We’ve been doing a lot of reading together lately. When I say a lot, I mean it’s dominated half our day. The other half before Oz gets home is chores, workbooks, spelling, reading lessons for Beekee and Sander, making lunch, eating lunch and snacks, and a little bit of play time. It’s amazing how much better things are going here.
Our usual days included a lot of fighting. It would probably be easier if the kids all had their own private places. They could get more of a break from each other. They also constantly complained of being bored. It seems to be a problem with unschooling with a larger family. Unless you have a big budget for art supplies, a huge selection of LEGO blocks, and a box of supplies for science projects to stave off boredom, the kids will inevitably revolt. It doesn’t help that unschooling is best with highly motivated, self-motivated kids. Mine seem to buck the trend that suggests giving kids unlimited time to do what they want and they’ll eventually start seeking out opportunities to learn. After a few years, the kids still need to be lead to the opportunities, sometimes kicking and screaming. They always enjoy it once they’re doing it, but it may take a lot to get them into it. If left to their preferences, they’d do nothing but veg on television, play outside, and fight. Oh, yeah,and whine at me every five minutes that there’s nothing to do. Okay, I take that back, Corde would complain there’s nothing to do. Sander and Beekee seem content to cap off at fighting. Poor Bear gets nothing more than feeling left out.
As a result, I decided we need to keep boredom at bay. The only way I can do that effectively is to keep them busy. I feel more like an activities planner than a parent in a lot of ways and I’ve really had to put my foot down on a lot of things. If Sander cannot be quiet during read-aloud time, he has to be sent to the bedroom. I feel bad, but there are times where I have to pick him up and move him there himself. I have to do this when he throws tantrums, too. I’ve tried all the unconditional parenting techniques and none of them work. Some just seem to egg him on more. As a result, he’s sent to the bedroom where he can yell and scream all he wants. He’s still bothering everyone, but the effect is at least limited. His fits are far shorter that way and he can kick the bed, flail around, or throw things without risking anyone else getting hurt. I’ve had to strictly enforce chores, too. If I spend most of my dedicated to lessons, reading, spelling reviews, planning and making meals, running baths, nursing and cuddling with Lucabear, finding the lost Minket, and planning out future lessons, I have little time left to clean, never mind relax! But the chores are having the added effect of keeping the kids busy, so they have less time to fight and argue. There’s less boredom time, too.
I’m starting to like this new routine, even if it means constantly staying on Beekee to do his work. I need to monitor him 100% of the time if he’s assigned a task, any task. If he’s cleaning up the toys, I need to remind him to clean up before he picks up anything, when he picks up anything, once it’s returned to his home, approximately every two to thirty seconds. With his writing, if I don’t remind him what he’s doing after every third letter he writes, he’s off doing something else. The only time he ever seems to be able to stay focused on an assigned task is when I sit everyone down for some quiet reading time. After all this time, I still think there’s something different about Beekee. He can’t seem to keep his hands off technology. If the Kindle is out, he cannot resist playing it. I literally have to hide it because the temptation is too much. Corde has to hide her Kindle, too. He can’t stay on task. He’s easily lost in books, too, always has been. He’s also presenting other problems, like an apparent inability to count properly past nine and (try as I might to help him) can’t seem to recognize letters and their sounds. It’s not through lack of exposure either. Homeschooling Beekee is a full-time job!
The reading time really has been a blessing. It’s the only time the kids don’t fight. Luca and Sander actually sit together in peace when I read stories to them. Beekee seems to absorb none of what I read to him. He’s too busy staring off into space, stuck in his own little world, but he picks up details from the shorter selections. We need more of those read together books, where the parent reads one part and the kid reads the other. He actually participates in those. Even so, when we read as a family, he’s quiet and doesn’t cause problems with Corde and Sander. It’s the one time I don’t have to feel like I’m the ref in so,e sports game that never has an end.
Corde, Sander, and Luca seem to all be getting something out of this reading time. Corde is sucked in to story and facts in a way she wouldn’t be if she actually had to read on her own. Sander enjoys the stories and wants to read his favorites again and again. He may not read yet, but he’s learning to love books. Luca is learning more and more words by the day. He’s starting to interact with the books, too. He likes to point things out and say the words he knows, or just say “that” so I’ll tell him the word. His vocabulary is still on the small side. He’s not uttering full sentences, like the authors of so many books seem to have their kids do by his age. Still, he’s starting to find something he can enjoy about books, too. The only one that seems to have no positive reaction is Beekee. He’s not improving in attention span. He’s not choosing to look at books on his own any more often than before. He’s no more engaged by the stories or the facts. It seems like he could take it or leave it.
There are so many great books I want to get to. It’s great that the kids are starting to eat it up. The stories that get the most attention are silly, adventurous, or full of action. We’re learning that “classics”, like Heidi and Caddie Woodlawn are just too boring for the boys. Corde prefers long stories with lots of description and words. She has since she first weighed in on Frankenstein when she was six. She could sit and listen to me read just about anything, no matter how dry the story may seem. It may mean we need to vary our reading. Corde and I may need to tackle a read-aloud just for her. The whole family can get something with plenty of action, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Beekee can sit down for some level readers to follow along and absorb new words from and the read together books. Sander will enjoy the books with lots of pictures. He especially seems to like Celtic myths. Luca is starting to get into the same books as Sander, along with his all-time favorites, Duck & Goose (aka “Guck Gook” as he seems to have problems with the “B” sound.)
I really hope this love of books lasts. The read-aloud time seems to be doing us all some good. The structure seems to be helping, too. We really needed some change around here. I can only hope this is the first of many steps towards life getting better!