homeschool, learning

The value of frustration in homeschooling (and life, probably)

Today has been all about the threshold of frustration.

I watched Sam work with paper polyominos for over an hour this morning, trying to get them to fit into various shapes, moving them around and flipping them and lining them up before scattering them over the table, mumbling “nope,” and starting all over again. His frustration mounting, he started to crumple up some of the pieces. Suddenly, the corner of his mouth twitched and a ripple of understanding spread over his face. Eyes gleaming, he started moving the pieces very quickly into place and sat back hard, his chair making a satisfied “bang” on the hardwood floor.

“Did it,” he declared simply, and got up to get some water.

Meanwhile, Lucy was on the driveway, pushing her bike slowly along with her toes, stopping every now and then to sigh heavily and shove the pedals around to get them out of her way. Her little brother zipped past her every few minutes, now on a tricycle, now on his new balance bike, whizzing so close to her leg that he ran over her foot one time. As he and her twin sister rode circles around her, she kept trying to pick up her foot and put it on the pedal. She would get it partway there, wobble back and forth, and then put her foot back on the ground with yet another gusty sigh.

I bit my tongue, resisting the urge to give her pointers.
She hates pointers.

Finally, after almost an hour of persistent effort, she dragged the bike back up to the top of the driveway where there is a slight incline. As she coasted down the tiny hill, balancing, she managed to pull one foot up to the pedal and start it going around. Her other foot swung uselessly in the air for a second, then made contact with the other pedal…and she rode. With both feet. Pedaling a bicycle. All by herself, with no help from me or anyone else.

This from my girl who waited eighteen months to the day to take a single step is a huge accomplishment.

It’s pretty amazing for a Monday- two instances of frustration overcome, persistence paying off, and goals achieved. As I watched them both struggle, trying to stay out of their way and fighting the urge to “help” them, I reminded myself that homeschooling (and parenting in general) is often more about learning to tolerate my own frustration than helping them learn to tolerate theirs. While they are working hard to solve problems and develop skills, they are building up their frustration threshold. Every time they work through that frustration before having a breakthrough moment, they’re learning that it is worth it to struggle with things that are hard. They’re learning that they are capable. They’re learning that they can persist and be victorious, even if it’s not easy. This learning doesn’t depend on me at all- they’re coming to it on their own.

The worst thing I could do in these moments is to jump in and “save” them. I’m working just as hard as they are, breathing through my own frustration, learning to watch them flounder a little without offering advice or telling them what they could be doing better.

Sometimes, the hardest part of teaching our kids is letting them figure something out on their own. Of course we often know a different way, a better way, a tip or a trick that might make something easier. But before we jump in with that helpful piece of knowledge, why don’t we let them struggle for a bit and see what they come up with? It is so hard to see them biting a lip, rocking a chair back and forth, drumming their fingers on the table or chewing a pencil. If we can take a deep breath, though, and see that frustration for what it is- the sign that real work and learning are happening, independent of our sweeping in and making everything okay- we will be allowing our children to learn that they are capable of figuring things out. We’ll be giving them the chance to try and fail while the consequences are still relatively small. We’ll be providing them space to struggle safely…and when that breakthrough comes, we’ll be giving them the chance to feel the rush of joy and satisfaction that comes with knowing they did something amazing.

And we’ll be there in the front row to cheer them on.

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7 quick takes, giveaway, homeschool

7 Quick Takes: Homeschool Week 1 Highlight Reel

Well, we did it! It’s past sundown on Friday, and the first week of our new school year is over. Everyone survived. There were moments of bliss. There are some little hurdles we’ll need to overcome and some bugs to work out…but mostly? It went great.

Here’s our week in brief, for our friends and loved ones (and those of you who are curious about what we did):

1. Pictures.

Yes, we do first day of school pictures, mostly so I have something to compare with at the end of the year when we do portfolios. I didn’t post them on facebook, but you can see them now! Look how big everyone is…especially the little brother with the photobomb skills.

2. Morning Time

Now that we’re in our second year of starting the day with Morning Time, it runs more smoothly. I felt like I spent much of last year trying to round everyone up and get everyone to sit down for even a few minutes together to start the day. This year, I’m not telling them it’s time to start. Instead, I’m just playing a song as a musical cue, and they have until the song is over to wander dreamily into the room (or come dashing in dramatically at the last minute).

Both of those things happen every single day, by the way.

