So I wrote about how we’re moving to be more project based, but one of the major hitches in this plan has been two kids with radically different approaches to projects. This is coming about especially for the projects they create for themselves. Right now, we have a nice long chunk of time in the evening for them to work on projects that they’ve created.
First, I’ve got BalletBoy. Ever since BalletBoy became my little night owl (if he ever abandons the ballet, I may have redub him Night Owlet on the blog), he has been staying up late to do things. He has written little books on his iPad, borrowing my keyboard and making illustrations for them on the Scribble Press app. He has read books and drawn pictures and even sewn things on the sewing machines. However, mostly he has programmed. He has become a complete Scratch addict. So much so that we all had to celebrate Scratch Day like a real holiday with a party.
Here’s a Scratch program he’s especially proud of. The other night, the Husband came to tell me that BalletBoy fell asleep programming, his hands resting lightly on the keyboard and his head leaned back on the sofa. The Husband had to remove the computer and carry him to bed.
Basically, when I set BalletBoy loose, he’ll come up with something to do and carry out most of his projects to completion. He wants to share them with us and wants validation and support, but he doesn’t want us to do anything but play his games, read his stories, and generally praise his effort. He might be the perfect project kid at the moment. He wants to do projects, he’s open to some feedback, but he’s very set on doing his own vision. He works diligently. He turns out interesting things and doesn’t let himself get stuck in a rut.
Mushroom on the other hand… Mushroom dreams big with great ideas for projects and ambitious plans. He imagines elaborate Scratch games, writing screenplays, creating board games, drawing long series of comics, and more. However, when it comes time to actually carry out his ideas past the initial exploration, it’s a flop. He can spend hours imagining and planning, but when it’s time to do something, he always pulls back. Even worse, the more he sees BalletBoy finish, the more he beats himself up and the less he does. It had gotten to the point that he was wandering around every evening, complaining about being bored, refusing to work on anything, even refusing to dream big anymore.
The root of this is really his anxiety. I’m not generally an anxious person, but I certainly recognize how anxiety keeps you from finishing things. I don’t think I finished a single math assignment throughout high school. If I just left the last problem or two unfinished, I knew it wasn’t really done, and therefore not really a reflection on my math abilities. That was a pretty silly justification, but I know that’s how I felt. For Mushroom, he is afraid to fail, which makes him afraid to commit to really doing anything.
If he was content to not finish things for awhile, that would be okay, but he’s clearly suffering and unfulfilled by this state of affairs. He has always wanted time to himself to do things, but then struggled to figure out what to do with that time. I worry that if I simply leave him to it and let him be that he will build up a bigger and bigger block about finishing things. I see this when he doesn’t have an experience for awhile that’s in his anxiety provoking category. If he doesn’t run across a dog for a couple of months or doesn’t get a chance to be outside on his own for a few weeks thanks to weather, those things become more and more difficult for him. On the other hand, the more he does them, the easier and more routine they are, usually with minimal anxiety and fuss.
Mushroom and I have been in talks about all this. He is, after all, an incredibly self-reflective kid. He agrees that he’d like me to help him carry things out and finish things. A couple of weeks ago, with him alone in the house for the afternoon, I suggested we finish a project together. His enthusiasm for the completion of it was ecstatic. Close your eyes and remember how good it feels to finish things, I told him. Below is the little movie we made that afternoon (he did most of the camerawork and all the editing and had the vision, I helped with some of the art).
Coming up next… Projects for “School”