Sunday, November 9, 2008

You Know It's All Worth It When ...

My Charlie, who I've pegged as a generally contrary child (albeit generally a good boy, he doesn't like many things) has truly been a changed guy lately. For about a month (so pretty much around the time I started to have a complete melt down because I wasn't getting through to him) he has been the most affectionate, loving guy.

This is new.

He's always been pretty retiscent and not the first one to jump in line for hugs, or for time with Mom (although he liked spending time with Dad). However, all that has changed.

The first time I noticed that Charlie's demeanor was changing, was when he had to do a Public Speaking assignment as part of one of his Language Arts lessons. He has never before been able to memorize poems and such and to deliver them in front of people. 

However, he's twice now memorized a poem and delivered it, not just to me during class time, but later for his Dad and brother too. He's been very proud of his excellent public speaking skills. 

He is seaking out hugs, asking for snuggle time and speaking up during family discussions. He is smiling and laughing, and his contrary self has been nowhere in sight for a while now.

Tonight, while I was tucking him in, I said I thought maybe aliens had abducted him and replaced him with a new and improved model. Of course he thought that was hysterical, but was quick to assure me that he was still just Charlie.

When I asked him why, then he was seeming so much happier and snugglier, he said (and this is gold)

"Because I'm believing in myself more."

And that, boys and girls, is what makes all of it - everything - absolutely and undeniably, worth it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why We Do The Hard Things

This homeschooling thing ain't easy.

It is probably the hardest thing I've ever done. It's certainly the least selfish thing and I'm just about the most selfish person I know. I'm all about 'my' time, my writing time, my photography time, my, mine, me.

Maybe some moms choose to homeschool out of a sort of selfishness--because they believe they can do better, or they want to control what happens in their kids lives. I have some of those reasons, I'm sure, too. My biggest selfish reason for homeschooling is that I wanted to have more times with my boys. But that's kind of one of those gray selfish areas, it serves a good and generous purpose too. A win/win. :)

But I wanted to share the good that my husband and I have been recognizing from our efforts, especially on the heels of my recent struggles. 

  • There have been far fewer fights between my two boys. Less hassling, more sharing and cooperating. Charlie even called Xander his best friend today. That was huge.
  • The boys no longer turn into zombies when they watch TV or play video games. (more on that later)
  • Charlie has grown in his confidence by leaps and bounds. It is truly amazing. He speaks out more clearly, speaks his mind more often, and shares his insights when he used to just listen and take it all in. I have loved getting to know him better. 
  • Xander has been able to expand his mind by reading whatever he can get his hands on--he has the time, now, to do that and he loves it. And I love seeing a book worm grow right before my eyes. 
  • The boys are generally far more compliant and quick to respond to my requests for help or for them to do chores. (I think this also relates to the zombie thing)
I'm sure there are many more, these are just a few that quickly come to mind.

About zombies. It used to be, when the boys were in a traditional brick and mortar public school, that they would come home exhausted and want to 'zone out' in front of the TV or computer. It truly was zoning out, and they only did those things because they were minimally participatory and they were too tired to do anything else--and heaven forbid they take a nap. Big kids don't do that sort of thing.

I would typically let them have a short time to decompress after school, however they needed to do it. But I had to be careful not to let them have too much 'screen time', because otherwise, they would turn into zombies. You could recognize when they had had too much screen time and they were now zombies because they couldn't hear you when you spoke to them, their eyes had a dazed and far away look, and they had a hard time tearing themselves away from whatever was on the screen.

Now, I would imagine they get a fair amount of screen time, and yet there have been no zombies at my house except for at Halloween.

I let them have computer breaks during school time. They work well for me for a while if they know they will be rewarded with ten or fifteen minutes of screen time. They willingly set their timers and jump right back to work when their time is up. No zombies in sight.

Here's my theory why they are not turning into zombies even though they are still getting screen time: When they leave for school and are gone all day, they are disconnecting from me, from home, from mom and dad. Many times, even, forces at school are working against the home mandates. For instance, your child might come home and say "so and so said they get to do THIS or THAT" and so they are already defensive and ready to fight you before they even get home.

Then, when they get in front of that screen, they are further disconnecting. More time to pull away from home.

However, because they are always with me now, they are fully connected, fully engaged with me from morning until night. Now, when they get screen time, or play time they are not disconnecting from us, but feel it is simply an extension of their home life. They are always safely and securely wrapped up in the arms of their family, that even when they take time for themselves, they still feel safe in their sense of belonging to a family.

I have given up my photography business, one of my writing jobs, and I still barely have time to work on my current writing projects. This is a hard thing, make no mistake. It is a sacrifice. A sacrifice of id, but not a sacrifice of anything important. My id will grow and be made so much better because of this sacrifice. Truly, it's barely a sacrifice at all--only superficially is it any kind of sacrifice. 

This is why I do the hard things ... to see my boys shine.