Yesterday was a long one. The weather was rainy which changed our plans for the day from a visit to our friends’ garden downtown to a visit to our other friends’ house in a neighboring town. I am still undecided on how concrete our plans need to be ahead of time, whether it is okay to play it by ear and change routine. I created a basic schedule on a poster, which is nice but needs pictures of some kind if the kids are going to get anything out of it. Now that I have an idea of what our day looks like, I’m trying to figure out how far ahead of time I need to plan our morning and afternoon activities, and how much of an issue it is to change things last minute. I think it depends mostly on how the kids react, I am trying to be conscious of how even simple choices affect them. When I was home with Ben when he was a little one we had a similar routine to what we do now, with the morning spent at a playground or botanical garden, and the afternoon spent at a different playground. Now that he is bigger I am hoping for one of the activities to still be a park or outdoor play of some kind, and the other to be a more specific educational experience, like a class or something at home.
Yesterday our morning was quietly spent at our friends’ house, the kids are matched up well and played together for a few hours while my friend and I caught up. There is nothing quite like spending time chatting with a girlfriend, it’s the best. We left in time to get home for lunch and Ella’s nap. Thankfully she took a long nap so Ben and I had two hours to create a schedule poster, read a few books, and finish up a letter he was working on for his cousin. Yesterday’s lesson was chosen by Ben when he woke up and said he wanted to draw a picture for his cousin. A few hours later he found paper and a pencil and drew a picture of a rocket ship, a dinosaur, and a letter L. “The dinosaur doesn’t have teeth, he has fire in his mouth so he just burns his food up right in his mouth. He’s looking at a letter L, which is boring for the dinosaur.” I wrote his cousin’s name and Ben copied it onto his drawing. I wrote the address on the envelope and on the way home from picking Mo up from work we all stopped at the post office. I gave Ben money to buy stamps, he put one on the letter, and put it in the mailbox. It was a great experience, and he was very proud of himself. If you recall from the other day, the post office is next to a store with gumball style toy machines. Ben was finally able to get the 25 cent ring that he had been thinking about since Monday.
I saw for the first time something that many homeschoolers talk about; kids will ask for what they want to learn. I see Ben being curious about reading, writing and basic math, and this was the first time that he specifically asked to work on a project. A spark of curiosity followed through to completion is one of the most satisfying learning experiences I can think of and I am hopeful and excited for more of this kind of activity in the future.
After we came home from the post office I tried to cook dinner, which was hard because Ella was looking for some attention because I hadn’t spent much time directly with her during the day. I was trying to focus in the kitchen, Mo was trying to hang out with the kids even though he was tired and stressed from work, and it was raining so the pool wasn’t an option. The evening was a bit frustrating and felt like it stretched on forever. The kids finally fell asleep around 8:30, I made banana “ice cream,” and Mo and I watched an episode of Chopped (I love Amazon Prime!). Then we spent about two hours having an existential conversation/argument. I am glad that we are in a place in our relationship where we can “fight” but feel connected and productive by the end.
I feel like today is not going so well so far. We didn’t drive Mo to work, so we are at home without the car. I am planning on walking to a nearby playground soon and once we get outside I think we will all feel better. So far the morning has included some incredibly frustrating behavior from Ben and not the most well thought out reactions from me. Part of the problem is that I am trying to write while the kids are awake. I think it is important for them to see me do something other than caring for them and spending time with them, so I feel like it is okay for them to be a little frustrated while they wait for me to finish. On the other hand, I would like to have more ideas for what they can do while I am working on something like cooking or writing, etc. The ideal situation would be the two of them playing together.
The four year age difference is tough in this department and they really only play together once in a while. The best game they play is basically fetch. Ben throws a ball, Ella chases after it and brings it back to him. I would love to expand their repertoire of play, but I’m not really sure how to facilitate it. One of the hardest things for Ben is Ella being big enough to get into his toys. I have followed the suggestion of a parenting article I read that suggested allowing older children to select a few toys that are precious to them to keep on a high shelf and the rest of the toys in the house are community property. This is a nice idea, but it hasn’t really worked in practice. Ben is still angry when he sees Ella touch his toys.
So, that is where we are, feeling frustrated, ready for the week to be over. I try to remember on days like this that parenting, and learning, are not something that I can get “right.” I just have to keep showing up, keep trying, keep loving. I am looking forward to a quiet weekend, and maybe a trip to Ikea to get our “office” up and running.
Here’s a super simple “recipe” (if you can even call it that) for two ingredient banana ice cream:
Cut up bananas and freeze. Put them in the blender or food processor with a little coconut milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Top with whatever you like, and enjoy!
I was inspired by this recipe at Food52 and decided to add a little coconut milk for some fat to balance the sugar in the bananas. In a different article on the same blog they said it’s the pectin in bananas that makes it so creamy. Mmm.
Have a great weekend, I’ll be back Sunday or Monday!