Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Progress or Sanity

Another attempt at a fast post. We'll see. My inability to post regularly is related to a different problem I have been unable to solve. I am going to use the female pronouns throughout because we have mostly girls and I want to protect the innocent and the guilty.

This year I have four students with school work. Three of those students require an intensive time investment from me just by the demands of their grade levels. One of those four students needs minimal input from me.

My minimal time student completes her work in a reasonable fashion. Our daily interaction consists of listening to a narration or two, correcting her math work, reciting a dictation selection if scheduled, and checking all the boxes on the checklist. This routine is basically smooth. A hiccup every now and again, but dependable.

One of my time intensive students is excited to learn. She cooperates. She completes her work in lightning fast time, and is a joy.

Two of my time intensive students require constant redirection and are like dragging stubborn mules through the mud. The younger of these students needs my assistance for 90% of her work so daily I drag this stubborn child through her work because I see it as my work too AND WE ARE GOING TO DO IT. Our daily meeting, inevitably, eats far more of our school time than I can afford to spend, but appropriate progress is made because I insist.

The older of these students, theoretically, should be able to work independently on the work that does not require me. Reality says this does not happen with any due speed.

My day is spent running from fire to fire. If I only had one uncooperative student, I would have much more time to repeatedly redirect the one. As it is, I have two students working on vastly different subjects who both need to be stood over all day. And a 1yo toddler. Don't forget about her. If I had more than one room downstairs, I might could set up zones to walk through and redirect. But I don't.

What I actually have is one room downstairs. This room contains the cooking and the eating and the schoolwork and the toddler area and usually three children and me. I used to have an alternative work table (read: piece of plywood on a keyboard stand) in my bedroom, but there's a crib there now. Upstairs I have a husband, working and making phone calls, in an area open to the downstairs, which requires continual shushing of children. Also upstairs is one dependably working student in her room and one student in her room who spends a lot of time doing...something. They both want to be upstairs to avoid the noise and chaos of downstairs. Both feel their dignity insulted if I insist they work downstairs. If I am being honest, it is easy for me to lose track of this daydreaming student upstairs in all the demands of the downstairs crew.

My dilemma is how to prioritize her work. If I put down a hard deadline after which I am no longer available for school in the afternoons, which I desperately need to do, she makes very little progress in her work. I assign the same assignments week after week after week as she accomplishes a day and a half worth of work over the course of an entire week.

If I insist that all the work scheduled for the day be completed in the same day, two things happen. First my attention for the constant redirection isn't available until late in the day, which means I will have to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening (and night?) making sure the work is complete. The second thing is that after the time gets later than her perception of "The End of The School Day," her work turns to garbage. There is crying and crying and crying and no effort and pages of sloppy work with wrong answers. I don't feel like we are accomplishing anything except torturing all of us.

What generally happens in reality is that she does what she does until I finish readalouds and then she gets my full attention until it is time for supper. This time between readalouds and supper is not long enough for her to get all her work done and she usually loses focus before supper time anyway. My afternoon is busted and she is still behind.

I also have to consider the line between being her teacher and being her mother. I do not want our family life consumed by her school work choices. I am capable of grabbing onto that incomplete work and shaking it like rag doll in a dog's mouth, but I am making a conscious choice not to do this. But, argh, I want to check off that checklist. The unchecked boxes drive me mad.

I should probably spend less time working with the younger stubborn one, but this is difficult for me to accomplish in the moment. I always second guess how long it actually takes and the time flits away. I need a hard stopping point with this one too. 

So it seems I have a choice between progress or sanity. I can preserve my ability to do anything aside from school--and I do mean anything. I am currently not cooking or cleaning or exercising or doing much of anything aside from dragging children through schoolwork and tending a baby--by establishing firm deadlines, the consequence of which is to allow her to fall very, very behind. It is hard for me to imagine a meaningful consequence to avoid this outcome. Or I can continue dragging, dragging, dragging. The work will get done, eventually, but I won't be doing anything else.

An aside: I have talked to the pediatrician about the focus issue. Her answer is that if the child can focus and follow through on tasks she wants to complete, it is not ADHD. I am...not convinced of this explanation. I am not sure it is ADHD, but I am also not sure it is not.

(Okay, this post took nearly two hours to write, half of which was spent baby wrangling. Not terrible, I guess.)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Swimming Summer

Back in April, I bought a summer pass to my local rec center in order to try to get swimming worked into our family's summer activities, and more specifically it is a low impact exercise for me to strengthen my core. The pass was $150 for five months, May through September. I thought I'd give an update for how it all worked out.

We did, indeed, go swimming more than we ever have in the past. This outcome was not difficult to achieve since one swimming outing per summer was a high water mark. However, I think the summer pass is a little deceptive.

The rec center has two pools, an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. The outdoor pool is the expected domain of children. The indoor pool is for rec center swimming lessons, lap swimming, and water aerobics. It isn't that there isn't open areas in the indoor pool to swim and play. It's that children get hard looks if they are present in an unstructured way. How to say this? The body language of the older people seems to indicate that perhaps a truce has been violated. So the outdoor pool it is.

The outdoor pool suits the swimming desires of the children nicely, except it is only open from Memorial Day until the day before county's public school starts. That's the first week of August.  All this means that in reality the five month swimming pass only equals two and a half months of swimming in the outdoor pool. (Why is the outdoor pool season so short when even today, October 6, the high is 88 degrees? I do not know.)

