Looking back, my last post was brutal. While some things have improved since then, some things we’re still struggling with. But overall, it’s better. Life is better for my kids, especially now that they’re almost fully vaccinated. It’s as if – after a long, dreary winter – we can see a little window of blue sky and we’re hoping the storm clouds of Omicron variant won’t blow in and cover it.
Since my last post, we’ve started fostering kittens, found new neighborhood friends to hang out with, blown through entire stacks of books (!) and apparently are well in to the first few stages of puberty in 2 of my kids. Yay me.
One of the things we’ve started doing more often has shaped our homeschooling in a new way: family dinners. Which sounds ridiculous – family dinners? What do you THINK we’ve been doing for the last 10-odd years, right? We’ve had loads of dinners as a family for a long time, of course, but somehow, changing to a bigger table made them more … formal?
Now, we have room for the food. It sits on the table for everyone to serve themselves, and it gives us space for elbows, drinks, and kids-who-are-growing-up. My 10yo is at my eye level. Another year and he’ll be as tall as I am. He’s tall for his age. I’m not. Tall, that is.
Now, we have space to breathe – and to talk. To discuss something other than video games, which are banned from the dinner table. Family dinner is a space to practice social awareness as well as manners, both of which my all kids struggle with.
After the Engineer made a catch phrase about our nightly discussions, I’ve started thinking of them as news segments. We curate stories from world news to local happenings and put them in kid terms. We don’t shy away from the big stuff, but we try to balance the horrific with the helpers. Kitten therapy, court verdicts, political happenings, scientific discoveries, world events – you name it. If we think it’s important or interesting, we talk about it.
Sometimes the discussions require a brief history lesson. My kids have a firmer understanding of the history of the word “lynching” and “Nazi” now, as well as a fairly nuanced understanding of colonialism and racism thanks to national and world events. If it’s “school” it doesn’t seem to stick. Family discussions do, for the most part.
not just the heavy stuff
It’s been a challenge to me during the heavy, deep, depressing subjects of the pandemic to keep things optimistic or hopeful. While I might feel pessimistic about the state of climate change, democracy, and humanity, my kids don’t deserve to carry the world on their young shoulders. They have enough to deal with for right now.
Some nights we do riddles instead. Jokes. We discuss our plans for post-vaccine time, or talk about our day. Some parts of dinner involve parents ping-ponging back and forth on various subjects while the kids listen. I’m sure trying to follow our weird thought processes must be confusing to the kids!
After a full day of teaching, wrangling kid fights, dealing with kittens (one batch of Parvo babies was no joke!) various chores, and preparing food, the LAST thing I want to do is come up with current news to discuss. Some nights I’m checking the news on my way to the table because I’m so far behind. But, as exhausting as everything is, these kinds of discussion are vital.
If my oldest follows a traditional career path, we have a count-down timer of about 8 years to finish up his education. To teach him to stand up for himself, stay strong, learn even when it’s hard or uncomfortable, and treat his fellow humans with respect. Having these chats is important to me in a way that I can’t even fully articulate.
Sure, it’s exhausting. Most nights I fall asleep in front of the computer, worn out from pushing myself or from fighting an incalcitrant body. My trade-off for putting more demands on myself is reduced free time. And reduced energy.
That’s showing in my blog and on the Homeschooling2e page. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry I can’t share as much, write as much, BE as much. But I’m not sorry about why I’m doing it. Because we’re ticking along to adulthood, and every moment is precious. Even the ones when I’m soooo tired of hearing about video game details or hearing the very audible eye rolls and slamming doors.
Be kind to each other. Tomorrow may be a zombie apocalypse, right?
and now I’m falling asleep, so good night! Zzzzzzzzzz ….