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#1 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am trying to figure out how to even ask what I want to ask. I guess I'm just unsure of how to proceed with DS (3.5 years).

My philosophy toward homeschooling at this age was always just -- let them play, let them learn from their environment... give them social time, exposure to new places & things, etc. and they will learn everything they need to learn. Maybe at some point (age 6? 7?) I'd start to teach academics (reading, math, etc.) if he was interested, slowly, at his pace/engagement level.

I feel so thrown off lately though. He wants more than just this open-ended explore the world thing. He asks me every day to talk to him about things he doesn't know. He says he wants to learn new things. Specifically he wants to learn academics, and other things too.

I feel like he is looking for some kind of curriculum or formal schooling (though of course he has no context for those concepts). I'm struggling with how to implement something like that into our lives and integrate it into my own educational philosophies.

For background, he needs 24/7 interaction -- he is virtually unable to play on his own, has severe anxiety, selective mutism, some social/emotional issues, SPD, obsessions, can be very destructive... He plays well with very close friends (ones he's seen multiple times a week for 1-2 years now) but will not interact with any other children. He's in therapy & we are in the process of getting a full eval for him due to the emotional/behavioral issues etc. He is also very smart, far advanced in many areas, seems to have an eidetic memory, and just learns incredibly quickly (usually after a single exposure). He has a high drive to understand things & comprehends concepts/does things that apparently most kids don't until at least age 7 or 8 (or so I'm told).

OK so that background is to explain a bit why I can't just create an enriching environment & let him go to town. He will not engage with anything unless I (or a friend or a trusted adult) is also engaging in it with him. He doesn't like kid-centered activities, he just wants to do 'adult' things. He doesn't play. He likes to observe and he likes very clear direction, but also is very opinionated and stubborn so it's hard not to get frustrated while interacting with him since he is asking for such disparate things from me.

I don't know if I'm making sense here. What I want (ideally) is to just have him learn from everything around him. And he does, but he wants to learn more things, new things, and I don't know how to meet this need without using a curriculum, and I don't know how to use a curriculum when he is so all over the map with his interests & abilities. Not to mention I really shy away from structured learning in the first place. I feel like homeschooling/unschooling could be ideal for him (and we really don't have any other option anyway) but at the moment it is not meeting his needs, and certainly not my own need for sanity lol.

So now that I've rambled on incoherently... any feedback? Maybe I don't have a concise question, just need to talk this through with others...

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#2 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 11:23 AM
 
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I wonder if a "unit" type study would work for you and your son.  It would be focusing on a specific topic (dinosaurs, sea creatures, dogs, cooking, whatever he is interested in) and immersing into that topic, finding reading, art, math, science projects that relate to that topic.  It might meet his needs to learn more about something but give you a direction to go in without committing to a curriculum.  You could check out books from the library, visit places nearby that relate, talk to people in the "know' about that topic, check out dvds/videos, etc. 

 

I have found that this type of study works really well for our family.  For example, one of the topics my children are fascinated with is the Titanic ship.  They have been interested in it for over a year now and it is common conversation.  I have found books at the library that are appropriate for both age groups in my home.  We've watched lots of scientific and historical videos, done art projects, puzzles, lots of conversation, etc. all relating to Titanic.  My older daughter has watched the James Cameron Titanic movie.  My older daughter had a Titanic birthday party with she and her friends dressing up like they did at the time and having a fancy dinner together.  My little ones enjoyed dressing up for the party and making decorations.  There are so many different "subjects" that studying a topic can cover, without really trying to be all "schooly" about it.  Other topics that are popular here now:  Egypt, insects, fashion design, dogs.

 

You can just sort of switch topics when he seems "done".  Topics might last a week, month or year.  Topics might overlap each other or morph into another topic.  I find that each of my children have different topics they love and there are also topics that they all love.  The library is our best friend for this!  I search online and put books on hold for each of them.  You mentioned that your son doesn't like to play but I wonder if he likes to look at books?  Picking out large books with lots of pictures of things he is interested in.

 

This is a great forum to come and get ideas.  I think the important thing to learn is that your son is still very young and there is lots of time!  Just enjoy learning right along side him.  I have found that I've learned so much by helping my children delve into the topics they are interested in.  I went to regular public school and we basically gleaned over topics, barely scratching the surface.  There is so much more.  Enjoy! 
 


