I Don’t Think We’re in Traditional School Anymore, Toto

We’re two days into our first full week of homeschool this go-round. It’s been a very…untraditional…two days that have only solidified the rightness of our decision to homeschool. You see, Javan is hardly sleeping at night. He’s definitely showing other high signs of bipolar mania as well, but sleep is the one that effects us all the most.

He slept three hours last night. Three. And not much more the night before. By the time “school time” rolls around, there’s not a chance in, well, anywhere, that he’s going to be able to think clearly and cooperate. When I try to start school around the right time on a morning after Javan has been up all night, I’m often met with anger, defiance, and resistance. Instead of having to fight with a child that’s incapable of learning due to sleep deprivation (like I’d have to do if the homebound teacher were still coming out), I can enforce a naptime.

Now, as you can imagine, to decree naptime in the presence of this particular ten year old boy is to ensure a different kind of fight, but it’s one that I can usually win and that actually results in a mutually beneficial end game. I may or may not “get school done” later in the day, but the rest of the day is sure to go more smoothly once everyone is at least minimally well-rested. And I’ve been pleased with the amount of non-traditional learning that’s taking place even when our planned learning does not.

For example, here’s a picture of something of the resources we were planning to use for school yeaterday:

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Those resources cover history, art, spelling, writing, math, and visual literacy. Other subjects are covered on other days. Well, due to sleep deprivation, what we actually got done with that material is reading two pages of a history book during lunch. That’s it. Today’s school materials were not touched at all after that pitiful three hours of sleep. Napping was needed more than schoolwork, because survival.

But when I say learning happened anyway, I mean it. We saw Javan’s Weebo (gramdma) yesterday and while there he write this sweet love note for her and put it on her office desk:

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That’s not a lot of writing, but it is writing! And it’s organic, meaningful writing, which is worth ten times the canned, forced stuff. He had to ask me how to spell “buddy,” so that counts as spelling for the day. And I’m sure there’s a self-guided good citizenship lesson here if you want to get all teachery-sounding.

While at Weebo’s, he also designed and built this double-crane race car:

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What learning happened during the building process? Tons. Planning and implementation, creating structural soundness (he added the supports in-between the cranes after he realized they were a bit wobbly), problem solving, symmetry, work ethic (cleaning up after his building process), fine motor skills, and probably more I’m missing.

After Weebo’s, we had an extra half hour to blow before picking up Dad from work. Javan came up with the idea of bringing half-priced Sonic drinks to the techs at the airport fueling station who had let us in to see the super awesome jet last week. That’s economics as well as good citizenship  (giving, service). There were no planes fueling up when we arrived, but because they had no business, we got a free, unrushed tour of the aviation center and airplane hanger. We (mostly me) asked every question we could think of about the eight or nine different planes we saw. We learned that the wings double as fuel tanks! I had no idea.

Again, today’s lessons didn’t get done either. But this afternoon, Javan’s Grammy took him fishing at the park. They fed the ducks, Javan chased turtles, and he caught three fish including his first bass.

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Afterward, he was filled with renewed curiosity and passion about deep sea creatures and deep sea fishing. When we got home, Javan watched half an hour of a National Geographic documentary about deep sea creatures while I cycled the laundry. When I asked him if the documentary was any good, he replied, “It’s awesome!” So he got an entire afternoon of unplanned hands-on and self-led science study.

We didn’t get to our scheduled work or our books. I didn’t check anything off of my teacher to-do list. I recogniz that those things are important and we will have more success with them at times when Javan is more stable. But I bet he learned more in these two days of embraced chaos than he would have from any lesson I had planned. It’s so good to be able to go with the flow again.

We have a psychiatrist appointment tomorrow afternoon to get help with sleeping, so wish us luck!

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