Thursday, January 16, 2014

We've So Got This.

Today is not my birthday.  It isn't Mother's Day or Christmas.  But it felt like it a few hours ago.  My alarm goes of at 5:15 a.m. every morning.  I wake A up at 5:30.  Today when it went off, hubby pulled my arm back down and said, "you stay in bed.  I got this."

Oh my God.  Best.  Hubby.  Ever.

So I slept in until 8:00!  I wish numbers worked in ALL CAPS because that 8:00 should look like it's yelling at you.  It was a beautiful thing.

We're on a roll here at the farm.  After such a toughie the other day, yesterday was a good transition.  I spent much of the day on the phone with A's teachers, especially his case manager.  They are great people, and really want to help him out.  I'm so thankful that A is a nice kid.  I'm sure it helps his teachers want to work with me when he doesn't have any behavioral issues and so obviously wants to figure all this out.

I knew there must have been quite a bit of miscommunication.   My SIL1 (sister-in-law 1 out of 3, for you newcomers) has taught Elementary School, and she has told me the wise way parents and teachers of school-age-kids should look at the world:  "If parents will believe about half of what they hear about school at home, then we teachers will believe about half of what we hear about home at school."

Not to say that kids are all pathological liars, but they tend to have a distorted view of things, and they especially tend to miss or confuse varying percentages of information.  ahem.

It turns out that A seems to be spacing out much of the time in his classes.  BIG SHOCKER!  I told his case manager (we'll call her Mrs. CM) that this is not news to us--we even have a name for the world he seems to escape to in his head.  Unfortunately, we have no idea what to do about it.  We have tried everything over the years, folks.  Short of shock therapy of course.  I wonder.....  no.

But since he does do this, he misses so much information.  We are continuing to try different approaches to help him--he has "fidgets", which are like stress balls he can squeeze to occupy his hands.  He has little tricks like a notebook duct-taped to his binder where we can jot down things he needs to remember to ask his teachers.  We're working on it.  I kind of think it's just the way he's made and am hoping he gains some self-discipline as he grows up.

But we had a big night at home.  Hubby and I worked out a strategy to gently change the whole culture of our household, and we actually had a real Family Meeting last night.  I felt so Brady Bunch.

Okay, not quite.  But it felt like this.
Basically we're trying out a system where we can expect more out of them each day, and in turn they can expect more out of us.  Homework is now a family affair.  I gave them choices about every thing we are doing--Three choices of homework location:  Dining room table, breakfast nook table, or game table downstairs.  They can pick where, but we will do it as a group.  Even if you don't have "homework assignments", there is always homework.  Reading that needs to be done.  Words that need studying.

They have a choice of when to do their homework, as long as they start before 7:00 p.m.  They can do it right when they get home, or they can have some down time first and do it after dinner.  We talked about the pros and cons of both ways.  Last night we started at 6:45 because we went to Noodles to eat and have our family meeting.

In return, I said, we are all holding each other accountable as a family unit.  It is mom and dad's job to help them get through school successfully and learn skills as they grow up.  It is their job to do their best, be honest and kind, follow house rules, and hold dad and mom accountable.  We will be giving them a weekly allowance.  Not like we used to, where we had a list of chores they needed to finish in order to earn it.  Now, all they need to do is what's expected of them, but with a positive spirit.  Complete all their homework.  Try their best in school.  Help out at home when asked.  Including, if I ask you to clean the bathroom, no lip and no attitude.

Their reward is a regular income that they can supplement by doing extra tasks around here, and I told them that weekends are theirs.  As long as they finish what they need to do on Fridays, I won't expect much out of them on weekends.  They can stay up.  They can crash in the basement if they want.  Doesn't mean they can be monsters, they still are responsible to clean up after themselves and be respectful, but they'll have lots of free time.

Funny--it seems like a big deal, but other than the family homework time the changes are very subtle.  But they loved this.  They're excited about the whole thing!

We came home last night and spread out on the dining room table.  I went through A's whole backpack, cleaned out and re-organized his 3-ring binder, and had him walk me through how he does everything on his iPad, from checking missing assignments and grades to how he actually works on assignments and turns them in.  I showed him what my access looks like and how I can always monitor his progress and how dad and I are going to the school on Friday to learn more about the whole system.  Then we started his actual homework.  He had a lot yesterday, and we got all the necessary stuff done.  He was happy the whole time!  At first he was a little funny, saying he likes being at his desk in his room, but after a while he said, "this is working so much better for me!"  Goosebumps.

We worked steady until 9:45 p.m.  Three hours.  And not one moment of frustration or sadness.  He loved how we set it up with a pencil cup, all our supplies, extra scratch paper, and beverages.  I loved just watching him work.  He's so smart!  We did a map of the U.S. during the colonization.  We worked on spelling words.  We did two reading worksheets.  I know he can do this, I always have.  He just needs the right tools, the right atmosphere, and I need to never forget how to provide that for him.

It was a very successful night.  Now apparently when hubby ran through is spelling words with him this morning it didn't go quite as well as we hoped, but who cares?!?  I still feel progress.  And man, oh man, do I have enormous respect for the teachers of the world.

Our new system my not seem like Rocket Science to anyone else, and I applaud you all if you have systems in your house that you are faithful to.  I think we just fall into that comfortable rhythm in our house too easily, start letting things slip, and before you know it a couple months have passed since you've even wondered about things.  And after the crazy few months we've had, I'm giving us a pass on this.  And it's all good for my OCD tendencies.  I'm going to make a program in my iPad that will remind me once a month to refresh my "homework zone" and clean out the kids' backpacks with them. And the colored pen and highlighter uses are limitless.  God I love office supplies.

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