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#3 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 11:55 AM
 
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My ds was/is that sort of kid who had 24/7 interaction needs. He has simply replaced interacting with me and dh with the computer for some of the time as he has gotten older. He got better about doing things on his own around age 6. It was very gradual and he was a more dependent 6 yo than many others. But he could occupy himself for a bit and that has continued to improve with age. 

 

When ds was 4, we'd drive dh to work. Dh is a font of information on a wide variety of subjects. So ds would ask him a question, dh would talk about the subject with ds. When ds felt dh had given him as much info as he wanted, ds would say "That's enough about that. Tell me about ..." It's a bit of a trick with kids to answer their questions with the amount of detail that they want without giving them more information than they are seeking. Fortunately, ds had learned by then that his dad could talk forever if not stopped so he would redirect the conversation, at that point. It was really great for me to not have to be ds's research assistant all the time! I googled things or got out books from the library about subjects he asked about, quite often.

 

The ideal unschooling world would have a number of available adults that a child could use as a resource... I always wished there were more people around. When ds was 4, I was so burned out trying to meet all his needs. I never had time to prepare cool projects because he wanted me to do things with him then and there. He didn't want to be by himself while I recharged, got ideas, and gathered materials. When I did manage something, ds would spend 5 minutes with it and be done.

 

Despite ds asking so many questions and wanting to learn about science and other "academic" things, no curriculum or class would have been right for him. He loved being able to have one on one conversations with adults. But anything class like is mostly waiting and listening while the adult is trying to tell all the kids whatever s/he is trying to tell them and making sure each child gets a short turn at whatever. Plus, a class for his age would never have been the right mashup of skill and interest level. Ds still doesn't enjoy classes. I think curriculums would have a similar problem for an asynchronous kid. My ds's interests and ability to comprehend concepts was far beyond his reading and writing skills. And his interests were so eclectic. I suspect no science curriculum would encompass all the aspects of science he typically delves into in a given year.

 

But all kids are different. Just don't worry too much about how your ds is now, at 3 1/2, in relationship to his entire future education. Figure out what works for him now and reassess as you go along. I just always used happiness as a barometer. If my ds was happy, that meant he was doing well not only emotionally and physically (sleep and food were of the utmost importance at that age) but that he was also intellectually stimulated.


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#4 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 02:00 PM
 
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My eldest had social anxiety, selective mutism, some sensory issues, and was very intense as well as very bright and academically oriented. In some ways I think she was quite different from your ds: she retreated into her own world for hours on end and played by herself easily -- and her anxiety was rarely a problem except in out-of-home social situations. But the academic drive and intensity sounds familiar. 

 

She's 18 now, and we unschooled very successfully I think. I will say that life got much easier when she was 4 and began reading independently, because she was really able to self-teach all that academic stuff from that point forth. In the early years there were a few things we did that didn't look exactly like typical unschooling, but they were driven completely by her needs and desires, so  fit totally within an unschooling philosophy.

 

First, she needed predictability in her days, particularly when it came to social expectations, so I tried to give her a daily rhythm, mostly anchored to meal-times. Mornings were quiet at-home time, with some sort of outdoors activity mid-way through the morning. Anything out in the community, or involving groups of people or social visits, would come in the mid- or late-afternoon. Evenings (after the younger siblings were in bed) would be for one-on-one stuff with a parent.

 

Second, she loved absorbing bits of factual knowledge but at that age wasn't able to do her own research and seek that knowledge out herself, so I provided her with resources that allowed her to do so: thrift store dinosaur bingo game, non-fiction picture books, a bit of open-ended computer software (kids' encyclopedias, eg.), nature documentaries, reference books, old National Geographics. She'd browse through all this stuff and ask questions and pack away thousands of little factoids. The set of resources we had in our home made her look very precocious and academically oriented. I always thought kids her age would be best to play and imagine and socialize, but she was different: she just seemed to need to absorb facts and ideas. Maybe it helped keep her anxiety at bay, by feeling like she could learn about the world and understand it. I sometimes encouraged her to broaden her fact-oriented learning in hands-on or creative ways. Sometimes this looked a bit like unit study learning. For example, when she was obsessed with learning world geography facts, I helped her make a paper maché globe with imaginary places on it: she painted all the continents and oceans and made up names for everything, and hung the globe in her bedroom as a decoration. We did stuff like this because it was fun for both of us. If she'd been older she could have come up with the ideas herself, but at age 3 or 4 she wasn't aware of the possibilities. I'd throw out possibilities for related learning projects or experiences. If she was keen on something, I'd help her pursue it. 

