Sunday, January 18, 2009

Watching them learn

As I contemplated my third post (out of ideas already?! It can't be!) my husband called me into the living room to check out The Bear. Dressed in a one piece, blue striped outfit and looking a bit like a jailbird, he had his back to me, facing an old rocking chair. As I watched he smacked the rocking chair with both hands then just watched it bounce/rock. Surprisingly, instead of pounding on it over and over and just being a typical, wound-up little boy, he waited until it was nearly motionless before smacking it again. Over and over I watched my Bear conduct his experiment, hit, rock, wait. Hit, rock, wait. I don't know what information he was gathering or what synapses were developing but it was obvious that he was learning. It struck me, too, that that was so HIM: methodical and curious.

I always find it amazing watching my children learn. As a homeschooling mom it's been painful at times, though. Especially since several of my children have been 'blessed' with, as some circles call it, the Gift of Dyslexia. When you're a mom watching your child struggle, without the resources to spring for the outrageously expensive tutoring, and the virtual academy/charter school wants to 'track' your child for yet ANOTHER year but is reluctant to do testing and intervention it doesn't seem like much of a gift.

In the midst of struggling to find a way to teach, find a way for that light bulb to finally turn on in their brains I've come to appreciate my children for their strengths. When reading, and therefore so much basic schoolwork, is nearly torture they need the encouragement of knowing they have a strength. Belle has a fabulous memory and comprehension, especially if things are read to her. Gil quickly memorized most of his math facts, without the usual flashcards. Just knew 'em. Pixie-girl, though her learning issue is more centered around ADHD which has led to memory and comprehension difficulties, has the higher-level thinking skills of an adult. She can't remember that Paris is a city in France and France is a country on the continent of Europe (truly! You have no idea how frustrating that is for her!) but she can theorize and philosophise with just about anyone.

For me, having children with learning difficulties has been challenging. I love to read, love learning and school was easy for me. I tested well. So I figured my kids would excel academically. They're my kids, right? They're all very bright. But, turns out, that's not always what counts. I've learned a lot about my children along the way and I've had to accept some things I really struggled against. It's been difficult to accept that some of my children might not graduate from college. Heck, they may not even GO to college. Many of my children will never find joy in curling up with a good book. Their daddy sure doesn't. I've come to realize many of these things are not what's most important. The college degree doesn't make someone a better or smarter person. Your reading list doesn't mean you'll be good company. Completing a degree at a four-year institution far from guarantees success on the job.

What is most important, I firmly believe, is simply learning. And the continual willingness to learn. Whether it's through observation, experimentation or reading. Whether it's in a lecture hall, a forest, or your own home. All around you, every day, every single person has the chance to learn something new. To file away some new observation. To ask a question, look up a topic, or work in some way to increase your knowledge. This is now what I hope and wish for my children. That, despite their difficulties, they spend every day of their life doing what The Bear did this evening: filing away new information in their big, beautiful noggins.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dancing Feet

My kids are dancers. At least, my bio-babies are dancers. Billy-Bob, Belle, Gil, and Little-Louie all take ballet. Three of the four take tap and two take jazz. All four are were in The Nutcracker this past December and they will all be in Cinderella this spring.

I know. We're not normal. The dance school is not teaming with boys, although there are a few more signing up since they met my boys and saw that they're 'normal.' (Boy, do we have them fooled!!) Billy-Bob, at 11, is the one who's had most opportunity to face down mean comments. Surprisingly, he's handled them with ease. "Hey, I'm the only boy in a room full of beautiful girls in leotards and tights. And, I'll get to put my hands on them eventually. Momma didn't raise no fool!" He said that at 10. Or maybe even 9. Been keeping my eye on him since that remark. But he's found that that's logic most boys won't argue with.

