb had a great 11th birthday.  He wanted pizza and bowling with friends.  Easy to do, perfect!  Especially since his last birthday was such a bust.  It had been his first birthday in Texas and he missed his CA friends and traditions, on top of being too sick to even want birthday cake. I’m so glad he was able to have a great birthday this year.  Grandma Cheryl even came to celebrate my sweet boy.  I love her new tradition of flying in to visit for the boys’ birthdays.  We appreciate the tangible act of love.  Thanks Mom!  We are also so appreciative of all the thoughtful birthday gifts from friends and family.  Thanks everyone.  It made my heart happy to see how our new Texas friends have really gotten to know Caleb and found things that they knew he would love.  I’m very thankful for friendships, new and old.

Homeschooling is going well with Ben in 1st grade and Caleb in 6th grade.  This year we had the means to have the boys involved in some extra classes, which I’m very glad about.  Last year we were new to the area and didn’t really know what was available, plus we didn’t really have any extra money.  We tried a gymnastics class for Ben and I expected that he would love it!  He is constantly rearranging my living room into a giant jump zone.  They had a special homeschool class that was during the day with other homeschoolers.  How perfect, or so I thought.  I was surprised that Ben was so scared.  He was okay at first during the warm up and stretching portion of the class.  But then they jumped right into hard stuff without much explanation.  Turns out, the downside of the homeschool class was that it had all ages and experience levels in one class.  It terrified him. I was watching him standing in line waiting for his next turn to run and jump on the spring pad to launch him onto the huge foam block, hoping for him to see the fun in the activity.  But then I saw his fear try to break though and I saw him try to hold back the tears and be brave.  He kept this up through his whole wait in the line.  He took his turn with no enthusiasm, and then he very adult-like held up a “just a moment” finger to his teacher, and ran over to me in the viewing area.  And that was that.  He let it all go and I had one tearful boy on my hands.  I convinced him to go out and try it again, to be brave in the face of fear.  I thought we were in the clear when he agreed to give it another try.  He ran back into line and tried again.  He did his run (at a very slow speed – a meandering jog perhaps), his jump, and his assisted fall onto the huge foam block.  Then he bee lined it for me.  He broke down into a sobbing pile of distraught sadness! He absolutely would not go out again.  We watched the rest of the class from the viewing area.  We practiced everything we saw at home so he would be ready to go for the next class.  The next week, he got a big pep talk and the promise of the treat of his choice if he tries everything and stays in class.  He seemed agreeable until it was time to join the rest of the kids.  Another tear-fest!  I’ve never seen him like this and it broke my heart.  I was in such a spot.  What to do?  Do I push him to do something that apparently terrorizes him and teach him to try things and not let fear win, but traumatize him in the process?  Or do I let him off the hook and help him feel better, but in doing so, let him think you can just quit things if they’re hard?  Ahhh!  Well, I really couldn’t get him out there short of dragging him, and I decided that I wasn’t willing to pay primo dollar amounts if he isn’t benefitting from it.  But I did want him to be involved in something so that this fear of the unknown wouldn’t win.  By the next day I had him enrolled in KOR school for their Friday fine arts program. It’s a local private school that does the core subjects Mon-Thur.  They opened their Friday fine arts program up to homeschoolers for the first time this year.  And bonus: the supervisor was able to fit him in to the class with one of his friends, Cole Hamiter.  Yay!  He's taking music, theater, art, and P.E. Each class is an hour.  He was nervous about trying another new thing, so I promised to stay in the parking lot for the whole first day.  I would be there if he needed me.  Poor Caleb and my Mom had to honor the promise with me.  So the three of us sat in the car for 4 hours in the parking lot; a living security blanket.  But, it was so worth it.  Knowing I was just right there gave Ben the security and emotional freedom to be able to enjoy himself.  He had a blast!  From our parking space, we could watch Ben in his final class of the day, P.E.  It was such a sharp contrast to his gymnastics experience.  He was running full steam ahead and thriving in this atmosphere!  I'm so relieved it went well and I’m glad I could watch him for that little bit to see how he was doing.  I'm glad we found the right fit for our family. I’m glad my Mom was here visiting too! It's great that she was here as we figured all that out. She got to see the highs and lows in our homeschooling adventure. We topped our experience off with hamburgers and frozen custard. Yum!

Caleb is taking two really great classes this year that haven’t been offered in this area before.  They are so perfect for him and are challenging and engaging.  The first is a middle school level engineering class.  He has to take notes during the lecture, do homework, and participate in a variety of building challenges.  He is also taking a robotics class.  This class is a lot easier for him, but he is gaining a lot of knowledge he didn’t have before.  He loves them both and he even made one friend, another little boy his age who loves Legos and robots, and whose brain operates very similarly to Caleb’s.  It’s perfect.  We were invited over to his new friend’s house for a play date.  I got on really well with the mom and there was a little girl about Ben’s age.  They played splendidly together.  Extra perfect!  The friendships are still in the beginning phase, but I think they will be good ones.

We also went to the first get together of a group of homeschoolers who plan to meet once a month for a Lego contest, a chess tournament, an art project, and a geography video.  We went and Caleb enjoyed the Lego contest and the chess tournament.  We brought our Simpsons chess board and Caleb ended up with a big group of kids surrounding his game and wanting a turn to play on the fun board.  Ha ha, kids!  Secretly I had wondered if we would offend the local community with our Simpsons board.  They are very conservative around here.  It turned out to be fine, I think?  The art project wasn’t the best and they never made it to the geography video.  So next time I think we’ll just stay for the first two portions.

One neat advancement around here is that I signed up with Scholastic to receive their book club flyers as our own school.  They apparently have allowances to do that for homeschool families.  I had been missing being able to order from Scholastic, as they usually have a really discounted book highlighted each month and new books are often printed in paperback exclusively for Scholastic, when they are only offered in hardcover everywhere else.  Additionally, we’ll now receive the incentives, rewards, and discounts doubly, as both the parent and the teacher.  Yay for double rewards!