 

The other thing she really gravitated to was having a system for learning specific skills, so there were a couple of areas where I provided a formal curriculum-like approach. Rather than using actual academic curriculum, which just didn't feel right to me in such a young child who was already showing signs of being academically very advanced, I gave her that structured learning experience in creative and physical education areas -- hoping as a side-effect to balance out her development. She started violin lessons at age almost-4, and also took ice skating lessons from a family friend from about the same age. Skating was never really a serious interest, but she enjoyed the systematic nature of the teaching system, the badges, the skills to tick off on her card, and she loved that structure. Violin did end up becoming a serious interest, and she thrived on the clear linear repertoire and structured teaching and practicing expectations. Over the long term she also thrived on having an artistic, creative and social side to her childhood through music involvement.

 

So yeah, I had this little "unschooled preschooler" who did almost no real "play," who had a sort of schedule to her days, who was spending hours a day with encyclopedias and trivia cards, and who was involved in highly structured music and skating lessons. Our unschooling looked very different from that of families whose 3-year-olds were playing with dolls, playsilks, Duplo, mud piles and their imaginations. But philosophically it still felt like unschooling to me. 

 

Interestingly, my dd went through a huge imaginary play phase between ages 7 and 10. This was after her mutism had really started to abate, and once she began doing a lot of creative writing. It's almost as if she had to understand the real world and get comfortable in it first before she felt brave enough to venture into the imaginary world. Her imaginary play was very sophisticated and eccentric, but it was rich and vibrant and it definitely filled a need for her.

 

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#5 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow... I can't even begin to tell you guys how amazingly helpful your posts are!!! I am going to re-read them a few times, I think... these are exactly the kinds of things I needed.

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#6 of 18 Old 10-19-2012, 11:15 PM
 
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Can you get some open ended toys.  Things my DS loved and still loves are LEGO's, Art supplies, KAPPA Blocks, Little People / Playmobile/lego people, Hotwheels, Trainset.  Of course library cards.  My kiddo loved story time and the activity center at the library.  He loved the park.

 

My kiddo set up his toys as 'work' at some point.  Those things were not play, he was building an Eiffel tower with KNEX.  He was getting a motor manual from the library and then taking legos and making a model that way.  Hotwheels became last weeks NASCAR race.  The art project was creating the race track, stands, flag box etc.

 

My DS doesn't have an official DX and he really doesn't fit any one thing other than HG/PG but I swear sometimes I see a bit of Aspie in him.  He has such a quest for knowledge and those preschool years were so tough.  No one understood what those days were like.  Teaching him how to manipulate those open ended toys and how to use them really helped both of us.


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#7 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 06:50 AM
 
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My daughter is four and other people frequently look at me with wide eyes and say, "Wow. She's high needs." I feel validated for being exhausted. It's not that I'm lazy or incompetent! THIS IS HARD! It makes me feel better.

 

I'm kind of a hard ass with my kids. I tell them, "As a parent there are times when I have to do work. Your work is to play. There won't always be someone around to entertain you. I know that isn't what you want right now. Life is like that sometimes." Then I have to calmly go about whatever it is that I am doing.

 

I have kind of constructed this thing in my head where I have decided that being a good parent means going through all the actions of a "good person" in a day. I don't think there is a universal model. I think that each person will have a widely varying experience of the day.

 

We are home a lot. So we cook a lot. Which means there is a lot of clean up. I need to be given time and space to do my part of making a family. If I am not given space I turn into a nasty vicious harpy. I just can't do everything at once. I can't be entertaining and productive. I can't.

 

In turn I am blunt with the kids that they need to run along and play. They cried a lot at first. Now they rarely cry and whining is met with them being escorted to the far end of the house before I find an excuse to hide in the garage for a few minutes. I don't hit anyone. I don't yell. This is my best. They have to learn how to entertain themselves while I calm down. I wish them being "just kids" didn't bother me but it does. I need breaks. We have to have a system that works for everyone.

 

I feel very lucky that I get to be self involved enough to tinker with this and play with it and use resources towards figuring out what I want.

 

I have always gotten the impression you don't get a lot of help. These days we have friends (the godmamas) who take them one weekend a month. It is really nice. Gloriously nice.


