I have approximately 12 minutes before the kids start to rustle and wake so I’ve got to make this brief. Even in my head as I write this all these words are coming out in a conspiratorial mom whisper, as if that will keep them asleep just a few minutes longer.
Today we are starting a new curriculum! Cue silent happy dance! Don’t get too excited, kids sense excitement and will wake up!
I never expected to be a curriculum person, someone who bought a full package of books and lesson plans and followed a day by day routine written by someone else. I also never expected to go the classical route, I’m more inclined to go the Charlotte Mason/unschooler way. I also never expected to be this excited to start a new day in homeschooling. You could say this is all a bit unexpected.
But here I am, work books all lined up, lesson plans reviewed, pencils sharpened. Who is this person? What happened to the child-led, unschooling, traaalalalalalaa mom?
It’s been a solid year and a half since we completed the adoption and brought home our daughter. In the past many months she has grown by leaps and bounds and astonished us with her ability to learn a new language, develop emotional intelligence, and build empathy.
But there has been a shadow cast on homeschooling, it happens when I step back and wait for child-led learning to kick in. We read books aloud and then I sit back, waiting for her to eagerly pick up a book and practice the reading skills we’ve been painstakingly working on every day. Or Mom sets up a craft to make popsicle stick puppets and presents a puppet show tent in the living room, and then I sit back and wait for imaginary play and puppet shows. Or I pull out our tactile math program, one we’ve been working on for at least a year although it’s a 26 week program. We do a lesson that we did last week, and the week before, and the week before that, and again run into the same confusing void that I’ve sensed in her brain as she sits motionless after mom says the same question that we worked through yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.
Angelina does not lead, she rocks. If there is any unstructured time in her day, her mood (always a precarious thing) quickly plunges into anger and she rocks, rocks, rocks, and then goes into what we calls “seek and destroy mode”. Instead of coloring with the crayons and coloring book, she methodically chips each crayon into a pile of minuscule wax shavings, or tears out a page of paper and shreds it to pieces, or grind the pencil down to a nub and sees how deep a gouge she can make in the dining room table. I do not believe these things are done maliciously, I believe she is trying to fill a void of time and space, but never in wholesome ways.
Could it be the hydrocephalus, maybe it has affected parts of her brain? Are we missing seizure activity? Is it the result of years in an institutionalized setting? Maybe it’s linked to spina bifida – what’s that common but barely researched learning disability? Non verbal learning disability? Associative Processing Disorder? What am I missing, what could I do to help her more?
Over the summer I read the book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education For Any Child, by Cheryl Swope and suddenly I had hope for a better education for Angelina. Cheryl Swope is an adoptive mama who raised twins with significant needs. She is an experienced mom, educator, homeschooler, and thinks like an occupational therapist. After her book came out, she began working with Memoria Press, which led to the debut of the Simply Classical curriculum this past fall.
I would have jumped in then, but we were still in limbo, and the Fall ended up being a tumultuous time with ER visits, hospital stays, and oh we were moving into a new house too. Right around Christmas I finally took the leap and ordered THREE curriculum packs, Level C for little Kitty and Level 1 for both Della and Angelina. Two workbooks didn’t come in the first shipment but were quickly delivered after I called Memoria Press.
I wasn’t sure if this week is the best time to start. Angelina has a total of 4 appointments this week, spread between two days, all at clinics nearly 2 hours away. But this is our life. There will never be a perfect week to start. Cheryle Swope lives this life, she knows the juggling act of therapies, doctor visits, and bad days. The day-to-day lesson plans even include therapy times! She has planned things in order for it to be easy to spread out a math lesson over two days, or complete it in one day if you have doctor appointments scheduled for the next day.
We are ready for this. The slow and steady lessons I’ve provided over the past year have worked really well, Angelina especially has grown so much. But we are all ready for a new start and, thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling, we can begin that new start today!