Tag Archives: free time

Projects, Part Two… A Tale of Two Kids

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.

BalletBoy immediately rolls down the hill.  Mushroom hangs back.
BalletBoy immediately rolls down the hill. Mushroom hangs back.

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).

We’re trying out making a list of projects he’d like to do.  It’s a short list.  When he finishes one, he has to take it off the list and also take at least one other project off the list, a project that will never be finished.  The idea is that there’s this list of options, but he knows that some of them will never be completed and some of them will.  So far, this is working and he’s been more productive than before when we’ve tried to list things he’d like to do and it seemed too open ended or too intimidating.  Right now, he’s working mostly on inventing his own candy and trying to finish an online Code Academy course on Javascript.

Coming up next…  Projects for “School”


Spring Break?

So, I am headed off to jury duty today (here’s hoping I don’t get put on a jury – but it’s already a small victory since I got it commuted from a full month of grand jury to the regular petit jury).  Poor BalletBoy has a cough and a small fever.  I hope it isn’t going to be “one of those weeks” as they say.

Last week was spring break here in the city.  We had to fight the crowds a couple of times and there were real, live, not infant children at the parks!  But we didn’t take a break.  We just kept on with school.  We even began testing out yet another approach for writing (I’m sure I’ll write a post about that at some point).  When I hear other homeschoolers talk about not giving the kids a break ever, I cringe.  How dare they?  And yet…  I‘m sort of one of those homeschoolers.  We don’t even break for the weekend most weekends (though we do usually do at least one day off from morning school at another point in the week).

I believe in breaks for kids.  I believe in free time.  But I also believe in routines and regularity.  I don’t know why these should compete, but lately I feel like they have here at the rowhouse.  I feel like I’m on this path where we never stop doing school if we’re not sick.  It’s not bad exactly.  Mushoom and BalletBoy get a crazy amount of free time.  They get time on screens, time for creative play with each other, time to make bizarre junk sculptures, and time with their friends just playing on a playground or in the woods every single week.  And the last time we did have a couple of days off in a row, both kids actually took out school books on their own and did work.  But there’s a benefit to taking a break and not doing a lick of work for a few days.  I know it and I’m trying to remind myself.

I’m still hoping to avoid a full week (or, eek, more!) of jury duty and I’m hoping BalletBoy gets better and we all manage to stay well, but regardless, I’m calling this week off from morning school.  No reading time, no spelling tests, no math, no writing, no educational videos coordinated to history and science.  Just time off.  Hopefully without fevers.

Well, time off except for ballet, co-op, other co-op…  But that’s not really “school.”  Is it?

More time for Mushroom to perfect his waterbending skills?