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#8 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 07:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ha... yes, you're right, I don't get a lot of help. DH is great (when he can be, he works long days!) but since we don't have contact with my family and the inlaws are emotionally distant/uninvolved and all our closest friends have young kids of their own... well, there really isn't anyone to lean on.

About the open-ended toys -- no, he won't play with them. The rare times he goes off to play, he is generally doing something destructive (scraping paint off the wall... or taking something apart into a million little pieces... which reminds me, I have been wanting to give him a box of old electronics or something!)

I like the idea of unit studies and it might give me some direction to go with him. We attempted something like this once, for a week or so, and it was great, but I struggled with taking it to the next level I guess. I will try it again.

I guess part of the problem is we spend so little time at home. This is very intentional (despite his anxiety, he has very high social needs, and also he is just way easier to manage and less exhausting when we are out of the house all day!) I need to work on portable learning.

We could definitely use more nonfiction around the house, I make trips to the library but I bet he'd enjoy some kind of encyclopedia. He loves the computer and is pretty self-sufficient with it (this is the only way I manage to shower every day without him going nuts!) but I'm on the fence with whether I feel it's OK for him to spend more computer time or not at this age. Although I bet I could get a 5-10 min break every once in a while if I gave him games to play with.

It's a huge relief to hear that other kids are/were like DS (at least to some extent). He is really confusing/contradictory at times, doesn't really fit any mold, which is great in some ways but also makes it hard to accommodate and support him.

LOL moominmamma - DS just came up behind me and saw your avatar -- he got very excited about his idea to make an owl like in your pic. wink1.gif Guess we got a project for today!

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#9 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 11:12 AM
 
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About the open-ended toys -- no, he won't play with them. The rare times he goes off to play, he is generally doing something destructive (scraping paint off the wall... or taking something apart into a million little pieces... which reminds me, I have been wanting to give him a box of old electronics or something!)

Just be aware that electronics can have lead solder...

 

When my ds would go "off to play," it would be something like unwinding a ball of yarn throughout the room to make one huge "trap."

 

I remember ds at that age had an uncontrollable urge to squeeze out anything in tubes, like suntan lotion... I don't know what that was about since he was sensory averse... Glitter glue and popsicle sticks was the only crafty thing that was a hit with him. We'd build and glue and he'd just keep adding on to his structure whenever we took out the supplies, even months later.

 

Mixing vinegar and baking soda was also great fun for him. I'd set him up at the bathroom sink and I'd be able to catch a few minutes before he dumped everything together and wanted more supplies.


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#10 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 11:47 AM
 
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You could work with him on his interest in any way he needs for a set period of time.  The unit studies approach mentioned above might be useful.  

 

I love USing love.gif  but I sense that with an intense and demanding child it could be exhausting (but I suspect any way of being with an intense child is demanding.) 

 

I also think it is appropriate to teach (or model) even to very young children that you have a life and needs.

 

What I would do is set up a flow to your day - you are available for intense work of any sort with Ds from 9-12 or so - but you do have other things to do occasionally, and he does need to learn to self entertain.  

 

I would also make time in my schedule to make sure we went to the library regularly, and it is possible that intense physical activity might help  - both to tire him out, with the anxiety, etc.

 

Good luck!

 

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#11 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 12:16 PM
 
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Sometimes I feel like it wouldn't be possible for my kid to destroy more things without simply burning the house down. I feel like I am going to lose my mind. She has broken major furniture, I don't have a wall unscathed, she lost my super expensive earrings, we can't have bottles of shampoo/conditioner/tooth paste anywhere other than a 6' high shelf. UGHHHHHHHHH


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#12 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 02:18 PM
 
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I also think it is appropriate to teach (or model) even to very young children that you have a life and needs.

 

What I would do is set up a flow to your day - you are available for intense work of any sort with Ds from 9-12 or so - but you do have other things to do occasionally, and he does need to learn to self entertain.  

 

 

I agree that it's important for kids to realize mom has needs. When my ds was 3, I started in with telling him I'd help him as soon as I finished ____. For instance, he'd ask to nurse having already nursed before getting out of bed and I'd tell him he could when I finished my coffee. But you can only do that sort of thing to the extent that the child is mature enough to handle it. I don't think self-entertaining can be taught to a child that isn't ready and some kids take much longer than others. It's important to be mindful of your child and what they can handle. It fluctuates throughout the day and from day to day. When ds was fed and well rested, he could wait a few minutes while I finished something. At the end of the day, he couldn't. My expectations had to be flexible and it often looked like I was an over indulgent parent because I could tell when ds was hardly keeping it together. But despite that "indulgence" ds is growing up to be quite considerate. Or perhaps because I was sensitive to meeting his needs, he's in a good place to be concerned about other people's needs. As always, parenting is a balancing act. 

