Friday, June 21, 2013

Just keep swimming...

Our decision to not travel East this year means we can try to take care of some things around here. Small repairs around the house and activities like swim lessons and more focused studies for the kids have taken over our summer plans.

All 4 kids have been intensely working on swimming. Pollito and Milagro just finished their lessons while Tortuga and Corazon are in the middle of swim team. I cannot believe they have been swimming for only a month. C. took the older two to the pool every day for about 10 days starting in mid-May in hopes of getting their basic swim skill strong enough for swim team tryouts at the beginning of June. They worked hard and made onto a small recreational swim team. Each morning they do two hour workouts and come home exhausted. By 7 p.m. Tortuga is a total wreck and can barely stay awake. I am not convinced that we won't have some serious fallout as swim team progresses for them but time will tell.

It has been interesting to observe them as they each tackle this activity. Milagro, who loves the water and has been "dying" to learn to swim, was completely overwhelmed by her lessons. She does exactly what the instructor tells her to do and NOTHING more. No amount of coaxing will get her to try things on her own when one of the instructors isn't standing right there with her. She won't play in the water or practice any of what they are learning. I hadn't seen here be this reticent about anything and frankly it came as a surprise given how much she wanted this. I asked if she wanted to quit but she was adamant she was enjoying it. Yesterday was to be her last lesson but we skipped it. She found out on Tuesday that she wasn't going to get her "badge" for completing the level and she tried so hard to pretend it didn't matter. The first thing out of her mouth when the instructors told me was "I don't care." I could see she cared and I could see it bothered her but she would not acknowledge that even to herself.

Pollito was totally different. He is reticent and hesitant about most things and the only one of my kids who I think is a little afraid of the water. He has had a hard time warming up to new activities EVERY single time he starts one. You would never know it from watching him in his swim classes. After the first 10 minutes on day 1 he was a total fish. He tried everything and practiced everything and his skills improved dramatically. He demonstrated a maturity and confidence that I haven't seen in him before except recently in dance classes. It was so much fun to watch him and see him so relaxed in the water. He still has a way to go before he is a "swimmer" but he is further along than I expected. I was sorry we hadn't set him up to start the next level next week but since we were going to be traveling to my mom's this weekend it wasn't the ideal schedule. 

Corazon has really struggled with swimming which of course reminded me of why we stopped swim lessons years ago. When she was 5 we enrolled her in swim lessons but her need for adult attention overshadowed her desire to learn to swim. Each class we saw her "charming RAD" unfold and that was before we knew she had RAD. She would pretend not to know something or pretend to be drowning just so the instructors could rescue her and give her attention. If we came near her she would quickly cut the drama and tell us she didn't need us. We finally pulled her out of lessons after a very serious stunt in which she almost hurt herself badly and gave all the lifeguards and instructors heart attacks. We vowed not to try that again anytime soon.  About 3 years later we tried again and the results were even worse.  This summer she asked for swim lessons but she was too old for the recreational classes available to us so she asked C. to teach her to swim. Tortuga jumped on that bandwagon so they both started their private lessons with C.

Corazon has had quite a bit of drama since swim team started but C. had a talk with the coach about how to handle it and he seems to be doing a good job of managing her. He is young (19) and is awesome with the kids. He treats them with the maturity of a young adult but with the attitude of a teen so it works great for them. She has figured out that she can't really get attention for acting out and the workout is intense enough that she has figured out not to expend the extra energy on dramatics. She also had her worse athletic performance EVER at her first swim competition. She came in dead last and while she generally is not competitive she was disappointed in her self. It was actually a funny sight. C. and I were standing there praying she wouldn't flake out and quit mid lane with some dramatic "I'm drowning, I have a cramp, or I give up moment." We could have cared less what place she came in. So when she actually finished we were sooooo excited and proud. We jumped up and down and cheered and told her how proud we were of her. She looked at us like we were nuts and with total 12 year old attitude said "did you notice I took forever and finished LAST??!!" We said we did but we were so impressed that she didn't stop or flake out that we didn't care and we were taking them all out to eat to celebrate! She rolled her eyes and LAUGHED! This is huge is so many ways and speaks so well to the kind of healing we have seen with her.

