This school year has been one of the most challenging I can remember. Two years ago, when Jimmy was in second grade, it was particularly tough because I had two miscarriages between November and June, which laid me flat both physically and emotionally for a lot of months. But with Audrey starting Kindergarten, this was the first year with two kids at the school table, and wow, it was a big adjustment for all of us.
Thankfully, I've reached a place where I feel completely confident in both my teaching and organizational abilities, and so it gave me the chance to focus on stepping up my game and really engaging with my children on a new level.
When I gave Jimmy his last journal assignment for the school year, I asked him to write about his four favorite things he learned this year. I'm giving myself the same assignment, so in no particular order, here's what I learned during 2012-2013:
1) Old dogs can (and should) learn new tricks. All year long, I've been coming up against the realization that for so many reasons, I need to stop yelling at my kids. So, with a little help from an amazing gal known as Orange Rhino, I'm doing just that. I still struggle, I still yell, but I'm only a couple months into this new trick and already I'm yelling less. It's making a huge difference for me and my kids. Even better, I dialogue with them about why I'm doing what I'm doing and they're helping me while they see me modeling this willingness to change.
2) I'm the expert on my kids. I'm sure you're thinking, well, duh. But starting out with a virtual academy--while it's been lovely having someone to give us guidance and hold us accountable--has allowed me to defer to others as knowing better what my kids might need or what curriculum might be best or what learning plan we should follow. Over the past couple of years, I've been putting the pieces together and finally feeling like if we had to fly solo (which we may have to do because of legislation in Olympia that will reform alternative learning experiences like CVA), I could do it. I could do it because I know what areas my kids are strong in, what they struggle with, how they learn, and how to teach them.
3) Kids are spiritual creatures. This year I've shifted some of my focus to providing a spiritual touchstone as an integral part of our learning day. For us this means we have a devotional each morning before we start school work. Doing this helps me and the kids to be more calm and centered before we dive into doing stuff that challenges us and trying to get along with each other while everyone is working at the table together. We also created an art area and did a fine arts course as part of our curriculum this year. It was amazing: seeing art, learning about it, creating it. Art feeds the soul.
4) I love my children. I already knew this, but I found I need to keep learning it all over again, every day. Sometimes I get so focused in on what needs to be done--the lessons we need to get through--that I lose sight of the why. And then things get adversarial: when I'm focused on checking off the subjects on our list, instead of tuning in my children's needs and how I can meet them, it's me against them instead of us learning together. If I go on autopilot and forget to be mindful of that overarching feeling of love, it all falls apart. I fall apart.
And now, I'm off to make another list... of things to do over the summer!