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#13 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 02:23 PM
 
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Sometimes I feel like it wouldn't be possible for my kid to destroy more things without simply burning the house down. I feel like I am going to lose my mind. She has broken major furniture, I don't have a wall unscathed, she lost my super expensive earrings, we can't have bottles of shampoo/conditioner/tooth paste anywhere other than a 6' high shelf. UGHHHHHHHHH

hug2.gifIt gets better! Honestly, I don't know how I survived my son's fourth year. It was just awful. I tried putting him in school, desperate for a break, and the stress of that just made him 10X worse. He wouldn't let me out of his sight for months after that and probably would have been diagnosed as having Oppositional Defiance Disorder.


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#14 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 02:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sometimes I feel like it wouldn't be possible for my kid to destroy more things without simply burning the house down. I feel like I am going to lose my mind. She has broken major furniture, I don't have a wall unscathed, she lost my super expensive earrings, we can't have bottles of shampoo/conditioner/tooth paste anywhere other than a 6' high shelf. UGHHHHHHHHH

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DS has broken 4 tables... ripped trim & baseboard off the walls... stripped off paint, drew on the walls, broken all our kitchen chairs, a bureau, etc.... and I haven't used anything to wash my hair in forever because every time I put a bottle of something in the shower, it's empty by the next day. *sigh*

I am trying to figure out a way to rework our schedule because he would (theoretically) be less demanding at home in the mornings but that's the only time all our friends are free so we're out all morning/afternoon, and then we're home in the late afternoons/evenings when he is much more needy but I'm too physically & emotionally spent to do much with him. I think maybe an evening schedule, with perhaps some guided learning in there, could help, especially if I can get DH to take over part of it. Just hard to have the time & energy to even plan that much.

He does like things like BS & vinegar... I need to get myself in gear I guess, experiment a bit more...

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#15 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 02:50 PM
 
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 we can't have bottles of shampoo/conditioner/tooth paste anywhere other than a 6' high shelf. UGHHHHHHHHH

My youngest (now 9) still mixes them into potions or new concoctions.  Lately she has been doing so in a more sophisticated way - she is trying to make them smell nice, or have interesting effects.  Either way - it is pretty common for our shamppo and shaving cream to be used up by our cosmetic maker in training.

 

Another stage 2 of my 3 kids went through is cutting paper…into tiny, tiny shreds.  Oh, the fun (sarcasm).


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#16 of 18 Old 10-20-2012, 02:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I love you guys. This is the first time I've felt my family is "normal" in many many months. innocent.gif

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#17 of 18 Old 10-21-2012, 05:37 AM
 
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Oh god the scissors. The trails of paper. Don't make me think about it. banghead.gif

 

We are working on, "You cannot get out a new messy toy until you put away the one you are done with." HAHAHAHAHAHA It's going nowhere.


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#18 of 18 Old 10-21-2012, 05:39 AM
 
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Location: Bay Area, CA
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Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post


YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DS has broken 4 tables... ripped trim & baseboard off the walls... stripped off paint, drew on the walls, broken all our kitchen chairs, a bureau, etc.... and I haven't used anything to wash my hair in forever because every time I put a bottle of something in the shower, it's empty by the next day. *sigh*
I am trying to figure out a way to rework our schedule because he would (theoretically) be less demanding at home in the mornings but that's the only time all our friends are free so we're out all morning/afternoon, and then we're home in the late afternoons/evenings when he is much more needy but I'm too physically & emotionally spent to do much with him. I think maybe an evening schedule, with perhaps some guided learning in there, could help, especially if I can get DH to take over part of it. Just hard to have the time & energy to even plan that much.
He does like things like BS & vinegar... I need to get myself in gear I guess, experiment a bit more...

 

Ok, Shanna hasn't gone through four tables. Only one table and two chairs. :D She has totally ripped trim and baseboard off the walls. Paint, crayon, marker, and chalk on EVERY WALL IN THE HOUSE. I told her I am going to make her repaint the whole house when she is 17 and her sister is 15. I'll watch while they do the work. I'll give helpful supervisory suggestions like, "You missed a drip there."


My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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