What we do in Morning Time could probably be its own blog post someday, but in brief, we have a prayer, sing a song or two, go over our memory work, and do something beautiful (read a poem or story, do an art picture study, listen to a new piece of music, paint with watercolors, or work on our nature journals). We end with a short prayer and go on our way to do other work or to play. It takes about fifteen minutes, unless we get carried away with the beautiful part, which we sometimes do. Things have a way of leading to other things, you know. It’s a good life.

3. Reading. Lots of reading.

We read a lot around here. Usually, I do our main read-aloud at lunch time, but we read other books throughout the day (and upon request from Felix, who frequently comes up with a book in hand, declares it’s his “vewwy fave-rit!” and asks us to read it. We almost always say yes.)

Sam reads something on topic (usually science or history related) for about half an hour every morning, and he spends a couple of hours during the day reading whatever he’s reading for fun. Right now, it’s mostly the Redwall series, but he took a short break from those to devour The Trumpeter of Krakow this week.

4. History.

There’s no better way to kick off a new year than to start up a new co-op, right? This year, we’re meeting with friends to do weekly activities for our history study using Story of the World, Volume 2 (which covers the Middle Ages).

It was our turn to host, and our backyard was briefly the scene of a battle reenactment between the Romans and the Celts. (It turned out no one wanted to be Romans, and the battle kind of fell apart. Still, I think we made the neighbors curious- there’s no better way to look like a wild, unsocialized bunch of homeschoolers than to run like crazy all over the yard during school hours waving homemade cardboard battle axes covered in foil and screeching with your capes flying out behind you.)

I’m excited to see how the rest of the year goes.

5. Science

Sam is studying Chemistry this year using the book Adventures with Atoms and Molecules. I like it a lot so far- it’s really clear and easy to understand with simple experiments that mostly use things we have around the house. We’re aiming for two experiments a week, and right now, that seems realistic. I’ll keep you posted.

6. Math

We are sticking with Life of Fred for math, backed up with some extra practice using the Reflex software program (which I can’t say enough good things about- it’s amazing). Sam generally despises repetition, so lots of practice problems can ruin a whole day for him (even if he needs the practice). Using the computer for the practice part seems to make it less of an issue.

7. Kindergarten

Yes, we do it…although it is mostly just reviewing lowercase letters right now, doing some math-y stuff and playing a lot. This week, we’ve played grocery store, restaurant, princesses who own their own housecleaning business, and something the girls called “baby Viking warriors.” I didn’t get in on that last one.

Today the weather was perfect, so we went outside for a long time. Felix drove our fleet of Cozy Coupes (which he calls his “van-cars”) all over the driveway and the girls played hopscotch. It was pretty wonderful.

And really, that’s what I want to remember. It’s all pretty wonderful– to have the freedom and the opportunity to do school this way while it works for our family. Even when it’s hard. Even when I’m tired. Even when it’s late on Friday night and I am scrambling to finish a dessert and this blog post because of how busy our week has been.

It’s a lovely life, and I’m thankful for it…and I’m thankful for you for reading along and sharing the adventure with us.

Speaking of sharing, I was going to give away a book, wasn’t I?

Let’s see…Rebecca D, you’re our winner. Let me know how to get in touch with you, and I’ll mail you a copy. Congratulations! I wish I had one to give to everyone…it really is a lovely book.

I hope you all had a great week. Next week, I’ll be talking about books and book clubs (and my strategy for books I don’t really love but need to finish) over here, so please come back and weigh in.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.
homeschool

Taking stock…homeschool evaluation time

Our homeschool evaluator is coming on Friday. This naturally makes me reflective as I help Sam look back over our year and choose things he’d most like to show to her as part of the evaluation.

As he picks through his history notebook and slides drawings of Roman soldiers and diagrams of Egyptian pyramids into page protectors, I think about all the things we’ve done this year and type out a list of what he’s studied: history, spelling, languages (Latin and Spanish), movie making, bread baking, astronomy, art, piano, music from the Baroque period, grammar, multiplication. It’s all important and it sounds impressive to me when I list it out.

But there’s the bigger life stuff: how not to overwater your seeds when you are an excited new gardener. How to use pi to determine how much gravel you need for your backyard fire pit. How to share a room with a toddler who loves you so much and messes up all your stuff. How to separate laundry so your white shirts won’t turn grey. How to not buy that Playmobil guy you want with your allowance so that you can save up for the Playmobil dragon set you really want. How to persist through part of a book that’s kind of boring so you can get to the good part that’s coming. How to know when you’ve invested enough time in a book that’s not for you and should just move on to a new one. How to respond to that retired NASA engineer who called you and your cousin out for running in the space center when we went on a field trip. How to channel your frustration when the parachute experiment doesn’t work right the first eight times you try it (and you just want to cry and give up).

