Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's sit awhile, shall we?

Oliver told me again to get the hell off his back. Or at least I'm pretty sure that's what he felt like saying. But instead, after a few rough moments, he wrote: "You are asking too many ques. .."  He's taken to not completing words when he knows that his meaning is understood. Pretty smart, that guy.

But here's the thing: how can I NOT ask questions? It's almost physically and emotionally impossible. I am really, really, really trying to also share with him how I'm thinking and feeling. And I'm trying hard to give him the space in which to do nothing because he seems to need it at the moment. I know how that feels. I am surprised by how often I've found myself just staring blankly into space. I feel overwhelmed and I'm sure Oliver does too.

Long time readers of this blog know that I chose to homeschool Oliver after a really dismal visit to what would have been his Kindergarten classroom. Teaching your child at home is a pretty hefty responsibility. With Sami I have little fear of that responsibility: he has a natural curiosity and a drive to learn that leaves me breathless. Oliver on the other hand? Well, Oliver has a lot of anxiety about not doing things the right way, about getting it wrong. He is hesitant to try new things and that kinda gets in the way of lots of learning contexts.  But somehow that kid has learned an awful lot! So in this new upside down world of ours I've abbreviated our homeschool time to just 20 minutes per day and I'm using that time to try and figure out what I should be teaching the boy.

A few days ago I gave him a book called How Things Work and opened it to a page about the brakes on a bicycle. I wanted to find out how well Oliver understands what he is reading and to determine his reading level. So I asked him if he could tell me what the article was about. After barely glancing at the page of text he wrote: "When you squeeze the brakes on a bike it creates friction that stops it from moving."  Pretty good summary, huh? So today I used that reading from a few days ago to see how well he retained information. This is how our conversation went:

Me: Oliver, do you remember how brakes on a bike work?
Oliver: When you squeeze them they make friction.
Me: Do you know anything else that makes friction?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: What?
Oliver: everything.
Me: What do you mean?
Oliver: Everything moves against air.

Me: Oliver, do you know the three states of matter?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: What are they?
Oliver: Solid liquid gas
Me: Do you know the planets?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: Will you name them for me?
Oliver: Mercury, venus, earth, mars, neptune uranus pluto.
Me: Wow, that's great. There are actually two more. Jupiter and Saturn.
Oliver: Oh.
Me: Do you know how a plant gets the energy to grow?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: Will you tell me?
Oliver: photosyn. ...
Me: Do you remember everything you hear and see, Oliver?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: That must be hard.
Oliver: It is.

I don't know if that's true. How can it be true? But one thing is certain: the boy knows far, far more than anyone -- including yours truly -- gave him credit for just a few short weeks ago. I wish I could climb inside his head and take a look around for an hour or two. This random drilling for information is not the way to go, I know that. It's upsetting to him and it's just too random help much. So I've declared that today was the last day of school for the year! I just made that up as I sit here typing and without even thinking about it I know that it is the right thing to do. Maybe I need to just sit awhile with Oliver, not ask anything of him, and see how things unfold.

Isn't it funny how the more things change the more they stay the same?


  1. So ironic that a development we thought would make things EASIER has just made them hard in a different way. Wishing lots of peace to you and Oliver. I hope he knows how much we all care about him.

  2. Wow. And what Gretchen said. ;-)

  3. That kid of yours is AMAZING.

  4. Wow. He has an amazing mind, and he seems to be speaking volumes with just a few words, like what he said about it being a burden to remember everything: "it is."