Homeschooling – The Early Years

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I like to read the boards over at the Well Trained Mind, and every so often I read a post from a mother who is panicked about whether their young child or children are doing enough work. Often the posts will list all the curriculum the child is doing, then list all the curriculum the child is not doing, and then go on to discuss how frustrated both the parent and the child are getting. Sometimes the child becomes grumpy and uncooperative, sometimes the parent feels like all they are doing is yelling at the child, and it is obvious to me that everyone is miserable.

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I understand the feeling, I do. We are raising children today in a highly competitive world where the parent, especially the mother, is often judged for anything and everything. Homeschooling is something that most people have a very strong feeling about, and when someone makes the decision to homeschool, they often want to do it “right”, so that no one will accuse them of making a bad decision.

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But homeschooling can be hard, especially with little ones.  Some days when mine were little I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. Or I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and take an hour-long shower. Or I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and read. Basically I just needed an emotional and physical break from my kids. And there was nothing wrong with this.

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Nor is there anything wrong with not spending hours upon hours a day doing work with your little ones. You do not need to re-create school at home. Of course you can if you like, but it is not necessary. Nor is it necessary to make yourself feel miserable by setting both of you up for failure. The first few years of school should be stress-free and full of joy and wonderment. Read books to your kids, introduce phonics in gentle, short lessons, work on math in short bursts, introduce the kids to the joy of audio books, take them on walks, play in the sand, let them play with Legos and dolls, get them working in the kitchen, let their imagination go wild.

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Do anything or do nothing, either way it will be ok. There will be plenty of time for learning all they need to know for school, but they will never be little again, and they will never know the joy of learning if you do not teach it to them. This is what I have learned over the years. I look at my kids, the ones who seem so old now. I am happy to have teenagers. I love conversing with them, I love seeing them discover their passions, I love seeing glimpses of the adults they will become. But I miss those days that we did nothing, those days we all enjoyed so much. Days of parks and ducks, of swimming and laughing, of mud and sand, of Harry Potter dress-up and Little House audiobooks. It was so simple and yet so effective. It was wonderful.

Happy Mutti’s Day

For the first time in four years, I had the pleasure of hearing my son wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, or as he says “Happy Mutti’s Day”.

This made me so happy, as did everything the kids did for me today.

In honor of Mother’s Day I am going to re-post an entry I made about Decca and his long journey with selective mutism. Enjoy!

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I have this wonderful son, and his name is Decca. Quite a unique name, but it fits him perfectly because in many ways he is unique. He loves music, the piano, making movies, doing math, and making people laugh.

He is defined by all these things. But he is also defined by many as the boy who does not talk. You see Decca has selective mutism, and he is so terrified by many situations that he deals with this anxiety by not talking.

His selective mutism was brought on by a very traumatic event. When he was four years old, I went away for a night, and even though I prepared him and family was with him, something happened. He woke up on the morning I was gone, and he couldn’t find me. He was scared and very frightened and, in his mind, he thought I had died. He stopped talking right then, and for six months he didn’t speak one word to anyone but the twins. My wonderful twins, who at seven, took on so much to help their little brother.

Needless to say, Decca was in therapy, mostly play therapy, for months, and it helped. He began talking to some family members and me, which made me so happy. But he couldn’t talk outside the home to anyone, not friends, not extended family members, and certainly not strangers.

Along with his selective mutism, Decca stopped calling people by their names. He could no longer say his friends names, he stopped calling my parents Grandma and Grampa, he no longer referred to his Uncles, and he stopped calling me mom. It broke my heart, and I am sure it broke his heart too.

I tried so many things and nothing worked. Decca had his own way of referring to people though. Grandma and Grampa became Old Man and Old Lady (and it didn’t bother them). Uncle Jesse became “my movie maker” because they make movies together, and I was known as “the one I love the most”. It was very sweet.

Recently though Decca has begun using names. Not the same names he used before, but new names. First my brother Jesse, who has a special bond with Decca, taught him to call him Tío Chuy. I didn’t think it would work, but it did, and I saw a joy in Decca that I had not seen is a long time.

He then started referring to Grandma as Babushka. We use to go to a park where we would always see this wonderful lady and her grandson. She was Russian and her grandson would call her Babushka. I always remembered that, and I often will use that word. Decca began to use it a few weeks ago, and Grandma is now Babushka.

Up until this week though, Decca still wasn’t calling me anything. Every name we tried sounded too much like mom (mater, ama, mere) and so he couldn’t use them. Then my step-dad told me that in German some people call their mothers mutti. I told Decca about this name, and he liked it. He was comfortable with it. And he uses it, all the time.

The first day he started calling me mutti, he must have said it over a hundred times. I think he was in as much pain as I was, and he really wanted to call me mom. For the last week I have heard “I love you mutti” so many times to which I always respond by telling him “I love you too Decca”.

And I do, so much.

And he loves me, his mutti.