Sanctuary

One of the great joys in my life, is our homeschool group. The women who started and run it are, without a doubt, among the most amazing people I have ever met. Having been through stuff that would make your toes curl, the lessons they took away have made them consistently empathetic, tolerant, compassionate, and kind.

Also, they’re quirky as all get out and so are all our kids, so there’s bucketloads of that particular, tar-black sense of humour.

We all bask in finding this concentration of other mothers who Get It; even if the particular diagnosis doesn’t apply in your house, you’ve had the experience of trying to raise a child who doesn’t follow any of the developmental rules and therefore having to overhaul every last one of your expectations. And then keep overhauling. When someone arrives with teeth gritted, everyone else has a pretty good idea of what they’ve likely been through that morning. Both parents and kids are treated with an extra dose of kindness, and everyone feels, you know – understood.

I know these exceptional mums love what they’ve created, and I also know that this doesn’t stop it being physically, mentally, emotionally and sensorily demanding, very hard work, the sort that would drive most school-teachers to despair or cruelty or quitting. But instead they have created that very rare, very special thing, a place where extraordinarily challenging kids – the ones who are always butting so painfully against the world – feel completely accepted and valued.

And, you know how I know? Because this morning, this happened:

My daughter and some of the other kids have been reading a book by a local author, who also happens to be friends with the group’s founder. She’s been invited to come chat to the kids, later this week, so when I ‘bumped into’ her online, I said, we have friends in common; I’m looking forward to meeting you this week! She replied, oh, are you with the school? Yes, I said, but you’ll be better prepared if you think of it as a circus. (Having no better description of what it’s like, being in a roomful of 2e kids, especially one where they feel fully accepted for who they are.)

At this point, CraftyFish came in, so I related the tale to her, knowing she’s excited to meet the author, and that she’d get a kick out of the circus comment.

I didn’t get that far, though. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘school’, she puffed up like a society matron smelling a fart. “Do NOT call our group a SCHOOL,” she exclaims, outraged. “It is NOT a SCHOOL. It’s a SANCTUARY.”

Can I invite you to sit with that, for a moment? Because there is a lot packed into that one word: The sense that school (even the wonderful school we went to) asks us to be something else, something other than who we are, to meet other people’s expectations, often regardless of your own. The converse sense of safety and recognition that our group provides. The sense of ownership, of belonging. The sense that this is, in fact, a place safe enough for her to do things that have so far been challenging, such as … reading a novel. The drama of the delivery, sure, because as long as you’re not hurting someone else or being disrespectful, that’s okay.

It made my heart melt, it did. It is all I would wish for anyone, but perhaps most for our quirky kids: that they find a sanctuary.

Bang! There went the week.

©careerusinterruptus

Sigh. There’s the whiteboard. Last Sunday night I brought it down to the playroom, so that CraftyFish and I could put together a plan for what we needed and wanted to get through during the week.

We don’t do well with routine in my house. Everyone gets bored if we do the same thing twice in a row and we’re all constantly generating new ideas for cool stuff to do, then getting sucked into the internet when we look up how to do it and forgetting what we originally planned. I haven’t quite decided whether we have executive function issues, ADHD (inattentive) or if this constant mental hyperactivity is just what gifted looks like.

Then, too, life is constantly throwing new and unpredicted excitements our way that knock us so thoroughly for six, we may take days to find our feet.

My aim, therefore, is for something like a melody, rather than a schedule, a routine or a plan. There are needs I aim to meet, one way or another, during the course of a week: the need for exercise, for getting outside, for creativity, for social connection, for the house to be somewhat slightly cleaned, for the animals to be taken care of, for stretching our comfort zones, for spending time with family, and for learning.

CraftyFish has Guides on Monday and piano lessons on Friday. In between is a blank slate. There’s no order; I just aim to keep the mix right. This week we needed to look in on Mum three times; she lives on her own and although she’s quite happy and safe, she can forget lunch, and won’t get out or see anyone at all if we don’t help her. On Sunday, though, CraftyFish was so busy doing … something, that by bedtime all I had for a “plan” was a trip to the skate park the following day and this week, art and literacy classes on Thursday afternoon. They didn’t even get written on the board.

And then Sunday night was one of those no-sleep three-ring circuses (even the Skeptic was up, briefly), topped, first thing Monday morning, by Mr Pixel’s computer blowing up when he turned it on. I mean, what sort of chance did that give us?

Exactly.

It went downhill from there. Eventually, we got out to a skate park that CraftyFish wanted to visit, only for it to be so thoroughly overrun with wild schoolkids that she freaked (not about the kids, per se, but about the possibility of running them over, since they appeared to have no self-preservation instinct whatsoever) and demanded to leave.

So we went on to IKEA, where CraftyFish refused to eat IKEA food because “it’s expensive junk and I don’t want to make you broke and I want to be healthy” (plus, also, probably, because she was still disappointed about the skate park and mad that we were there to buy something for her brother). Then she fell over onto her wrist and it turned out I couldn’t move the item we’d come for anyway, so we left with a disappointed Mr Pixel, a frustrated Mum, and CraftyFish in floods.

Tuesday involved Mr Pixel visiting the dentist; CraftyFish unable to decide whether to spend the afternoon at school or with us and therefore, yep, more floods; and the week’s first visit to Mum – on the way to ER to get an X-ray for CraftyFish’s swollen wrist. (Just sprained, fortunately.)

And yet somehow, things came right after that. CraftyFish has done about 15 pages of math that she’s getting 95% right. We set up her email address and a shop – writing the ‘About’ blurb, coming up with a shop name, etc – on the online marketplace where she wants to start selling the scrunchies she taught herself to make. A friend has already bought three. We bought stickers for the printer and she figured out designing and printing labels for her shop. She’s made a lot of LEGO and learned how to make plaster molds of her baby-doll’s face. (Don’t ask.)

On Wednesday we took Mum to the library and borrowed a book on LEGO stop-motion animation, so on Friday CraftyFish made half-a-dozen tiny but quite hilarious films. She counted her money ($103.75) and made another baby doll mask.

Meanwhile, Mr Pixel is thinking about how he’s going to build his computer himself and we are talking about options. While he ponders this he painted his Nerf armoury, did a LOT of LEGO, worked on a Nerf modification project, put the slats into his new double bed, played a lot of Minecraft, looked up videos to solve an algebra problem on his game, meticulously tended the mealworms – wait, have I mentioned the mealworm project yet? He helped me measure CraftyFish’s room so we can make sure the redecoration fits and has read all the library books – not a lot, granted, but he knows more about rockets than he did before. There have been some heavy discussions about Extinction Rebellion and quantum physics, which I’m reading but he wants to know about. Oh – and he went online and ordered the heavy IKEA item himself.

The Skeptic took them to classes on Thursday where Mr Pixel talked (and wrote) Dr Seuss and CraftyFish learned macrame, although she didn’t do much on account of the wrist. And they caught up with friends.

And on Friday, after piano, we went to Mum’s. Mr Pixel prepared the snacks and helped make her dinner and then we walked Mum down to the park where the kids went nuts on the exercise equipment.

It’s like this all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m just hanging on to a pair of breakaway horses; all I aim for is to hit the big bollards on the way through. We got ’em all this week, I think, except Mr Pixel’s social life, which is on hold until we figure out the computer. And then we got some extra. Because in our house, this is what gifted looks like.