the binoculars in the time capsule

belongs here

the second week of school is already over, we are well into the third and i haven’t had a moment to write about the first one yet. i get the feeling i have entered a time warp named “school” and it might not spit me out until sometime around when quinn turns 18. still, i am going to cling to even the teensiest scrap of writing time i can scrape together  even if i have to hang on by my fingernails. it’s a need.

as many of quinn’s best advocates recognize, school is stretching him in new and wonderful ways, and seemingly in just the right measure this year. not too big, not too little, but juuuust right. he is attending tuesday half day and then wednesday through friday full days, with me along for each and every minute. since i am helping and teaching in a volunteer/trade capacity for a time, i needed to hang onto my monday/tuesday afternoon nanny gig. you know, so i can invest in several 50 pound boxes of tomatoes, and maybe even put new shoes on the growing boy’s feet. i think maybe i am being stretched as well, but so far it is a good kind of stretch.

Picture 059

these two weeks have had ups and downs, to be sure, but the overall trend is definitely up. he missed lunch one day, missed reflection circle one day, and had a handful of moments where he was stuck like the very continents we’ve been studying, forced to wait for plate tectonics to shift him. and yet, he is already tuning in with the rituals of the school day, and his inherent need to be a part of it all is blossoming forth. his sense of belonging is written all over his face as he interacts with the kids in morning meeting (a.k.a. show and tell), confidently explaining what he brings to show, answering questions and responding to comments, and laughing and beaming with his success.

Picture 060

he has had middle-of-the-night wake ups on two different nights, both of which were of the “night terror” variety, in my estimation. quinn experienced a week or so of night terror agony (agony for the mama; he never remembered a second of it) when he was a toddler, and words like “developmental leap” and “firestorm in the brain” come reverberating forward through time from those dark nights in our history. the bouts these nights are brief and bland compared to the intensity i experienced from his 19-month old self. back then he would cry inconsolably, (once for 55 minutes straight) and when i say inconsolable, it was as though i was the scary monster causing his distress. i could not go near him or offer any comfort, he could never articulate a need, but only scream. and by definition, a night terror leaves no trace in the child’s brain- he never remembered the next day, and likewise, he does not remember these recent nighttime cries. but, speaking of developmental leaps, the boy is now skipping, which of course is the holy grail of child development, or seemed to be so when we had our evaluation  back in the spring. it might be true, for all i know. i definitely had the same bubbling up of joy within my soul when he grabbed my hand and started doing it out of the blue as when i saw him take his very first steps.

Picture 061

we are giving a new coparenting schedule a test drive right now.  i picked quinn up at the boat ramp (neutral meeting spot) after his weekend with dada, and when i greeted him, he grabbed my hand and as i started walking him back towards the car, he began to skip. a few paces in, i realized what was happening, broke into a grin and started skipping along with him, which made him squeal and giggle with glee. he knew that i knew he had accomplished something big, and we skipped all over that parking lot in the gathering dusk. i had caught him inadvertently skipping a few times in recent weeks, but every time i had pointed it out, and he tried consciously to continue, he hadn’t been able to. this time though, he was doing it with a new-found confidence and poise, and even my profuse praise could not deter him.

Picture 062

as hyped up on school as i am right now, (i am nearly as brim-full of ideas and excitement as my young lad, and just got done leading my first lesson on tuesday), i am mindful that i still identify us as unschoolers, and want to remember to pay equal attention to the moments of learning outside of school. at school, quinn is opting in for the lessons on continents and plate tectonics; at home, he is discussing the timing of the breakup of pangaea in relation to the dinosaurs’ time on earth with me. at school, he is building a pair of binoculars out of a granola bar box, making a book of dinosaurs, sewing a self-designed hand puppet, painting and tracing and taping and scissoring. at home, he is skipping, watching beavers and hawks and chipmunks in the wild, sculpting a dragon, and inventing new games. at school, he is learning to go with the flow of lining up to use the bathroom, eating and putting away lunch, taking care of his work materials, showing up for reflection circle and afternoon snack, and raising his hand to speak in the group. at home, he is learning to pick out his clothes, help himself to cheerios in the morning, and take care of smaller humans and a chihuahua.

Picture 063

on the drive to the first day of school, quinn and i had a conversation about the star wars music he hums almost constantly. the most frequent tune is from the scene at the end of episode iv  of star wars, when luke skywalker and the other heroes are receiving recognition for their acts of bravery. it’s a triumphant  march, played by a whole orchestra. the same song plays near the beginning, when we look out mournfully over the two setting suns of the planet tatooine, only it is played by a single, wistful instrument. we had a great discussion about these two versions of the same tune. in quinn’s analysis, the early sunset scene feels “sad and longing” and the tune is played by one instrument, slowly. then later, the same tune being played quickly, by more instruments (he hears lots of horns and also some drums), sounds “happy and proud.”

Picture 064

exactly one year ago, our journey through asperger’s/sensory integration concerns, literature, and evaluations began. it is hard to quantify the amount of growth and change in him over one year. he is still so undeniably his perfectionistic, frustration-prone, stubborn, flowy, clumsy, sensitive self, and yet he is so grown and shows so much zest for learning and creating and exploring, is so articulate and precise in his speech, and is making great strides in his ability to be flexible. as with many a parenting detour, it turned out to be a journey back to ourselves, back to unschooling (though we never actually left) and i want to remain mindful of that mooring, as we embark on this new adventure.

Picture 065

still, i can’t possibly overstate the crystalline luminosity of those moments at school: the kids pondering out loud, “well if africa has the most gold and the most diamonds of any continent, then how come it’s the poorest continent?” quinn wearing his all-red outfit complete with fairy wings the same day he brings his teddy bear for show-and-tell and receiving nothing but supportive remarks like “cool hat” or “wow you’re all red!” or “hey what’s your bear’s name?” the moment when he looked up at me and told me “i’m glad you’re a teacher now.” the way these children launch into an amorphous project like making an entry in their brand new scrapbook of science (say it like bill nye) with such gusto, it is clear i am not the only parent in this town who understands that less is waaaayyy more when it comes to teaching, and that all they really need is a nudge, some books, and a bunch of supplies. they don’t really need a lesson. they arrive at the lessons of their own accord, the more the adults keep the runway clear for takeoff.

Picture 066

it’s no wonder, really, that they operate like this. teacher kelly and i shared with each other that we both experience simultaneous surprise right along with the “but of course” when we see these kids completely thrive according to our expectations that kids treated like real people will rise to the occasion and surpass everything conventional wisdom says kids are capable of being. we strongly hold these unconventional beliefs, and yet when they come to fruition, it’s so amazing it’s hard for it to sink in. i’m in awe.

Picture 067

this week, quinn wanted to put something into the time capsule that is being sealed until the end of the school year. i find it satisfyingly metaphorical that he put his binoculars into the time capsule. in the blink of an eye that will be this year going by, i know i will feel compelled to look back over the year through those binoculars in the time capsule, and see, once again, how enormously we’ve grown.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>