Thursday, June 05, 2014

Summer Plans!

Every summer, we have a list of things we want to do.

Every summer, it never quite goes as planned.

I think that is typical, don't you?

Summer feels as if it is just beginning, and we have decided we won't go back to full time school until after Labor Day, though we will be doing some school work throughout the summer to keep skills up...sort of School Lite, if you will.  We want to get through the Civil War using Ken Burns' series, we are partway through our Investing 101 class and learned all about bonds today.  The kids are quite excited about understanding the stock market and might put together a little family investing club.  They all dig researching things so much, and learning about new technologies on the horizon, that it is quite appealing to consider researching to find hidden potential stock gems.  You and I know it isn't that easy, but I am not going to strip them of their enthusiasm and interest.  We are going to finish First Aid, and that is all I have in mind other than a couple of math lessons each week.

For fun, the girls and I have already started our "point and shoot" photography course yesterday, and are going to learn how to effectively use Photoshop.  They are super excited, and already had their first assignment yesterday to go out around our neighborhood and shoot anything of interest.  We are going to compare their work from the beginning of summer to the end of summer, and see how they improve with composition, awareness of lighting, etc.  I told them that then we would get a Shutterfly hardcover book made of their efforts, which further encouraged them to think they could have something so cool at the end to show off their work.  I think it will be a blast, and so fun for me to share the only hobby I really have with them, especially because they are actually very interested in it.  I doubt we have any Ansel Adams' among us, but it will be special to share together.

Joshie cracked me up yesterday.  Out of the blue, he came to me with a flyer he created to try and get some summer yard work.  He was looking up the cost of powered push mowers online, and thinking he might start a little business.  If anyone is reading this here in town, and needs a dedicated hard working 40 year old soul in an 11 year old body to do weeding, mowing, or even as he added to his flyer "Dog poop clean up", we have your man!!  I had the chance to be alone with him this week as we did some errands, and he always delights me with his insights and determination.  He was talking about not really ever wanting to be a team sports kind of guy, and said, "Mom, I might be like you and never really have a hobby.  I just like to think about important things...oh yea...and play superheroes.  But that doesn't really count for a hobby."  Haha!  Maybe I need to take up superhero play, at least I'd have a quasi-hobby!

At 11 years old, Joshie (who will ALWAYS probably be Joshie to all of us, even when he is 50!) is moving into manhood.  Already, I feel a strength emanating from him, a solidity that is there with Matthew as well, and has been for a couple of years.  Our sons are going to be fine young men, good hearted, responsible men-you-know-you-can-count-on kind of men.  Angela remarked the other day that when Dominick isn't around, she feels safer if Matthew is with us when we go places, and that she is surprised that he is really so young still at 14, but feels sort of like having a man around.  He and Josh both have such good heads on their shoulders, think things through well, and leave you with a sense of being protected.

Kenny's gifts of maturing are different. He is more in tune with the emotions of others, he is the great Offerer of Comfort and Care.  His challenges leave him less confident in some ways, and he defers to his siblings often in matters where he lacks certain abilities.  Truthfully though, that is a huge sign of maturity, as it takes a real man to accept his limitations and work with them, rather then deny then.  Many teens who might find themselves in Kenny's shoes would be angry, pushy, and unable to accept who they really are.  Kenny has this amazing quality about him that allows him to be fulfilled and see a bright future, while still struggling daily with things that would bring a better man down.  The respect I have for that kid is beyond words.

Part of our summer plans include more free and fun reading.  Tonight, Angela and I curled up on the bed together and re-visited a book we started reading several months ago but never got very far with as schedules grew hectic.  With Maya Angelou's passing, we wanted to return to "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", which is a tough read for a young lady with four years of English.  It is even rougher when every.single.paragraph is filled with a richness that makes you want to savor it, allowing the words to flow across your tongue like I imagine a fine wine should.

Angela is this amazing creature, a soul so darned deep it is hard to express in writing because you have to experience her in her most connected moments to "get it".   All giggles on the outside, the life she lived prior to coming to us served her well in so many ways, allowing her great insight into the human condition, and innate sort of understanding of the frailties of human beings that is just not seen in kids her age.  This is the child I can say ANYTHING to, and know she will completely and totally "get it" if it relates to people or interactions with others.  She is soooooo wise, she notices the subtleties others miss in group dynamics, she reads people like a book.  I am not exaggerating when I say already, it is plainly obvious she would make the world's best therapist...or parole officer.  No one will ever be able to pull the wool over her eyes.

