Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Week's (and Last Week's) H/School Journal

In our homeschool these past two weeks...
...we have been working at finishing up the remainder of our work for this year.  About two weeks ago, I told Matthew that I wanted him to finish ten days of school during the month of December and that I would tell him each day when I would be available to work with him.  I told him that he could choose which days on which he could do school:  He could do ten days in a row, including weekends; or he could do them over the days of Christmas; or he could choose to do two or three days every week throughout the month of December...whatever worked for him.  He has completed almost eight days (the eighth day ended in a meltdown yesterday so we'll finish it up some time this weekend), and I anticipate we'll be done by mid next week.  It will be nice to enjoy a break for a couple of weeks.

...we decorated the house two weeks ago, watched Christmas movies (The Nutcracker, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Santa Baby, and one other that I can't remember), done some Christmasy-types of crafts, coloured, read lots of Christmasy books (including learning about the history of Santa Clause/St.Nicholas, candy canes, etc etc), decorated the gingerbread house, read the Bible's Nativity story, continued to celebrate Advent (both daily as well as on Sundays with the lighting of purple advent candles), indulged in egg nog, and so on and so on.  We've had a good/fun couple of weeks.

...I have started playing a few more games with the kids.  Until recently, anything more complicated than Crokinole, Snakes and Ladders, Trouble/Sorry, and Kerplunk was too hard for the younger kids to play - mostly because their language wasn't good enough to grasp the nuances of more complex instructions.   Geoff and I have regularly played games with Matthew after his siblings have gone to bed but it's nice that I can now begin to include Seth and Lizzie in a few more games.  Over a year ago, I bought two small, spiral bound game books from an online educational game company called Boxcars and One-Eyed Jacks (here's the link: but just recently pulled the books out again to re-discover that they have fantastic and simple game ideas for kids grade K-6, teaching math and letter/language skills.  This morning the kids and I played their entry-level game called "Disappearing Alphabet" using a 32-sided dice, and all three kids were fully engaged with it and having fun for over 40 minutes!  Also, it was amazing to see that suddenly, when confronted with the possibility of winning/losing a game, competitive Seth's brain started to pick up a wee bit...he actually occasionally (after burying his head in his hands to groan and think and try hard to pull that darn letter name out of his head!) remembered some of the letters that he's been struggling with for months and was able to proceed in the game.  It was fantastic experience with the Boxcar game books, and I'll be using them more often!

Places we went and people we saw... of the highlights of the past two weeks was going to a live Nativity display at a local church.  It was incredible!  Apparently over 400 people particpated in the preparation of this event and our journey through the well-disguised church basement involved meeting Roman soldiers, seeing Herod and his entourage in the palace, hearing from census takers and tax collectors, watching women and pickpockets in the marketplace, and ultimately seeing Mary and Joseph in a stable with their (newborn!) baby Jesus - who was lying, sleeping, swaddled in a manger.  There were even real animals (donkey, pony, puppies, kittens, etc).  It was an extraordinary effort and very well done, and it really make the Biblical story of Christmas come alive - not just for the kids, but for me!

...we had a few playdates, which were good for both kids and mama, and we have been getting to know a bit another h/schooling family who has also adopted from Ethiopia.  Our three and their one seem to really hit it off and we parents seem to have much in common.

...we saw a couple of IMAX movies, about orangutans (sp?) and elephants, and about the dangers to the polar region due to global warming.  Both were excellent.

...all three kids (and I) were invited to one of Matthew's friend's birthday parties this week, and we all had so much fun.  The mom of the b-day boy was so relaxed and welcoming - I could learn a thing or two from her (and did!).  I really enjoyed getting to know her a little better, and my kids have been talking about that party for days already!

My favourite things this week were...
...drinking egg nog/chai tea combinations on two different mornings (thank you Elaine, for introducing me to this a year ago - they're heavenly!!).

...the birthday party we went to. evening out with a dear friend on my Thursday night out this week.

...the awesome conversations the kids and I have been engaging in.

...completing all of the last bits of Christmas shopping.