Tortuga is so tall and lean that C. has often said he is build like a swimmer. He has taken to swimming remarkably well and is doing really good work. He tries hard and works hard and is improving dramatically. He also won his first blue ribbon at his first swim meet and he was so happy. Initially his responses were totally appropriate. He told the timekeeper who told him he won that she was joking. She smiled and said "you won!" and he said "No I didn't." (gotta love ODD) and then added "I don't believe you. I think you are joking." She didn't know what to do with him.  By the next morning however it had gone to his head and he was the best swimmer on the planet who was always going to win first place and who nobody could beat. He even tried to give Corazon a hard time about her placement by continually asking her times and bragging about his. As bad as this has been it still is so much better than previous years so we are trying to ignore his boasting and trusting that he will learn what he needs to learn (and get knocked down a few pegs) as the season progresses.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Homeschool Graduation

Corazon reminded me that all of them except Milagro had pre-school and/or kindergarten graduations. That led us to plan a Kindergarten graduation and moving up ceremony for the end of our "regular" school year.  We had so much fun planning and practicing. I had never planned a homeschool graduation before but informed by all my years attending graduations and moving up ceremonies as a school administrator and as a parent I set off to make it work.  I realized quickly that the internet provides lots of resources but limited ideas for pulling off a "short and sweet but meaningful" homeschool graduation.

The kids really wanted to recite poems because that has been out weekly practice this past year. As part of our poetry studies this year I made it optional for them to memorize a weekly poem and present it to the family after Friday dinner. As an incentive I offered small prizes (pencils, erasers, notepads, treats, small toys, bookmarks, etc.) for good effort and presentation. I originally had planned on doing it for a few weeks but they didn't want to stop so we ended up doing it from October to May. They loved it and missed it whenever I forgot to find poems for them to memorize or our schedule made it difficult to do them on Fridays. So we decided that reciting poetry would be part of our program.  I ordered a few supplies to add that "graduation" feel and we dug out an old graduation robe from Corazon's preK ceremony.

We were originally going to have a few members present but it didn't quite work out so C. and I were the audience. They worked hard and had a grand time.

 We printed up a simple program.

Page 3 had a picture of all four of them, their names and the grades they were moving up to.

We had a little pomp and circumstance so they could "proceed" into the room. (Their idea and their request was that we make it  a little "formal."

Corazon recited her favorite poem "Summertime Sharing" by Nikki Grimes. 

Pollito recited a poem with a little interjection from Milagro.

Tortuga recited the poem on the back of our program. Then all 4 of them helped Milagro with a short poem/song about Kindergarten. They shared some highlights from the school year and we handed out achievement awards and diplomas (all home-made).

That was it! It took about 30 minutes then we stepped out for some photo ops and came back inside for a simple lunch.

Dance. Dance. Dance.

May around here means it's recital time. How we managed to get 3 kids who all LOVE dance lessons is beyond me. C. and I take one look at the leotards and tutus and remember that we would never have been caught "dead" in them or in her case, she was "forced" to don such attire but only until her lack of flexibilty, grace and coordination became an embarrassment even to well meaning parents.

All 3 of the youngest love ballet and except for Pollito, they scoff at the notion of tutu-wearing. :-) Milagro shows her disdain for tutus and pink each week by being the only child in her class to wear a green leotard (or on occasion a blue one if her green ones somehow didn't make it into the wash on time.) She has forged a quite a reputation for her green leotard so anytime a new green dance accessory becomes available at least one of the teachers points it out to us.  I think Milagro is taking after C. in the grace department but nonetheless she gets such pleasure out of the experience that we will continue it as long as she likes. In fact she is quite the favorite among the teachers because she actually follows directions and listens with a maturity far beyond her years.

Pollito and Corazon have much greater talent and skill in this area. They decided they wanted to try out for Dance Company this coming year so they have been practicing recital dances and planning out their strategies for convincing us to let them try out for company. Pollito will likely only consider hip-hop company but Corazon wants to try out again for regular company in addition to hip hop company. I am not sure I want to handle all the running around that dance company entails but they are both so good that I think it would be a shame to not let them try out.

So now it's a few weeks later and I never got back to this post. Recital went well. I am so proud of all three of them. They did their absolute best and had a great time! As usual I got to handle backstage duties which was a treat. They did dance company tryouts and Corazon made the top Hip Hop Company but not the other "regular" company. She is happy and a little disappointed. Pollito made the "littles" Hip Hop Company and he is thrilled and scared. They will be great I am sure.

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