Mama Camp: Day 1 — Because Nothing Matters More

So, I’ll admit that the last couple weeks have been a bit bonkers. I ended up subbing full-time for the last week and a half of school as one of the teachers had her baby a bit earlier than expected. As a result, the CSA Challenge and my planning for summer camp got slightly side tracked. Add to that my ill-advised decision to schedule the install for the new flooring on our stairs for the day after school and…well…it didn’t quite work. And then I got an interview for an actual, on-purpose full-time job (at the same school) suddenly.

So, yeah, a bit bonkers.

I’ll be catching you all up on the CSA Challenge once I get this week’s box tomorrow. It has been some success, some not so much (but I guess it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy).

In the meantime, today marked the beginning of Mama Camp. We’ve tried this the past couple summers with varying degrees of success — mostly because of fibro flares and other illnesses, but also because I’m really, really good at planning and not always as good at follow through (thus the PhD taking 10 years). I decided that this year would be less plan, plan, plan and more figure out what works for us each day, go with that, and be satisfied with what we accomplish.

It also helps knowing that Pkin will be working with a wonderful tutor this summer as well. That means it’s not all on me. I can be a good additional element, but I’m not the whole enchilada — and that is great because, while I know a lot, I still have a lot to learn.

Since today was day one, I decided we’d keep it fairly low key with a bit of reading comprehension (something where she can do well, but sometimes really resists), spelling (which she is pretty good at), and some math review (which she hates with a burning intensity equivalent to several small suns). We’re also doing some less directly academic, but likely far more important work from two workbooks: one on helping kids learn about and deal with their Tourette syndrome and the other helping kids learn social skills and make friends (something Pkin has said she would like help with on more than one occasion this year).

The subject specific pieces went pretty well — a bit of frustration, which I expected. I also got to try my hand a bit at spontaneously creating a teaching tool (I’m sure it has an actual name that I just haven’t learned yet). Pkin has a tendency to want to rush through work she doesn’t like (aka math). She also has a tendency to want to identify any recurrent patterns and move through those parts before tackling everything else. In this case, we were working with turning expanded number forms into the actual numbers and she wanted to put all the commas on the answer lines before staring to work with the numbers themselves.

Now, if all that happened was she wanted to put in the commas, that wouldn’t be that big a deal. But she often goes further than that. Today, for example, she wanted to write in all the numbers in the ten thousands place first and then go back to do the others. What she didn’t realize (and this is part of why we are reviewing in the first place) was that doing that means she needed to only write the first number of the expanded form in that spot, not the zero next to it because that wouldn’t necessarily be a zero once she looked at the number on the thousands spot. I tried explaining that to her verbally, but she insisted her way would work. I tried to stop show her how to look at only one line at a time, but she insisted her way would work. The only way I (we, as DH joined in on this part) got her to stop was by literally taking away her pencil so she couldn’t write anymore while I worked out a way to help her. I asked DH for a piece of construction paper and some scissors (which, of course, took us a bit to find as I haven’t yet organized all the learning materials — see chaos of the last couple weeks above). Once I had what I needed, I cut a little window out of the construction paper just big enough for her to see exactly one line of the full expanded number and its answer. This tool in place, she moved through the rest of the questions without any problems. I suspect I will be making a good many more devices of this sort as we continue with Mama Camp.

I may have, temporarily, felt like I was all that (I admit it), but it wasn’t long before I realized that Mama Camp won’t all be bits of review and moments of teacherly brilliance ;).

After we had finished most of the subject-related items, Pkin decided she wanted to work on the Let’s Be Friends workbook. As might be expected, it starts with a bit of self-exploration — a handy self-portrait and a bit of reflection. Though I wasn’t allowed to look as she was working (this is pretty common for her work. That we were allowed to look at it at all is what is a bit rare. Usually if we can’t see it while it’s happening, we can’t see it once it’s done). Despite her willingness and desire to spend hours and hours drawing her manga creations, she zipped through her picture rather quickly. Then came the question and equally quick answer to the first question about her picture.

Mama Camp Day 1

For those who don’t read Pkin, her answer to the question “What does your picture say about you?” is just one word: “Weird.”

When I asked her if she could explain what she meant, she said only, “I feel weird.” When I asked if she meant that in a good way, a bad way, or something else, all she said was, “Bad.”

I tried to get her to say more about this, to think about other things she thinks it says about her or that she thinks about herself, she couldn’t. This was it. Weird. Not unique, fun, funky weird. Freak, bizarre, unlikable weird. It’s a word we know she has heard people in school call her off and on throughout this year. It’s a word we specifically mentioned to her teacher on several occasions. It’s a word we have talked to her about and tried to work through for most of fourth grade.

And yet it remains. It sticks in her mind and is the main — the only — way she can find to describe herself.

This is something I can’t fix with a bit of construction paper and a pair of scissors. This is going to take a lot more work and a lot more time. This, in my view, is the most important thing we’ll be tackling with Mama Camp. I don’t know if it will actually make a difference in the end. I hope it does, but I honestly don’t know. I do know that we absolutely have to try.

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Filed under children, CSA Challenge, education, Mama Camp, parenting

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