Learning is so much bigger than school.

Here, at the end of our third year of homeschooling, what I see is that homeschooling for us isn’t really as much about “school” as I thought it would be. It’s more about making space for the curiosity and love of learning that already exist here. It’s fanning sparks into flame. It’s giving the gift of time to let passions grow slowly and to explore them deeply. It’s reading a lot of books, going outside to play and pretend to be characters from those books, and then coming back inside to read some more.

I didn’t start out to homeschool, and I said it would be a year-to-year decision. I still feel like we have made the right choice for our family, but my reasons are slightly different now than when we started. When we began, I was mostly concerned about what Sam wouldn’t get to address his unique needs in our public school.

Now, this year, the main thing I see is time.

Our time is our own, and still, I feel there’s never enough of it. Every day feels full from start to finish with projects, ideas, crafts, tasks, talks, meals, games, and books. When I think about what it would cost in time to have Sam leave for hours every day to go to school, I think he can’t afford it…and neither can I.

As parents and educators, we talk a lot about how the early years are the formative ones, the “window” in which we have the greatest opportunity to give our little ones a great start in life.

Hanging out every day with my now seven-and-a-half year old, I’m so grateful that the window is still open- that I still have the chance to spend my days with him, that my influence is still strong, that he can stretch his growing brain and his growing muscles here with us and that we can share in the process.

When the evaluator comes, she’ll see his carefully-compiled portfolio of work, of course, but she’ll also see him…a person who has grown and changed exponentially this year since she last talked with him. And despite the frustrations and the sometimes chaotic, always noisy environment here, seeing that progress strengthens my resolve to continue to do this work that’s before me. He’s blossoming. He’s curious and passionate and interested and interesting. Yes, we’ll still be homeschooling next year. What exactly that will look like depends on lots of different things…but the further down this path we go, the less “homeschool” looks like “school at home” for us…and the happier I am about that.

31 days, homeschool

31 Days, Day 5: Home.

Home.

What it isn’t: always neat and tidy, no matter how much I wish it were. Not always quiet, either, or ever, really, except occasionally between the hours of 11pm and 5:30 am.

What it is: the center of everything these days.

Before we became homeschoolers, I couldn’t have fully appreciated what the decision to educate a child at home does to a home. With that decision, home becomes more than just his soft place to fall or his jumping-off point. It’s more than a base for exploration or a place to sleep. It’s his classroom, sometimes. It’s his lunchroom and his playground and his quiet space for reflection. It’s his library and his project space and his place to goof around and be as silly as possible. It’s the scene for tickle fights and spelling tests, for bubble baths and science experiments (sometimes at the same time). It’s the place for brownie baking and novel reading, Shakespeare memorizing and poetry reading, Lego building and aqueduct modeling. There is something going on all the time here.

It’s kind of a mess, really, because when curiosity and discovery bubble up on their own, they don’t often do it in an orderly fashion.

There are piles and piles and piles of books, too…and the UPS guy is on a first-name basis with us, because he’s always bringing more of them.

It is terribly tempting to try to control all this action- to funnel activities into certain periods. Now it is school time. Now it isn’t anymore. Time to play. Time to work. And while everything has its time, there is so much overlap here between school and life that I can’t tell where one stops and one begins. Some days, the distinctions feel forced and artificial. It’s not how I expected it would be at all. It’s not school at home. It’s just home, where we live and move and have our learning, too- at the kitchen table, in the backyard, in the bathtub, and everywhere in between…and I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I have to remind myself almost every day to unclench my hands and just let it happen.

Find the rest of my 31 days of Five-Minute Free Writes here.

homeschool

Second grade, Day One- Homeschooling Update

Today was our first day of school for the year, officially speaking.

I know that we don’t really need a first day, considering we have settled into a school-life balance where learning is just part of our normal flow, but I still want that for my kids. Maybe this is because I am a product of the American public school calendar and it’s hard-wired into me. Maybe it’s because everyone else’s first day of school pictures on social media are so cute. Regardless, we kicked off the year today.

My second grader was exuberant. He was dressed and ready, shoes on and already-finished cereal bowl in the sink, before most of us were even out of bed.

