Well, the new year of homeschooling had a rough start! SuperKid was not excited about getting back to our schedule! Two weeks off (driven by SportsBoy's two week vacation from public school) was not the most productive way to end 2010. There was a lot of tv, a little wii (which is allowed only during school breaks, and that unfortunately makes it a big deal) and just too much lethargy intermingled with the excitement and uncertainty of the holidays. Plus everyone was sick during the break, so our rhythms are OFF!
Looking back, I can see that Mr. Wonderful and I contributed quite a bit, too. All of our schedules and routines went out the window. Mr. Wonderful was home for two straight weeks and there were no scheduled activities for SuperKid. We just made a mess in the house and hung out! Not a bad gig for a couple of days, but with two weeks of it - there are repercussions!
So the good news is that the situation has clarified some things that I can do to help our family (and especially SuperKid) out a bit. Not really resolutions, but things to be mindful of, to invite into our home and lives, to set the foundation for the productive growth of our family both as a unit and as individuals.
1. Set a routine, communicate it, and follow it. SuperKid really needs to know what the schedule will be. He likes to know how long he will have to "work" and when he will get to "play." Now, "work" for SK just means doing any activity that he doesn't choose. So even if I suggest we play a game during our school time, he calls that "work." "Play" is his free time. I do keep a large monthly calendar up-to-date in our office, but re-introduced SK's calendar yesterday. We started off the school year writing out a daily calendar, but got away from that. For 2011 I got him one of those weekly calendars that breaks the day into 15-minute increments. Yesterday we worked on filling it out for the week. He wrote everything in and shaded it. A good start, though we didn't clarify how long we would be "working" or "playing" in it - it just has our appointments and outside obligations for the week. I think if we get into a good rhythm around our calendar, that will go a long way to easing SK's concerns about our daily schedule. I may need to bite the bullet and get a little more concrete in how our day is structured, but I like the flexibility and would like him to grow to be comfortable with a little ambiguity, too. We'll see how this goes.
2. Plan some play time with other kids. This is a tricky one. SK really has no friends, per se. He goes to a lot of activities, but none have really resulted in any friendships. He is currently in cub scouts, Classical Conversations class, tennis lessons and a group martial arts class. Last semester he was also doing a few other homeschool classes, but I think we're going to cut down on those this semester and just invite some kids over to play a bit. We are not a family that entertains a lot - so this is definitely out of my comfort zone. Still, it would be good for all of us to open up a bit.
3. Focus on health. We used to be so diligent in giving SK his supplements, but we have really lost our focus on this one, too. This was always Mr. Wonderful's area - he was the impetus for going this route and took responsibility for keeping us on track. But, like the rest of us Mr. Wonderful has become tired and overwhelmed. Clearly I need to pick up here and just do it instead of hoping someone else will. Also, over the year, it would be helpful for me to do a better job of planning our meals. I just never know what we'll have for dinner, and that results in a lot of chicken nugget nights. It doesn't help that Mr. W is gone several nights each week, but still - I don't mind cooking, I just hate figuring out what to have and making sure we have all the components for a meal. Again, it's not a hard thing, I just need to do it.
4. Organize. We have too much stuff and it's all in the wrong place. There, I said it. Our basement is full of old toys, holiday decorations, momentos and even wedding presents we've never used (our 20 year anniversary was last November). Upstairs, we have papers, books, more toys and pet toys. But mostly we have paper! My kids draw, make spreadsheets, concoct lists, write a word on a full size sheet of paper - and it is everywhere! By the way, my husband and I go through quite a bit ourselves. Also, things never make it back to where they belong. The boys play with their toys and read their books and leave them on the floor. I stack things, put them in a bin and put it out of the way when I'm tired of looking at it - but then I don't remember where it is! We could not find our dictionary yesterday because SportsBoy used it over break and has no idea where it is now. Seriously - the three of us collectively spent several hours looking for our dictionary yesterday. And we still don't know where it is.
Having written all of this down, I can see that we have become tired, overwhelmed and maybe even a bit lazy. It's hard to raise a family and get everything right. We do a great job of spending time with our kids, really enjoying them and knowing them. We are a loving family and kind people. We help others and, despite my frustrations above, we do not live in a messy house (just unorganized) nor do we eat potato chips for every meal. But over our heads the ASD cloud has hung for many years.
We do see progress, we do see hope - but sometimes we have to make ourselves see those things through a thick fog. We started out, like most families do, trying every therapy and remediation theory we could find. We have gotten smarter and more focused over the years, but honestly, the constant uncertainty, pressure and fear takes a toll. I have aged in dog years since SK was born. Though healthy, I feel much older than my years. My body and mind want to be energetic and I am very active. But I have allowed myself to become distracted, hoping for a brief respite from thinking bad things about the future. And things have slipped a bit as a result.
This year I will try to update this blog so I can see if there is progress. So I can really make myself think about what we are doing and why. And so I have a bit of a record with some pictures and words of what we did this year. I don't want to lose 2011, the happy and even the frustrating things, in the blur that has become our lives. SK turns 10 in one week. All the time I thought we had when he was little, so many years ago, is drifting away. Part memory, part organizational tool (see #4 above!! :-)), part undefined at this point - this blog is about what it's like to be Kokoa's Mom.