Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween?

       Even without power we're gearing up for trick- or - treating tonight and finishing up all our Halloween activities.  Luckily we have a huge generator from my husband's work and our phone came back on late this morning.   We spent the early morning lounging around in my bed watching the news of all the devastation hurricane Sandy left in her wake.  My eight year old said it best when he asked me "isn't it just heartbreaking?"  It is.  I reminded my boys how lucky we are that we only lost power and, with the generator, it's only a minor convenience.  We are very lucky and very blessed.  We laid in bed a bit longer snuggling together so I grabbed our chapter book and read the next two chapters.  We only have two more left and I'm hoping to finish up today during lunch.  I often read aloud as the boys eat and then eat my lunch in a rush as they're finishing up. 
        We came downstairs, had some breakfast and got ready for our day.   The boys wanted eggs so Ian helped me cook them.  As soon as we were ready Ian asked what we going to do first so we started with math; a huge family favorite.  Alec had a subtract and color sheet of a haunted house (he loves to color and really enjoys most worksheets).  Evan had a count, cut and paste sheet with black cats.  Ian and I played monster mash multiplication.  We rolled two die, multiplied them and covered up the answer (if we had it on our board) and the first one to cover the entire board wins.  And then our day just went downhill from there... big time!  Remember how yesterday I was saying homeschooling was going great and my boys love it and we're hitting our groove?  I guess I spoke too soon, or maybe I jinxed us... 
         The boys tell everyone how much they LOVE to homeschool.  They swear they'll never return to regular school (as they call it), but on days like today I'm not so sure.  Every activity I mentioned today was met with groans, sighs, and complaints.  This happens from time to time and normally I don't let it bother me I just remind them they could be at school with their friends and they usually settle down and get to work.  But lately, I've been getting more sighs, eye rolls and complaints than usual and today I decided I'm sick of it.  I can spend HOURS on-line looking for what I hope are fun activities.  I plan our days and pull out supplies while I could be watching TV or relaxing.  I welcome and love input from them if there's something they want to learn about or an experiment/ activity they've heard about, but often they just don't have any ideas.  When I ask them what they want to do I usually get shrugs or blank stares.  Lately, I've been trying to find a few days of activities and lay them out then I ask "would you rather do this or this?"  But today they've spent almost all day in their rooms.  Not one single activity was any good apparently and I try so hard not to yell at them.  If I start to yell I just take a step back and send them all to their rooms.  It gives us all a chance to regroup and hopefully start again when they come down, since they aren't supposed to come down until they're ready to work.  I don't like to constantly threaten them with the thought of going back to public school either.  First, because I do love homeschooling and think it's mostly great for our family and secondly, I don't want them to look at public schools as a bad thing.  I love the teachers in our local school system.  They are all wonderful, loving, giving teachers that do tremendous work.  I know, I've worked along side them.  I love the individualized attention I can give my kids here that they can't get at school.  Like many in our area our school is hampered by budget constraints and is  short handed.  Plus I love knowing what they're learning about.  It bonds us in a way public schools can not.  I also love that schooling here at home allows us to set our own pace with emphasis on the learning process where we're not so focused on assessment.  I guess I just want my kids to be as excited as I am and some days they're just not.   So I know even if I'm threatening to send them back to school it's really an empty threat I don't mean (though I may mean it at the time the words are coming out of my mouth; I usually regret it immediately).   Unfortunately, today followed that pattern and it hasn't been very happy here. 
         It all started with our writing activity.   We wrote up a witches brew recipe.  This was once again painful to start.  All three boys freaked out when I mentioned writing.  They all went to their rooms to calm down (some of them a few times), but once they settled down and started writing it really was a cute and quick writing activity.  I can't say fun because I'm sure the boys would disagree with me but they were very creative!  Even Evan, who dictated his recipe to me "cut up the bat wings, heated the blood on the stove and mashed the sweat of spiders"; in other words they really got into it once we got going.  So I thought OK; they really only complained about writing, in our house that's totally normal.
    But then I wanted to read a book all about the history of Halloween called Let's Celebrate Halloween.  I called them over and immediately they started sighing and complaining.  I just stood there thinking "WHAT?!  You're going to moan about a story I'm reading to you!?"  So I sent them to their rooms and told them to take turns reading different parts of the book and not to come down until they could tell me what the story was about.  You would have thought someone was doing bodily harm to them.  The crying and screeching was unbelievable.  Perhaps they're tired, or stressed out about all that has been happening around here with the hurricane.  I just don't know but I know these aren't "my boys."  I'm trying to focus on the positive parts of our day and keep up hope that tomorrow will be better.  I'm feeling cooped up too so perhaps we're just feeling a bit stir crazy and need a change of scenery.   They came back down and were able to tell me all about the story.  They were totally happy and back to "normal" so perhaps the rest of our day will go much better. 
     We made spider balloons for arts and crafts today.  This was probably one of the upsides to our day.  I left them to do it themselves but did offer to hang them up once they were done.  I told them to blow up the balloons and bring them to me to knot then shut.   Then they were to cut 8 pieces of crepe paper and tape them to the sides for legs and glue or tape on some eyes.   Look how cute they came out:
        We had a long talk while I was making lunches about whether or not to continue homeschooling.  With tears in their eyes they all asked me not send them back to school.  I explained to them that I don't want to.  I choose homeschooling because I thought it would be best for them and our family.  I told them most days I really enjoy homeschooling and we have a lot of fun together.  But I explained that I can't keep doing it if I'm going to get complaints about what we're doing and spend all day raising my voice to be heard above the bickering, fighting and horsing around.  They're more than welcome to come up with their own activities but we have to do SOMETHING every day.  Some math, some reading, the occasional writing, spelling, science, art, etc.  We can't just play video games, watch TV, and play with trucks and Lego's.  I know true unschooling is like that but I am a teacher at heart and if we're homeschooling we've got to do something educational everyday.  It can certainly be through games and play and not as a worksheet but it's got to be something.  It was a great heart to heart talk with all of us.  I love it when we're able to sit calmly and rationally and talk about how things are going.  What is working and what isn't.   If they're able to articulate now at 5, 6, & 8 what they want I can't wait to see how well they can communicate when they're teenagers.   The boys know they can talk freely and share how they feel and I hope that never changes.  They promise to improve their behavior and reiterated how much they love having school at home.  So tomorrow should be a much better day. 

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