Monday, August 29, 2016

School Years Flashback

   I love a new school year. The smell of new school supplies, lesson pages fresh and crisp, and little people eager to start a new grade all thrill me. I know. I'm not normal. Or maybe I'm just a teacher through and through.
   I never intended to homeschool. Did I ever mention that? It's true. I was homeschooled to 8th grade and didn't particularly like it, but going to public school from 8th through graduation was a whole other level of awful. I was an excellent student that never left the high honor roll, played basketball year round and was a starter all five years(and would end up going to college on a basketball scholarship), but for an introvert to go from homeschooling to public school was culture shock and produced massive anxiety, which added to my other struggles. Fast forward to college. I really enjoyed it far more than high school. People largely left you alone, you could choose your friends yourself because you weren't shoved into the same peer group for multiple classes every day, and there was far more freedom to come and go as you pleased. I studied education(and American Sign Language), because I had always just wanted to be a mom so I figured that until I was a mom I would nurture other peoples' kids. It worked out well! Before I had kids, I loved teaching. My classes were my pseudo-children, and I doted on them, taking a deeply personal interest in their experience which made teaching so fun and engaging. Then I had my oldest. I went back to teaching when she was 6 weeks old because we could not afford for me to take more time off. From that point forward, I was a horrible teacher. I was just so miserable, fighting Postpartum Depression and just wanting desperately to be home with my baby. I cried all day. During class, while I pumped on my breaks, and I did not have much patience. It was awful. I put in my resignation within weeks.
PreK and 1.5 years
   When my oldest was 3, she and her 1-year-old brother would sit at the front window and watch the school bus go by twice every day, picking up and dropping off neighbor kids. She begged to go to school. I looked into local nursery schools, but none would take her because her late December birthday was after the cut-off for 3-year-olds. She persisted, so I decided to do preschool work with her at home. Nothing intensive, just some fun flashcards, and I found the awesome free resource for PreK(and up) curriculum online at Brightly Beaming Resources called Letter of the Week. One letter, shape, number, and color every week was the focus, and it was learned through free printables, and a fun list of kid songs, library books, nursery rhymes, and games. PreK was a hit.
Kindergarten, 2.5 years, and 10 months

   The next year she was 4, and try as I might to keep her busy with more preK work, she was bored-bored-bored. Because of her age, I was worried to start kindergarten lest it be too much, but eventually we took the plunge. She did amazingly well. It surprised me how well she did, but I was so grateful for the validation that we were on the right track.
   An added bonus to our little bit of structured schooling every day was to be able to connect with her. She was a sweet, calm kiddo, and was easily overshadowed by the demands of her special needs brother and his therapy several times a week, and her infant sister who just needed loads of attention on-demand because she was an infant. School was a time I could set aside for us. There were distractions and interruptions galore, but schoolwork gave us time to work together, hear and be heard, and I learned so much more about her developing personality, strengths, and struggles, by working with her.
   In first grade, her younger brother was doing better(his amazing Occupational Therapist saved our family. That's in no way an exaggeration.) and moving into preK using the same Letter of the Week program we used for our first, her younger sister was interactive and enjoyed sitting at the table and coloring with them to pretend to do schoolwork. It was a lot of fun, most days. I was pregnant with #4 and had severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but we pushed through.
   It was in first grade that we considered putting her in public school. She had some real struggles with learning to read and I was so sick I thought I couldn't do her justice. Unfortunately, if we had sent her to school at 5(not turning 6 until half-way through their year), they'd have insisted she be in kindergarten and both my husband and I felt this would be to her detriment since she so clearly already had a great grasp on the first grade work we were going through. So we continued. Eventually, we figured out what helped the reading struggles and #4 was born so I stopped being so sick all the time. My first year homeschooling more than one student was largely a success.
   Our 2013-2014 school year was full of change. #1 was in second grade and had spent the whole summer reading constantly(her choice!), so she was completely caught up and beyond. #2 was doing very well on his third year of twice-weekly OT, and was moving on to kindergarten. #3 could not be fooled by coloring books any longer, so we moved her up to preK, and #4 was a rolly-polly menace of distraction. Just like that, I had three little pupils, all while I was packing our house and preparing to move to southern Virginia from Upstate New York(think the shores of lake Ontario and Canadian neighbors, people. Not the Hudson Valley.). We moved in November. It was a trying year. Lots of struggles and behavior-based issues from the huge changes. So much adjustment for everyone.
   The 2014-2015 school year was also really difficult. Shortly after the school year began, I started having heart problems that needed medical attention, and that tipped us into a slide of epic proportions into unexpected medical issues, like my husband being hospitalized for cellulitis in his eye socket, the heartbreaking surgical second trimester miscarriage of our fifth child, a bad car accident that left my husband with life-long spinal injuries, and more. It was... hard. But I had a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and kindergartner as well as a toddler, so we kept trucking. My husband also started back to school working on his Masters.
   This was our first full year homeschooling in Virginia, and I really appreciated the differences in the state's demands on homeschoolers compared to New York. I wrote a bit about the differences in one of last fall's posts, The Trap of Imaginary Enemies.
   Our 2015-2016 school year started off with more change. We'd just bought and moved into our new house, brought our awesome Aussie, Cooper, into the family, and had just found out we were expecting our rainbow, baby #6. Additionally, I went back to school myself, studying to be a birth and bereavement doula through Stillbirthday. #1 was in fourth grade and reading every spare second she could. #2 was in second grade and teaching me how to be a more creative teacher while learning to incorporate dragons into any and every aspect of teaching in order to make it interesting to him and keep his attention. #3 was in what we called kindergarten-and-a-half. She wasn't quite grasping a couple of key kindergarten concepts, which was fine because she was just turning 5. For her that year, we did a kindy-first hybrid. #4 was still just doing his best to distract everyone and wreck havoc at everything with Cooper, his partner in crime. The school year ended in the end of April, the day our rainbow was born. Perfect timing, Little One.
   That brings us to the present: the 2016-2017 school year. Hooray! We're off on another great adventure, and this year I am just beside myself. I have an incredibly sweet, intelligent, fast-maturing fifth grader. HOW THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN?! My wild child is amazing, challenging, precocious, and insanely distractable. My work is cut out for me here. My third is in full-on first grade and about to have her 6th birthday. She's very excited to work her pony, Buttercup, into everything possible. #4 is cute, wild, 3.5-years-old, and desperate to be a big kid like the rest so we're starting Letter of the Week pre-k with him, too. #6 and Cooper are my Master Distractors, and already on day one doing a superb job at throwing a wrench in everything they can. I wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited for you and your awesome tribe! You are amazing and don't you ever forget it!