If you read my piece, A Gift of Time, you know I spent the first three weeks of my school year at home with my children. It was not something I planned for or wanted. It made life harder but as always, more interesting!
So while I was only home with my boys for eight school days, I created learning opportunities and found others by chance. I didn’t know what I was doing but knew each day had the promise of being anything we wanted. The days were different; some were super great and I went to bed excited for another, while others left me feeling like a bad mom for not being able to respond appropriately to their needs.
I started planning for our days by looking at my own sub plans I had given the school. While we did typical school things: Dreambox, reading, a trip to the library and the zoo, we had one experience that sticks in my mind.
The UFair project was something valuable, something the school does every year, and we could do it at home. I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a variety of art materials to get them started. While each boy had their own ideas of how they wanted their project to look, they all used the melty beads (a craft supply I had in our drawer for years) and sculpted parts of their project from this. I loved that they found these, something we had forgotten existed became a part of their projects. (Melty beads allowed them to experience patience, finger dexterity, and creativity.)
They worked on their projects a little each day.
Zander had a clear vision for his, followed his gut, and was done first. He looked at his beloved stuffed animals and made them into melty bead creations. He made each of his ideas into a melty bead. He glued them all to a painted wooden circle. The whole project was him.
Dax wanted to use everything: wooden boxes, beads, fruit snacks, paint, and most of all, the hot glue gun. (He is six and I don’t think he has used one.) His project was more glue than anything else. He also had the least amount of depth and thinking when we judge it from the adult perspective. He created a football stadium out of a wooden shadow box, used fruit snack gummies as his crowd, straws for the goal posts, and melty beads for two football men. He wanted to make all of this to show his love of football. He attached an ice cream shop to it so his make-believe football players could get a snack at half time. Sounds just like my Dax.
Brayden is the oldest and I could see his judgement of himself and his work surface throughout the entirety of the project. His work area was messy, littered with different ideas: Legos, beads, paint, wooden blocks, hot glue. Every time he came back to work, I knew I would hear an outburst. I responded to each in a calm, loving way; just like I would with another person’s child. I cheered him on with enthusiasm and told him it was okay if he didn’t like it, it was okay if he wasn’t sure, it was okay if he needed a break.
I watched as Brayden avoided doing his project. He didn’t think it was good enough. He made comment after comment about how this was wrong and that was wrong, and it didn’t look as good as Zander’s. He was so unsure : unsure of how it looked, unsure of what to put on it, unsure of how to keep going.
It was hardest for me to watch him go through this. But as a teacher, I know the learning is in the process of the work, not in the product. He needed the most encouragement to continue his work and feedback for ideas. As I reflect on why this was, I have come to the conclusion he didn’t (doesn’t) know himself...yet. I know he will get there; he is just taking a different road than the other two.
In looking back over our weeks together, I am most impressed with how easy this could all be. I did not feel an outside pressure to be doing this a specific way. I especially think this was because I had given myself permission to just try and fail; so what if it didn’t work. The best part is that I was able to take pictures of all the ordinary moments. When I look at them and reflect, I can see all the lessons, skills and learning that I did not see right away.
As for myself, I was patient and kind. I felt in control of my emotions. I felt rested each day, allowing everyone to get up when they were ready.
I cooked healthy foods. They were not all well received but if I were to cook like this all the time, I think it would be different.
Giving myself all this permission and all this grace gave me restored confidence in myself. Josh came home each day and I was attentive to him too. He actually said to me, “You look so happy.”
I am. I was during this time.
I am different this year. I am more in tune with myself and my emotions. I am more confident than I have ever been.
I am thankful for these learning adventures and the lessons I learned. I wonder if the next decisions are more about them or me. Or if it has to be an either-or. It needs to be about all of us if it is going to work. Either way, the time together showed me to trust myself in moving forward with whatever decisions we make. I know they will be the right decisions for my family, for me, for all of us.