What's not working for us...
...Geoff and I have been noticing some mildly concerning things in regard to Seth's attachment.  There's no doubt that he's attached to us, but I think he's also becoming fearful again - he's terrified of saying, or hearing, things about love, and he's told me that he's scared because it means we'll be taken away from him.  Poor thing, to have been through so much already to have to fear this.  We've simultaneously been noticing that his affection towards people outside of our nuclear family unit has become more exaggerated and, given that he's not an overly cuddly kid to begin with, this is a little concerning.  This is a classic adoption scenario where a child, out of fear of losing his family again, will 'parent shop' in anticipation that he will need someone else to take care of him when we're gone.  Geoff and I are in discussion about what to do about this, but for sure our plan of action will include needing to ask other people (family, friends) to maintain a little more distance from him, physically (ie. not picking him up, no lap sitting, etc etc), so that he continues to turn to Geoff and me to meet his every need.  It's a hard thing to ask people to pull back after lots of time spent engaged with Seth, but Geoff and I are increasingly aware that we're going to have to do this in Seth's best interests, and do it now before it becomes a pronounced issue.  He's doing so well, overall, and we hope that people will understand that we need to continue our work with him.

What's working for us...
...contrary to what I just said above, Geoff and I also notice that, increasingly, all three kids are gelling together really well...especially the boys.  Although they still fight and squabble, the boys don't really like being separated for all that long, and when they are separated, they both express a desire that the other come back again soon.  Seth is continuing to laugh and relax more, and I love hearing him sing when he thinks I'm not paying attention!

...we (mostly I) have been having a lot of big conversations with the kids on various topics over the past two weeks:  How babies are born; how babies are conceived (they always seem to forget this one so I find myself explaining this on a regular basis and then they always say 'oh yeah we know this already' and so I include a few more details than the last time so that it's all just a natural part of life to them); what marriage and divorce are all about; why they don't get to see the mother of their beloved older cousins (Matthew still remembers her as being very kind to him); lots of questions and tidbits of information about Seth's and Lizzie's first mother and how/why she died; about St. Nicholas and his 'evolution' into the Santa story; etc etc.

You name it, we've talked about it these last couple of weeks - at least, so it seems.  Many of our conversations seem to take place driving around in the van, on route somewhere or another, and I've come to think that this is a really great forum for these kinds of discussions:  It's casual; it's naturally time limited (and I think that too much information can be overwhelming); the kids don't have to look me in the eye if they don't want to (and so often I find that on sensitive subjects a lack of eye contact is helpful for kids as they ask questions and process information...especially for kids who have a lot to deal with); and I can still gauge their response by watching them in the rear view mirror.  One afternoon last week, when I sensed that one of the kids needed a change of pace and a good conversation, I actually piled them all into the van, went through a drive-through for some hot chocolate for the four of us, and drove around with them for a while, chatting.  It was awesome.

...Matthew had his last piano lesson of the year this morning and he's doing well.  We're fortunate that his teacher is a very soft-spoken, warm young woman whose gentle personality seems to really mesh well with Matthew's sensitive character; she also has a Masters degree in music therapy, and I believe this has really helped her to work with him right where he's at.  My desire to not force him to practice between lessons is, I believe/hope, paying off (so far!).  More and more every week, I see Matthew drawn to the piano, either to fiddle around with some melody that has been purcolating in his brain, or to voluntarily practice the music his teacher assigned.

...Seth and Lizzie also had their last music class of the term this morning and Geoff and I got to sit in on it.  There are only six kids in their class and they have a fabulous teacher, and it's been neat to see how she has drawn out their natural love of music.  Both kids got to show off a little when it came to singing under her direction, playing glockenspiel, and performing various other little musical games and exercises.

Things I'm working on...
...planning skating lessons for the kids.  I found a private company that we're going to go with rather than the city-run lessons - there are fewer kids in the class, and more coaches, and the kids can all three go in at the same time.

...figuring out karate lessons for the boys.  They have been expressing a strong interest, so I think I'll try them out in a h/school group first thing in the new year.  Someone asked me recently why I chose whenever possible to sign the kids up for h/school group lessons rather than through the public/private system.  My first response is that my kids are often signed up for things that have nothing to do with h/school groups (gymnastics, cycling programs; Awana; basketball; skating; swimming; etc).  However, it is very true that I do love to sign up with h/school groups when possible; in part because many of the other kids and parents are either friends or becoming friends so there's a strong community aspect to participating in the activity; and in part b/c the scheduled h/school activities and lessons virtually always take place during the day when school-attending kids can't participate...which means we can avoid some of the dinner time and evening 'rush' that other activities entail.

I'm grateful for...
...this season.  I really love it:  The meaning of it and the hope that is found in this season; the traditions we're building as a family; all of the Christmas lights that decorate so many houses; the fun of it all.   This is the most joy-filled Christmas I've experienced in a long time.

I have to admit that my joy has been tempered in the past 24 hours by the news of the Connecticut school tragedy and I've been praying off and on all day for those many families who have suffered such horrible losses.  It doesn't seem to be leaving my mind, and I'm glad for that...I don't want to forget these things, and I don't want to forget how fragile and temporary life here on earth is.

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