As we prepared for the upcoming school year, I asked Sam to think about his goals as a second grader. He reminded me today that I had promised to post them for him. Here are his plans for this year:

“My goals are to build a robot, read some King Arthur and Shakespeare, learn to write in cursive, learn more about castles and how they were made (and big weapons they used like catapults, ballistas, etc.) and learn to make bread. Also learn to identify some new constellations I haven’t learned yet.”

This list makes me so unbelievably glad that we’re homeschooling. I can’t wait to dig into all that stuff with him!

We started our day today with breakfast, chores and free reading, followed by our Morning Meeting. Then we headed out to meet friends at our local greenway trail for some nature exploration.

The explorers ended up at the creek (as they often do). There’s something magnetic about kids and water. The creekside nature exploration became kind of a mid-creek exploration, and the rocks were slick, and, well, you know…

In the end, two out of three walking Dupuy children were wet from the waist down, so we went home for dry shoes. (I had dry clothes with us, and snacks, and water bottles, and everything we’d need…just not extra shoes. Silly me.)

After a wardrobe adjustment and a snack, we met up with our homeschool group at the library to build some catapults that shoot marshmallows. Sam had made one of these a long time ago with a slightly different design (with hilarious results that might have ended with an interview by a catcus-turned-sports-commentator), and he was excited to try again now that he could do it without help.

When he was done flinging marshmallows around, we checked out some books and headed home for lunch and rest time.

I was dismayed to find that Sam had checked out a pretty awful My Little Pony book for Lucy at her request on his library card. This leads me to believe she asked him because she knew I would try to talk her out of it, since I had already read it to her five times at the library (and since it was SO AWFUL). 

The afternoon was spent doing a little math (Life of Fred, which Sam says he’s missed so much that he couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen in this next installment), some grammar review, and some light saber construction out of PVC pipe and painter’s tape.

Sam got in some piano practice before dinner with a little assistance from the shortest member of the family, who has a real fascination with all things musical. I expect he will be over there every time the piano is open for a while. Fortunately, the gap between their ages is old enough that Felix never annoys Sam, just amuses him. It’s amazing to see what a different reaction Sam has to Felix – he’d have been completely frustrated by his sisters’ doing something similar, but when Felix does it, it’s just cute. Sibling dynamics fascinate me.

We also celebrated the feast of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a stack of Krispy Kreme donuts and some candles. (That’s what happens when feast days sneak up on mama after vacation and coincide with homeschool donut fundraiser delivery day.) We’ll call it Anti-Pinterest Liturgical Living- Do Not Try This At Home, Because You Can Surely Do Better.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome day.

How did your first day go? Anything you are planning to do differently on the days to come? Anything that went so well that you’ll never change it again? I want to know!

Thanks to Janell for the creek and library photos!

homeschool, learning styles, project based homeschooling

Vikings before Sunrise: Differences in tempo and project-based homeschooling

“I want to learn about Erik the Red. And build a life-size Viking ship out of cardboard boxes and put a dragon head on the front. And craft weapons out of cardboard and cover the shiny parts with foil so they look real. And be Viking invaders with my sisters and make a movie of ourselves doing that. Let’s do THAT.”

This conversation began SuperSam’s second semester of kindergarten in our homeschool.

I thought it would be helpful to ask him about his goals for the rest of this year.
It was a good idea.
Otherwise, I would not have had any idea that he wanted to study Vikings.

I think it all started with a book about the Middle Ages we gave him for Christmas. He loves reading it during quiet rest time, curled up under his loft bed as if in a little cave. He loves for George to read him sections of it before bed, making silly sound effects for the sword battles and jousting matches.

The book has some information about Vikings…just enough to make him really curious about them.

Sam checked out some books from our local library and read through them, renewing them several times, but then his interests shifted to other things. He read fiction for a while and dabbled in the Olympics.

Then, he saw a book about Vikings on our trip to the Green Valley Book Fair yesterday. He read it all the way home. This morning, before the sun was all the way up, he was in my room with plans to build a Viking longship for his Playmobil guys.

When he is ready to start something, he is already halfway done.

I like to plan, to make lists, to sketch, to write drafts.
He likes to try things NOW and see what happens. He didn’t even want to wait for breakfast.
I know I’m no good to him before breakfast, especially not before coffee, so I asked him to gather materials. He waved the perfect piece of cardboard in my face, already clutched in his hand…a long, flexible strip from a dish box that I had saved in case he needed it.

He was beyond ready to build.

I cut some lengths of duct tape to his specifications and went to get dressed.