She so relates to Maya's hardships early in her life.  We talked tonight about a phrase in the book which speaks to a person being unable to shake the person they become based upon the context and culture in which they were raised.  Our childhoods really do form the adults we become, and that same childhood follows us forever.  Just yesterday we were talking openly about Angela's experiences in the orphanage toughening her, and she shared how hard it is for her to project a softer self sometimes, because she had much to fear in appearing weak and being labeled "the tough girl" brought her safety and begrudging respect.  We have had similar conversations before, but she is working this through in her head, and asking how to find the balance between strong, yet not a pushover. She told me, "Mom, I don't want to be seen as tough or mean.  I know I don't have to be anymore, but part of me still worries about being unsafe if I let go.  It is hard to change who I am, even though my head knows better and that I am safe now."  Tonight's reading led us to talking more about her early need to protect and provide for Olesya, and the dynamics associated with that for both of them.  She ended the conversation saying, "Wow, Maya sure knew a lot about life, and she could put it all into words perfectly.  Even though I am not black and didn't have the same things happening to me, in some ways, it really was the same.  Being an orphan is the same thing as being black in America years are no one, you never have respect, you get a bad education, and you have no real chance in the world.  It's like her life was different, and in other ways still the same as mine."

I realized something tonight as well.  Our decision to homeschool has led to my being allowed the privilege most parents of 14, 15, and 16 year old kids have long ago lost.  Without any feelings of discomfort at all, we can share a blanket and a really good book, reading aloud to one another and sharing our thoughts about the ideas we have just encountered.  We have a built in "excuse" to not have to let that sacred time together be lost to us, the world's ideas about how that must be stopped at a certain age or the kids are too "babyish" do not enter the equation for us.  I doubt I will ever forget this night, nor will I forget sitting side by side with Matthew following along in his literature textbook as we silently read while listening to Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech...then looking at one another afterward unable to break the magic moment with words.  I was there for that moment, I didn't have to miss the power it had over him because he was in a classroom where others might be rolling their eyes, tapping pencils in boredom, or too afraid to admit how moved they were by it and pretending to be cool.  I heard his softly whispered, "Wow..." when the recording came to an end.  I never, in a million years, imagined that our early preschool years filled with classics about Green Eggs and Ham and a very curious monkey named George would find us still relishing our reading time together 14 years later.  I am so looking forward to reading every night with Angela, finding good books to read with the other kids one on one, and spending the next school year reading tons of biographies with Matthew.

As we look toward the fall and I reflect on things as we begin Year 6, I am filled to the brim with joy.  It is hard, every day can be very hard for weeks on end sometimes.  We tackle learning disabilities over and over again.  There isn't a single day that goes by when I don't reteach something, when I don't bump up against brains that just aren't working the way everyone else's does and frustration surfaces for all of us.  What I also get is the reward of seeing leaps made, connections drawn, and hard won progress FINALLY made.  Olesya told me today, "Thanks mom for trying so hard to help me with my math.  I know it was almost impossible to find a book that would help you figure me out and teach me.  This one you got me really works, I think I am finally getting it and it explains it in a way I can understand.  I won't ever be an accountant, but I know with you as my teacher I will learn even if my brain doesn't want to learn something.  You are a great teacher and I know you work really hard to find us the right stuff to work with.  We don't say thanks enough for all you do."

It is my own little slice of heaven, and I know to most folks, that would sound insane.  They just don't know what they are missing :-)  I have the single greatest job in the world, and tonight in particular I am really appreciating it more than usual.  I get to be a homeschooling mom.  I get to spend enormous amounts of time with our much longed for children.  I get to help them have the childhood they didn't get to have, and maybe ease them into an adulthood they might never have had.  Nothing I have ever done or ever will do again in my lifetime will be as rewarding.  Nothing.

This summer will be sweet. It won't be toddler playing on mini-bicycles sweet, or elementary school imaginary play sweet.  It will be Big Kid sweet, an entirely different kind of wonderful!!

1 comment:

Carolyn Tarpey said...

You are the best writer… I LOVE reading your heartfelt posts so much! The magic and love that surrounds you and your children daily is truly a dream that is reality in your home. I always walk away from your posts with the biggest smile on my face and a heart busting with pride for you and your beautiful family.