When we started B.B. and Gil in ballet, it was with a purpose. B.B. has mild Asperger's and was both uncoordinated and had a hard time controlling his actions in public. We hoped ballet would give him some coordination and self-control. No way did we actually expect him to be good at it. Coordination and self-control. That was it. But, turns out, the kid has some talent. And some God-given physical attributes that many ballerinas would gladly kill for. B.B. has perfect turn-out and Gil has near perfect. Little Louie, it looks like, has been blessed with the same. B.B. and Gil are both nice and lean, have beautiful feet and nice hands. No awkward clumping around for my boys. Rhythm, not so much. Definitely got dad's side of the genes there. But they're getting there. Because they want it. A life of activity, being treated like you're made of gold and surrounding yourself with cute little ballerinas ain't a bad deal and they're realizing that.

Will the boys keep on dancing? I'm asked that question all the time. All. The. Time. Most often by my very concerned, clueless father-in-law. He thinks taking ballet will make them gay. He was reassured when B.B. invited his 'girlfriend' to his 11th birthday. I honestly don't know if they'll keep dancing. I ask them regularly if they want to continue. So far they do. Although Gil, when he's having a prickly fit, will say he wants to quit Right Now. But they all enjoy it so far and it's giving them the ability to carry themselves like royalty, something that will help them as adults. Would you rather hire the guy who holds his head up and looks confident or the guy who slouches into the office and trips over the chair? We'll take it one year at a time, one show at a time. And we'll see. But for now, I'm super proud of my boys and their dancing feet!

Well, why not?

So everyone else is doing it, right? Have to go with the crowd. (And hush up out there with your, "If your friends jumped off a bridge," comments. No, I wouldn't. Jumping off a bridge is dumb. And scary. This, not so much.) But, like the other cool kids on the internet, I figure I have a bunch of cute, crazy kidlings who will give me much fodder. And, who knows, maybe someday they'll thank me for documenting their childhood. (Older children of mine, sorry 'bout your luck. I'll try to post a few cute memories.)

Guess I should introduce you to the crew. To make the story short, I met my husband at 22 and married him after 10 weeks of dating. In our Associate Pastor's living room. On a Tuesday. Very romantic. Highly recommend it, actually. The honeymoon got off to a chilly start when I found myself, the very next morning standing on a slab of ice, in the dark with my two new stepsons, awaiting their schoolbus. Yep. Turns out no one thought to offer to take his (our) three children overnight on the night we got married. They were all that shocked. (For the record, less than a year later the Associate Pastor's wife said to me, "This has turned out better than anyone thought it would!" Then she realized what she'd said and looked HORRIFIED. I just laughed. Still makes me chuckle.)

I was 23 when I became a wife and stepmom to "Football", "Photo", and "Pixie-girl." And also 23 when, 40 and 1/2 weeks after the wedding, I gave birth to my first son. (We'll call him Billy-Bob.) 15 months after B.B. 'Belle' arrived (and the "Now you have a boy and a girl and you can stop" comments began. Yeah, because that's 'perfect' right? And that's what I'm going for, perfection. Um, no, not so much.) 17 months later, another son joined the pack, "Gil." And my thyroid died. Gil was followed by "Little-Louie" 2 1/2 years later and finally "The Bear." The Bear is now 19 months old and my husband says he's done. And, actually, so am I. A little. Some days. {{sigh}} Is it possible to be addicted to new babies? Because I might be. But not as much as the Duggers. The crew currently range in age from 21 y.o. to 19 months.

This past December (take note, don't let your children get married in December. First of all, it blows a family's budget all to heck. Second of all, it's cold and gets dark too quickly to get outdoor pictures) our family added another child when "Football" married a sweet, adorable girl. "Little Red-Haired Girl" is only 18. And, yes, they've heard the statistics. And, yes, they know they're really young. And so do I. But they are a level-headed, future-thinking pair. In fact, the pastor who married them mentioned their maturity during the ceremony. So now the pair is living cozily in our guest room while home loan matters get worked out. Yeah. But I actually enjoy having them here. Really. And when they move out, though I'll be happy they're finally going to have their own home, I will miss them.

Anyhow, welcome to my crazy world! I hope you find a bit of humor in my life. I sure do. It's either that or a straitjacket.