He interrupted me three times with new ideas, design changes, and requests for more tape. He decided to use a toilet paper tube as the “throat” for his dragon head on the ship’s bow “so the people can be eaten by the dragon and go in through his mouth and fall into the ship.”
 

Playmobil Guy disappears into the dragon’s throat.

I was amazed by how far his skills had come since he built the Roman aqueducts from similar materials last year. Having gained experience with construction and tape and cardboard, he already knew how things would fit together best, and he really needed very little help to construct the ship to match his vision. I just cut tape for him. Once, he asked me to brace the bow with my hand while he taped it into place. The ship was coming together beautifully, and I was so impressed.

This is the beauty of project-based learning. By working with things and manipulating them himself, by making and learning from his own mistakes, Sam has figured out what works for him. How much better is that than if I had told him, “That’s not going to work; do it this way instead”? If the goal of education is to help people learn to think and to make them independent (and hopefully passionate about what they are learning), this method seems like a no-brainer to me. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep my mouth shut when I can see that something isn’t going to work the way he wants it to…but because I kept my mouth shut all those other times, today he didn’t even need me to say anything. He hardly needed me at all!

He ran off to the bathroom to do some flotation tests with scrap cardboard, having decided he wanted to sail the boat in the bathtub by pointing a fan at it. A couple of minutes passed. He came running out and asked to listen to “Viking music.”

The only thing I could think of was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. He is already familiar with this music and excitedly declared it would be the perfect soundtrack for his Viking movie. And just like that, he abandoned the ship.

The dead Viking hero, waiting to be picked up by the Valkyrie on a baby’s rocking horse. (Sometimes you have to work with what you have on hand.)

He corralled his sisters, insisted I find a video of an orchestra performing the piece, and began explaining the girls’ roles as Valkyries. He built horses out of kitchen chairs and stools, brought out blankets and costumes, and started acting out the Valkyries’ descent to bring the “dead heroes” back to Odin’s castle and the halls of Valhalla.

A cute little girl snuggling a hippo? No, a Valkyrie fetching the dead Norse heroes from the battlefield.

Apparently, it is all in the book he got yesterday.

At some point, discontent with the Berlin Philharmonic, he asked me how to spell Valkyries so he could google it himself. Pulling up a video of Wagner’s full Ring Cycle, he parked himself in front of it for the next hour and read the English subtitles aloud, directing the girls at how to play the parts. (The link is to the beginning of Act 3 of the Metropolitan Opera performance with James Levine- it’s worth watching the first few minutes to see the Valkyries slide down onto the stage and sing together – all 8 of them!)

Sam was distressed that we didn’t have enough actors for all the parts, so he pressed some large stuffed animals into service.

A Valkyrie wraps up the bones of a dead Viking warrior sock monkey.

The speed of it all almost made me dizzy.

By lunch time, he was planning a movie shoot and storyboarding the scenes on an easel. He didn’t want to stop to eat or take a nap, but I was exhausted just from watching him.

What I’m striving to remember is that our differences in pace are just that- differences. He has a plan for his work and a preferred working speed at which he’d like to execute that plan. My need for coffee and my hesitations and questions about drafts and sketches aren’t helpful to him when his idea is already burning a hole in his brain. He needs to try it. NOW. Really, ten minutes ago would have probably suited him better.

One of the big advantages of doing school at home is that he can work at his own pace. He doesn’t have to sit and wait until “it’s time” for everything. His internal clock has him up before the sun, and he does some of his best work in that time before everyone else is up and moving around.

I think eventually (as he continues to need less help with tasks and has a better understanding of the adults’ need for sleep in the predawn hours), this won’t be an obstacle for us as a homeschooling family. Right now, I sometimes feel like throwing something at him when I hear him rattling the doorknob first thing in the morning. It means he’s about to burst into the room with a fully formed idea and start asking me to cut tape and get out dowel rods and plug in the hot glue gun.

It’s amazing to watch him work, even if I can’t quite understand the need for such a frantic pace. I can completely understand the frustration of not being allowed to work when you’re ready just because someone else isn’t ready.

I don’t want to be the one in the way of his process, so I’m doing what I can to facilitate it (starting by giving him access to as many materials as possible in his own space).

As I finished eating lunch and prepared to clean up and get the kids ready for nap, Sam (long finished with his food) was back in his workspace, tinkering with the ship again and humming Ride of the Valkyries. Nora was asking to get down and had stacked her dishes neatly on the side of her tray. And Lucy was still eating, very slowly working her way through her rice cake, deliberately dipping each bite into her applesauce. She grinned at me, her face completely smeared with peanut butter, and said, “I’m not nearly done yet.”