My initial goal was to get to the rec center once a week all summer. So how'd it go?

We did not go to the rec center at all in May. We were behind in school and I was unwilling to take time away and risk extending school into June.

June arrived and I was determined. We went once a week the first three weeks in June. During the last week in June, the four older kids spent the week with my parents, but I was not going to skip my swimming trip. I dutifully brought Ella to childcare to stay by herself and went to the pool. I was pulled out of the pool within ten minutes because Ella never stopped screaming.

The first week in July was very busy with travelling so we skipped the swim trip. The next week, the kids had swimming lessons every morning, but I managed to squeeze in an exhausted trip one afternoon because I didn't want to miss two weeks in a row. The next week, the children had VBS. I had learned my lesson about attempting solo trips without anyone to keep Ella company in the childcare room so I did not go. After VBS, we then were afflicted with a GI virus that took two entire weeks to slowly work its way through the family. No one was seriously ill, but you didn't want those children in a public pool either. July did not go as anticipated.

Now it was August and I was set to resume the weekly swim trips. I put off the trip to the end of the week because schools were starting mid-week and I thought the pool would be less crowded afterwards. Well, it was less crowded. It was empty because it was closed. I can't fault the rec center because they had had signs up all summer stating the close date. I had just never paid full attention to those signs until the day I walked into the building with five children expecting to swim in a closed pool. It didn't occur to me the pool would close in August. It was this day I discovered children are not terribly welcome in the indoor pool.

After this, I pretty much gave up on going to the rec center. I know that my pass was technically good through the end of September, but the thought of trying to convince children to go with me to placate Ella while I went swimming and they...dribbled basketballs? It didn't seem worth the effort. And then school started and we were already behind. Heh.

In totality, we went swimming six times over the summer. Was that worth paying $150 for a pass? Honestly, I don't know. Is $25 a swim too much to pay for three hours of swimming for six people? Probably. Is it totally out of line? Maybe not. I can say truthfully, I would not have gone at all if I didn't have the pass, even though paying at the door would have wound up costing half as much.

I am not sure what I will do next summer. Given the extremely short outdoor pool season, I think you have to plan to go more than once a week so when the inevitable off-weeks happen, you will have gotten your money's worth in the workable times. I am not sure that next summer will be amenable to planning multiple swimming trips a week. I only completed about half the work I intended in The Purge this past summer. If past experience is any indication, I will start next summer with the rest of the house still unfinished and in need of attention. I can hope to get some bigger house projects done during the school year, but I know better than to plan on it.

I should be able to go solo next year too, but it is hard to make the schedule work on a regular basis for solo trips since just getting there and coming back home eats up most of an hour.

I am glad I spent time in the pool this summer and found my buoyancy again. I think it was good for all of us to have goals for leaving the house instead of spending every day neck-deep in housekeeping. I also kinda wish I never left the house the entire summer so I could be finished with more of the house. I have learned that in this season of life, balance means inching forward almost imperceptibly while completing almost nothing. I'll have to reassess in the spring.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prioritization and Pockets

I have another Purge post coming. I started it the second week of August before life and responsibilities snowballed on my head, and the post stalled out before pictures could be added. We are now in the full swing of school.

I have had a hard time prioritizing the blog since I stopped working--or, um, leaving my house to work. I ain't stopped working yet. When I was working, I had long, long stretches of time with nothing to do. It was easy to write in the 8-9 hours a day I sat in front of a computer in utter silence with little company. My problem back then was that I had way too much downtime and few productive ways in which to spend it.

In a little cosmic joke, I now have the exact opposite problem. Now I have no downtime. Ha! Ask and ye shall receive? Well, there are definitely worst ways to spend one's time, but if ever I get a stretch of 3 or 4 hours, I usually have bills to pay or taxes to do. Blogging drops down the list fast.

A secondary problem is that I cannot figure out how to write posts faster than I do. My approach to blogging tends to be long set pieces. It's my approach to conversation too, which is probably why nobody likes talking to me. (I kid, I kid. Kinda.) But given the long form approach, a post takes 3 or 4 hours to write. I need to learn how to break it up into shorter pieces of work, or gasp, write shorter posts. This problem of too big chunks repeats itself all over my life so it is something to practice.

So I endeavor to post more, even though I will likely fail. I feel like I have written this post before about shorter, more frequent blogging, but I am too lazy to go looking. 


And now the pockets.

Yesterday my phone fell out of my pocket at least half a dozen times. I would be completing innocuous tasks like walking across the room or bending down to pick something up off the floor, and the phone would crash to the floor.

Dave witnessed one of these episodes and I vented my frustration to him.

He said he noticed my phone was sticking halfway out of my pocket.

I said to him it was the result of the terrible, terrible design of women's pant pockets that I could not carry my phone in my pocket.

He looked at me, dubiously. He said that he doubted phones were meant to be carried in pockets. They are too big, he said, as he patted his bulletproof plastic phone carrier attached to his belt.

I said my phone would definitely fit in his pocket. He gave me a look. I walked across the room and deposited my phone into the giant abyss of his pants pocket. The phone disappeared. He had to reach into his pocket to find where the phone landed. He could probably could carry two or three phones in his pocket.

Reader, he started laughing.