He is curious, and a reader. Math doesn't come easy, and I haven't found the key the goes to that particular lock yet. Art is his favorite, and the images flow out of his fingertips in a way that only a true artist can achieve. He loves words, but they have to be in the right context, and they can make his head bobble with nervousness if they are the wrong ones. So I pick my way slowly through Big Nate, Little House, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, looking for landmines and trying to keep him engaged.
I wake up every morning wishing that we could jump right into our studies, but no, I have to go to work first, because blood draws and Endo visits don't come cheap and insurance keeps a few more worry lines off of my forehead. So we chat for a bit about the drawing he did the night before, and the ones he plans to work on that day. Then I go my way and he goes his, with promises to sit shoulder to shoulder and learn together after my obligatory six hours are done.
Sometimes we sit in chairs like company, and often we sprawl on the floor like you never can in public school, 'cause this is our school and we can recite scripture and learn about the Constitution any old way we want to. We roll marbles back and forth while we recite addition tables. I wish I could draw it all out for him. I have a feeling that if I could on figure out how, then 4+5 would equal 9 now and forevermore. But images don't flow out of my hands like they do from his, and so we try this new thing and hope it will be The One.
He wrinkles his brow and counts marble by marble and gets the right answer. Sometimes he tires of counting and guesses, and I hold my breath and hope he guesses right because the only thing worse than a hard to pronounce word is a wrong number. When the numbers are wrong I use my softest voice and the most delicate words I know... so afraid to discourage this little man who works so hard at every little thing.
And when those numbers are wrong, then it's all my fault for not having found the right key, and for the hours I spend at work, and for sometimes being as clueless as anyone about how he sees the world. But I know I'll never quit, not as long as I have breath to teach with, because no one in the world cares about his success as much as I do. And he won't quit, 'cause he's no quitter no matter how hard things are. He might fuss, or growl, or even cry, but he doesn't quit. And so I don't either.
Then Math is over, swallowed like a nasty pill, and chased with pats on the back and promises to shoot hoops or draw together later. We move on to the things he likes, like reading and art and writing in our journals. All of these things come easier to him and it occurs to me that these are my triumphs too, for the hours we've logged, both in chairs and on the floor. We've earned them by singing ABC and trying to make it through "carpet time," by tracing letters on the easel that we finally got rid of when he had to crouch over to write on it. For hours of explaining that A is for Apple, yes, but also for Ape, and sometimes sounds more like a U, like when it's used in Apartment, this is the reward. Now I get to listen to him read to me from a book that is on 'grade level' (homeschoolers will insert a huge eye roll here), and there is a journal filled with his writing that is the most precious thing in our home.
Not all school days are breakthrough days. Some of them are breakdown days, to be honest. Even on the hard days though, there is no denying that this is where he is thriving. This is the environment where he learns, and where the only labels he wears are printed in large red letters and say "WONDERFUL", "IMAGINATIVE", "TALENTED", and "CHERISHED".