It was a good reminder that as our family and our homeschool grows, we will have more people with different learning styles and different tempos to accommodate.

Good thing I’m up for a challenge.

creativity, homeschool, learning styles, mess, project based homeschooling, project space

When creativity makes me grumpy

Sometimes, I find myself wishing that once, just once, he would use something the way it was intended.

That tangle of plastic pieces up there? It’s a marble run.  A quiet, self-occupying marble run. Only it isn’t a marble run to him- it is a marching band. It is the polar opposite of quiet. The pieces are all over the house, turned into instruments worthy of inclusion in a Dr. Seuss book. He outfits his sisters with their own euphoniums and off they go, doot-dee-dooting the Superman theme at full volume until it rings off the hallway walls.

Or this? It only looks like a drum. It’s really a helmet. It used to be a space helmet, but now it’s a knight’s helm. Last week, when Nora wanted to play the drum (you know, with a drumstick, to make music), we couldn’t find the drum head. Eventually, someone discovered it in the box of costumes and dress up stuff.

Why?

Because it’s not a drum head anymore. It’s a shield, of course…covered in foil and made wearable by criss-crossed rubber bands. The drumstick is a “pixie sword,” an overturned pink plastic teapot lashed to its top with the tiebacks from his bedroom curtains.

There’s never any toilet paper in the bathroom any more. It has been turned into bandages for wounded armies of interplanetary soldiers engaged in a battle between good and evil. When the fate of the entire universe is at stake, how can I begrudge someone a roll or two of toilet paper?

In my heart, I know that Exceptionally Large Quantities of Wasted Tape and Entire Rolls of Aluminum Foil are a small price to pay for a mind that sees the world in such a wide-open way.

To SuperSam, life is only endless possibilities. Every object in this house is a potential idea waiting to be realized.

To me, sometimes those possibilities just look like a big mess.

It’s a struggle for me. I like things to be neat. I’m not nearly as neurotic about it as I used to be, but messes make me grouchy. Clutter makes me feel like the walls are pressing in on me. When every inch of every surface in the kitchen is covered with works in progress and piles of paper, I feel like I can’t breathe deeply.

My son is so different from me.

This is SuperSam’s workspace (photographed to share with his permission).

On his worktable, currently: seashell collection, assortment of bouncy balls, microscope and scattered slides, cardboard box that was briefly an airport and is awaiting its next role, dinosaur fossil excavation in progress, copy of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” highlighted alternately in blue and green crayon. Nearby, but outside the margin of the picture: styrofoam painted yellow to be a yellow submarine, characters and props for toilet paper tube staging of Orpheus and Eurydice (complete with boat made from an egg carton for crossing the River Styx), plethora of recycled materials (tubes, boxes, styrofoam, egg cartons, plastic containers- some of which contain dead bugs that are being “preserved” for later study).

The main reason he has his own workspace (in a room that’s not his sleeping space) is because he needs to be able to leave projects unfinished and come back to them later. His timetable isn’t like mine- he’s not ready to clean things up just because it’s time to make dinner in the kitchen. I realized that to make this project-based homeschooling arrangement work for us, he was going to need a space that could house his ongoing work. There are usually at least three projects going at once. Sometimes he works on them simultaneously. Other times, he takes breaks from one to pick up something else for a while and then returns to the original idea when he’s ready.

We gave up our mudroom so he could have this space. It has to be in a separate room with a closeable door precisely because of how he keeps it. Mess and clutter don’t bother him. He thrives on having everything out in the open where he can seize it in a moment. He needs to be able to instantly react when a bolt of creativity shoots through him.

I just need him to be able to find his own shoes…and I need to be able to close that door and pretend that the visual evidence of his brain-in-perpetual-motion isn’t there.

All the beautifully organized, Pinterest-worthy toy storage and art table ideas in the world can’t save us, I fear. We are two different kinds of minds. I take joy in organization and planning and using little galvanized steel buckets with labels as storage containers. He takes joy in living and thinking and working full-throttle…and for him, that means putting things away is a low priority. 

The thing is, I also take joy in seeing how he works. He amazes me almost every day. Even when I find him maddening, I’m in awe of his brain and of the ideas that come out of it. It’s an amazing brain, and watching him use it with such delight and freedom is a privilege.

I doubt I’ll ever see the mess as a privilege…but I’m working on being less irritable about it.