Monday, March 14, 2016

Here Be Monsters

One of the things we are working on daily, is Liam's ability to communicate the idea of "why."  Although he clearly understands the concept of cause and effect, he's usually unable to articulate anything beyond the most direct physical observation (ie: Question: "why is the table wet?" Answer: "because I spilled the mug.")

Today we were driving home from Urban Homeschoolers and I took an earlier off-ramp than usual, to make a stop at Trader Joe's.  I was surprised when Liam piped up from the back seat, "that's the wrong way!" 

I explained that we had to go to the store before we went home.  As we traveled down Alameda Ave., I glanced back to see that he was laying sideways in the seat (as far as the belt would allow).  This isn't the first time he's done that on this particular stretch of road.

"Why do you hide when we are in Toluca Lake?"

"I'm scared."

"What are you scared of?"

No answer.

Later this evening, I heard a yelp from Liam's bedroom where he had been playing on his computer.  It was the kind of high-pitched squeal reserved for moments of pain or peak frustration, so we ran to his room. 

Once again, we tried asking what had happened. 

"I didn't like it."

"What didn't you like?"

"I cry when I don't like it."

"I see that you are upset.  What made you sad?"

Eventually, we teased out that something in the video he had been watching had disturbed him.  I guessed it was the baby crying - he is really bothered by babies crying. 

"Today has had a lot of scary things, hasn't it?"  I offered.  I was hoping that a little time might have allowed Liam to be able to talk about hiding out in the car.

"First there was a fly in science class, then you hid in the car in Toluca Lake and now this."

At the words, "Toluca Lake,"  Liam's eyes grew wide and he ran to me to give me a hug and keep me from going any further.  "Don't talk about it!" 

"OK.  I just wondered why you are scared of Toluca Lake."

"Toluca Lake is a monster."

"A monster?"  I ran through a mental roadmap of the area, trying to imagine what "monster" he had seen and then it made sense.  "Does the statue in front of Bob's Big Boy creep you out?"

From his reaction, I could see I'd hit a nerve.  I remembered that he always ducked down just before we reached the historic Big Boy's with the giant statue of a hamburger wielding Bob.

I don't blame him.  It is a creepy statue. 
It was a tiny, but important step - being able to tell me a detail about what scared him.  But at last, I've solved the mystery of the Toluca Lake Monster!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Thunderbolts and Lightning, Very Very Frightening!

The Los Angeles area is not known for thunder storms.  I remember when Liam was in kindergarten and the kids were doing a play about weather.  I was sure that most of the five-year-olds had never encountered most of the phenomena they were singing about.

But, as soon as Liam experienced rain, he loved it.  When it's raining outside, he'll say, "another beautiful, rainy day."  Even though we are in a drought, I make sure he always has rain boots that fit, because, when it finally rains, we are going out in it.
Liam tromping around in a rainstorm a few months ago

Thunder is another thing.  During the day, it's just a curiosity, but when it wakes you from a sound sleep, it can be terrifying.

I was in the kitchen in the wee hours, awakened myself by the storm and checking on our new rain chain, which was being overrun by the torrents of water. 
While I was staring out the window, I heard a thunder clap, followed by the pounding of feet on the hardwood floor and a flood of tears.  Liam was up and clearly frightened.  I tried to get him to tell me what had happened, but he was disoriented, so we cuddled in the dim, morning light.

Liam likes to have a "letter of the day" and we take out the big, "Concise Oxford English Dictionary" to find new words.  He grabbed his flashlight and the dictionary, but soon abandoned the book and hid the light under his pajama bottoms, looking for a distraction from his obvious torment.  "Look - you're bioluminescent!  You GLOW - that's a "g" word!"  Bioluminescent was an instant hit.  We took turns placing the flashlight all over ourselves to glow.  Then he placed it under the blanket and we got to talk about things that are alive "bio" and things that can just be luminescent.

The new word worked wonders and was the running joke for the rest of the morning.

Later, in Science class at Urban Homeschoolers, we were talking about the things in life which are seen and what is unseen.  We talked about hopes and fears - each child taking turns talking about each.  Hope was a little elusive for Liam, but fears were not.  "What are you afraid of, Liam?"

"Flies."  This is true.  It started one day when we were hiking and pestered incessantly by flies on the trail.  He's hated them ever since.  There happened to be a fly in the room, and that probably helped.

Later in class, We drew pictures of places that represented our happiest and most uncomfortable emotions
and then I led the group in an improvisation where (as a group representing grass), they had to speak in unison to an Orchid (played by Mr. Guest).  Without prompting, Liam joined right in.  Some of the discussion had been too philosophical for him, but this he could do.

As we left and headed towards the car, he said "I'm biolumenescent!"

Yes Liam, you do shine.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Other Spaces

Homeschool is a misnomer.  Sure we do math here, and grammar and some science, but a lot of the best stuff happens outside of home, from private art classes, to hanging with the other Urban Homeschoolers, searching for squirrels in the park, or fine-tuning the art of rotating a tire swing - learning is everywhere.  Here are a few highlights from the past week, from everywhere but "home" school:

After lamenting the removal of his beloved roadwork LED signs, Liam learns to read them for the "ending date" of the work

Dad and Liam play at trench warfare in the newly excavated front lawn, during our landscaping project

Liam grabs a pair of binoculars and we feed squirrels in the park across the street

He used to need someone to wind him up, now he's figured out how to get himself to really spin

Working with his new oil pastels to re-create this flower
Studying the movement of the constellations in Natural History at Urban Homeschoolers
Building a model for astronomy at Urban Homeschoolers

Liam and his teacher, Linda, at Pastimes for a Lifetime
With his choir class at Urban Homeschoolers