I mentioned in a previous post that our 14 year old was busy manufacturing everyone’s Christmas gifts. Well, it turned out that he both didn’t have the patience and couldn’t contain his excitement long enough to wait for December so instead, on May the 4th (ie Star Wars Day), he presented us with the gifts he had made for each member of the family. He had crafted recycled cardboard, hot glue, and paint in order to make us each our very own custom lightsaber. He thought about our personalities and designed lightsabers that symbolised aspects of us. He even inserted a kyber crystal into each hilt. He wanted his 13 year old brother to have a lightsaber that came apart so he had niftily connected the parts with magnets so it could separate and click back together again. And now he is coming up with ideas for Christmas gifts!
I also got crafty in that I created a Flat Miss Laura for each of my preschool students. I had been contemplating a way to create a digital version but I am a numpty when it comes to a lot of technology and my kids protested they were too busy to help me so I had to go for the low tech option. I simply drew and painted a simplified self-portrait, scanned it as a PDF, and emailed it out to my students. I had included supplies for making stick puppets in the packets I sent home with my students and some of them decided to make puppets of classmates and act out scenes from the classroom using Flat Miss Laura. It was cute. And, of course, I have also been working diligently on my challenge to draw 180 Star Wars characters. My routine is to get the drawing part done while supervising my youngest son working on Math and then I paint when he is working on Reading. I cannot get anything else done when he is working on subjects like Science but it seems to be a good system.
Meanwhile the hard slog of distance learning continues. Weirdly, my 14 year old is actually thriving in this system where he has more flexibility over his schedule and the order in which he works on different subjects. While the teachers are all doing their absolute best with this unexpected challenge, my 17 and 13 year olds both feel they are not being adequately taught the subject content and are, therefore, largely self-teaching. My 17 year old has also been taking AP exams online which presented us with a challenge since our electricity and WiFi kept cutting out (too many people all on devices at once in a house with 1970s electrics). Thankfully we made it work and he has now completed most of the exams without any technical glitches. As for the youngest, distance learning continues to be a challenge. Since has has both ADD and ASD, there are some advantages in that he is not in a classroom full of distractions and sources of sensory overload. However, as a student with an IEP, it is challenging for me as a non-specialist to figure out the best way to differentiate the work being set. In addition to overseeing his academic instruction, I also have to deliver his social skills development work (which is kind of laughable in a context in which he cannot practice with anyone outside the nuclear family) and deliver his Speech Therapy work. I would be lying if I said I was not counting down the days until school officially ends – except I am also trepidatious about how to create structure and routine during a very different summer break.
We have had some creative teaching going on, however. My oldest son had to make tacos one Tuesday for his Spanish class and he made guacamole to go with it. My 14 year old had to create a musical instrument that demonstrated different sound frequencies and opacities for science class. I didn’t understand the lesson objectives either but he did his best and fulfilled the brief. And my youngest has been doing all sorts of bonkers gym activities, including a Rubik’s puzzle inspired running activity and basketball with a balloon.
We have also continued to contribute to any neighbourhood activities for the youngest members of our community when they are out on a stroll. Our favourite was setting up a Zoo using stuffed animals displayed alongside random facts about each animal. We have also been doing things like making signs expressing gratitude for essential workers.
We also had two causes for excitement and celebration last month. Firstly, our 14 year old submitted a short film to his school’s first ever movie festival. He press-ganged his brothers into acting and cinematography roles and got very creative with our limited location and props. We had to laugh while watching the festival because our kid’s film was so much darker in its themes than all of the other submissions. He was inspired by filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Eggers and it was creepy, had zero dialogue, and was filmed in monochrome. All of the students involved did a great job but we were thrilled when it was announced that our son was the winner of the festival. He worked really hard on his submission and studying movies is a passion of his so we were really proud of his achievement and what it means for him in terms of encouraging his creativity and rewarding his film literacy.
But the really big celebration we had this month was my youngest’s 11th birthday. This is our fourth lockdown birthday. We don’t have another birthday in our household until October. Only time will tell what the context for that birthday will be. The theme was cats because he is completely and utterly obsessed with cats. Now that he is 11, our youngest child is now older than our oldest child was when we emigrated here. What’s more, he is the last of our children in Elementary School and will be transitioning into Middle School in September – whatever school looks like then. This birthday, therefore, feels like a big milestone for us as parents too.
We went for a nature ramble with the specific aim of seeing some local wildlife. We encountered several frogs, including a chubby bullfrog tadpole, turtles, and a snake basking on a log. The latter was my first snake encounter of the summer. I think it’s a Northern Water Snake. We often have garter snakes on our property but I have not seen any so far. We do, however, have some fox cubs who trot around our yard and recently there has even been a coyote in the neighbourhood – though I have not seen it with my own eyes.
And, of course, I have to include some photos of the other members of our household: Satchi and Peanut.