I am finally beginning to relax into the year and with that we have actually also managed to stay on track with lessons. That is probably been largely due to having Mark at home at the moment and so we can tag team and one of us can focus on Bob’s lessons while one of us can do activities with Zog and Kanga. It has been fun to learn together as a family and give the three of them more of our time. It has also felt like a week when we have been able to breathe once more though tiredness levels are still far from being righted.
Today has been on of those unexpected light bulb days of a fact that we have known but I have found hard to embrace is the reality that both our boys score high on levels of sensitivity. For Bob it is external stimuli such as noise, light and people and Zog we are realising is touch and feel. The right feeling fabric and shape makes a huge difference to how he copes and our understanding that for him even the slightest bang or knock is excruciatingly painful. It can be frustrating when trying to get everyone out the door and Zog is kicking off because he will not put on the clothes put out for him and the need to have that item that is at the bottom of the laundry pile because that is the only thing that will feel right against his skin that day. It can be hard when he drops something or steps on something and cannot just rub it better and move on.
But if we look back on this year and think how far we have come with Bob who now can handle new situations far better and in the moment tolerate noise, light and people (though not for hours on end). We know that the melt down will come once Bob is back home in the safety of home and he will be overloaded with energy or anxiety. We have let him lead us over the years as far as there was room to do so with what he could handle and what we have exposed him to, and while it has meant at times saying no to events and not joining in on everything that is supposed to be ‘family/child focused’ we have seen big steps forward in his confidence and willingness to step into new situations. It has never been an issue as some have assumed of being clingy, as he has always been happy to stay with others but it has had to be in very calm, safe places for him. The same is true for what he watches and while his younger brother can handle many programmes and DVDs Bob still struggles to handle the tension resolution that many story lines hold to, in a way that allows normal day-to-day life to carry on.
Today I have been reminded that we need to do similar for Zog, to provide him with options of clothes that he can be comfortable in which are not going to raise irritation levels and therefore increase his willingness to get dressed when asked/needs to. And it is the same with his pain tolerance, while not nursing the idea that he is really badly hurt, we need to register and acknowledge that to him it is a significant hurt, and in fact simply doing that today and then offering a kiss has seen many bumps which have often seen melt downs in the past when i have tried to brush them off.
It has been easier to accommodate his ongoing reflux and eating issues and make allowances for them with us and with others but today as I walked Kanga I realised that yes we have two fantastic boys who have sensitivity buttons that can be very easily triggered and as parents we need to help navigate them through those scenarios rather than tell them to get over them. It is moments like this that reminds me of how right it is for us to be home educating at the moment to allow them the freedom to develop and grow at their own pace in each area without unnecessary external pressure. It is not an easy road especially when others around you are not walking a similar road and whose children appear to glide through childhood in ways that your child just cannot do. I am confident all children have their battles and moments but for some those battles can are accentuated and need different strategies and ways forward.
Thursday nature walk at Pitville was as usual the highlight of the week as 5 mums and 12 children delved in the world of mini beasts exploring and learning about harvest man spiders, oak bush crickets, vapourer moths, worms, slugs and snails to name but a few of the creatures we had found. The sun shone, the leaves have started to change colour and all was good. Zog with his love of colour gathered a selection of leaves to make a new autumn leave picture for our front door and some leaves for leaf painting.
And as usual there was plenty of tree climbing and adventuring upstream.
Bob’s love of writing is still waiting to be discovered but as with a few of his lessons this year we are noticing a big difference in his attitude to work when he sees the point of it, so copy work seems pointless but give him a sentence the next day for dictation and he is more willing if not yet enthusiastic. Maths and 2+2 is never 4 more than once but give him a word problem and he can give you the equation and correct answer before you have finished reading the problem yourself. And don’t look at him counting on a number line if you care about 2+2 equalling 4 all the time because it is soul distressing but let him lie on the floor and shout out the answer having been to Jupiter and back and he will tell you the right answer. I cannot fathom how his brain is working but let him work way outside any box and he will come good. Set him limits and rules and he gets utterly lost. And conversations have started to get interesting now as he reads himself to bed with his history encyclopedia, pondering WW2 and what war looks like today. Romans and Greeks all seem safe and it does not bother me to teach him about that or to make costumes but WW2 and war today are just to close to home to feel comfortable having my 6-year-old reading about but how do you censor certain chapters in his beloved history encyclopedia which journeys right through to modern-day? His alternative bedtime reading (this is after bedtime stories with us) is his space encyclopaedia or science experiments books and working out which he can do here and what ones might need to wait till he can visit Grandad and Grandad’s shed for various bits and pieces.
History this week included a first look at manuscript writing. One day I hope to take him back to Dublin to show him the Book of Kells.
Mark and I were also commenting today how we are moving from a season of behavioural discipline and training with Bob to character building. Not to say his behaviour is all sorted, as he said to me in response the other day to why could he not show the same table manners as he does when at friends houses or when we have guests he said “but if i did that i would run out of manners and run the risk of not having any left when it mattered with other people around”. Not sure how to come back on that one. We all need a decompression space to let go and blow a fuse or two from time to time and if he knows home is the safe place to do that then that I think in light of the bigger picture is a good thing. We are starting to notice how he can be easily swayed into following others, caught up in the moment and we need to help guide him through that now to be able to remind him to stand up for what he knows is right, to consider the whole group he is with and his parents choices and requests of him. How to be able to say ‘no’, to pause before acting, to look around and not simply people please but watch out for others. When we started parenting and behaviour was our focus of training it seemed like the biggest deal but now character training has come along this seems even more significant. Behaviour while desirable is very much about surface expectations and giving a good impression, character makes a mark, good character will hopefully also know how to behave as well, poor character may be able to say please and thank you and play by the manners rules outwardly but behind backs be anything other than. Character shapes people and those around. It is not so immediately obvious, it takes time, there is no immediate obvious fruit in the same way but once more it is about taking the long range picture and sowing for the future a seed much deeper that will last a lifetime.
Zog along with intensive sensitivity buttons being on high alert he is also developing rapidly (no doubt some correlation there ) with each week and is loving all things number wise and is much more confident with a pen in his hand and writing but that is no surprise as his happy place is perched up high on the table out of Kanga’s reach with paper and pens and colouring away to his heart’s content. Sometimes though he has to share the painting space.
When he learnt this week that a friend of mine has her own painting studio in her house he was in awe that this was even possible and is looking forward to seeing it someday and maybe even getting to do some painting. I am keen to see him in that environment and to see how God might move in that place for him. This week he delved into the world of the letter ‘C for caterpillar’ from http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com and so he and Mark ensured we were will fed this week with caterpillar cake.
Kanga is growing in leaps and bounds as ever and is getting more vocal and just like Zog is going for last sounds of words so once you tune into her way of chatting you can understand lots more which is helping to ease the frustration levels that were reaching excruciating levels in the past couple of weeks. The boys are both impressed with her very clear “no” that she can say and uses regularly. She knows her own mind and is generally unwilling to be moved from it unless you offer her some cheese. So needless to say the consumption of cheese in our house is somewhat ridiculously high at the moment.
All in all it has been a good week. We have grown as a family, we have learnt lots, we have had our eyes opened to new ways of doing things, we have played and read lots. Sometimes who never know who might show up for lessons.
And Mark and I have sent in a joint application for a church post in London which we are excited by so we wait and see what comes of that, closing date 30th Sept. Tomorrow grandparents are coming for the day to watch the children while Mark and I get to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air and celebrate 8 years of an incredible journey as husband and wife.