In His Own Words

And we now return you to “Days of our Homeschooling,” also known as “The Young and the Reticent.”

Today after much effort on one out of the three of our parts (*ahem* mine), our Princess and Cooter finished their math.  I don’t suppose it’s necessary to share with you that in the getting it done they both lost the privilege of using electronics at any point today, but I will anyway.  We focus a lot on math around here, because I want them to have that down.  I keep telling myself if they’ve got the math skills and they can read, the world’s at their door.  Or easily found in the next book they read.  All they have to do is open it.

While Princess wandered off to write a story about a spider (it was a writing prompt in the book, and yes, I decided to have her try it), I sat down with Cooter to work on handwriting and spelling and reading comprehension.  He had the spelling activity down.  The handwriting we are not even talking about right now, because I’m going for a tear-free day here.  But reading comprehension?  He’s got that, no problem.

Or does he?

The assignment was to read the story, and then tell it in his own words to another person.  He was supposed to write down whom he told it to, and then choose which sentence best expressed the lesson in the story.

It was a fable.

The one about the lion and the mouse.


Do y’all remember this one?  About the lion who catches the mouse, the mouse begs to be let go, promising he will help the lion out sometime.  The lion laughs so hard at the idea that the mouse could ever help him, the mouse gets away.  And later as it turns out, sure enough, the lion has something in his paw, it hurts, he needs help, and the mouse is able to fix it and make him all better.  And they become BFF’s FOREVER.

In a nutshell, yeah, pretty much.

I left the room for a minute while Cooter read his story.  When I sat down with him again, I asked him to read the directions, which he did.  I nodded.  Okay.  So tell me the story in your own words.

And this is what I got, run-on sentences and all.  Seriously, I’m not sure he even breathed until I stopped him.

“So there’s this lion and he works in his office and he’s tired from working all the time, you know, doing all that cat-killing stuff, and so one day he walks outside and he sees a RAT, and he goes to chase it but he trips and he skins his knee on the ‘concreek’ and it really hurts and he’s like ‘oowwwwww’ and the rat starts laughing so he gets up to chase the rat again, only he’s hurt so he—-”

“Wait.”  I shook my head to clear it out.  I looked over to scan the story quickly.  Yes, it’s the one I thought it was.  “Buddy, that’s not what you read here, is it?”

He shook his head without remorse.  “No, it’s not.  But it says right there–” he pointed, “to tell the story in MY own words, so that’s what I am doing.  And so then this lion, he was getting mad, but he went back in his office to get a band-aid and put it on his scrape that was hurting so bad and he sat down to think about how to catch that rat, and he thought and then…..”

Ahem.  No need to go on.  My mind pretty much lost track at that point anyway, what with trying to hold the laughter back and everything.

I mean.  That.  Child.  “In his own words” indeed.  I don’t think there was very much left from the original story at all.

*sigh* This is what I get for encouraging them to use their imaginations all the time.

But that’s really how it is with all of us, isn’t it?  We take this story we’ve walked into, this life that has gone on before us and will go on after–we take it all in and then we start telling it in our own words.  With our own insight and interpretation until all that’s left from the story we walked in to are the original characters.  We make the story our own, one only we can tell.

Tonight I’m thankful for a little guy who keeps me laughing.  I am proud of our Princess not running the other way when asked to write a spider story, especially after the fiasco of last week and the tears over that spider fact book.  I love that they are so creative, and that they teach me something new every day.  I am also thankful that they understand what they are learning in math–forgive me for wishing they’d also LOVE what they are learning in that subject.  And every subject.

Today the fall leaves fluttered to the ground as we did math and read stories and wrote words.  I remember so well sitting in the classrooms of my childhood, daydreaming out the window when I most likely should have been working on an assignment.  So today I am most thankful for little minds that are growing and windows to stare out of and stories to pull out of mid-air, like a pine seed drifting down towards the earth before landing and taking root.  For those things that land and take root, I am the most grateful of all.

Wishing you all a story to make you laugh and a window proper for daydreaming.

Love to all.


Why I Don’t Tell My Children to “Be Nice”

Be sure to say thank you.

Share with your sister.

Take turns.

Make wise choices.

Be kind to your brother.

Act like you are somebody.

You don’t always have to be first in line.

Be a good friend.

Let it go.

I say all of these things and many, many more to one or another of my crew at least once a day and then some.  But there’s one thing that I used to say that I found myself almost saying today that I will be very careful about ever saying again.

Be nice.

Cooter had one of his activities today.  After he finished I asked him how it had gone.  He shrugged.  This is one of the very few times he’s not outnumbered by all the estrogen in the room, and I know he can get rowdy along with the best of them–all those boys.  Whew.

“I was good.  I tried.  It was just hard.”

I asked him how.  He proceeded to call one of the others “creepy” and I corrected him.  No name-calling.  That is not okay.

“Well, it is, Mama.  He wants to hug me all the time.  It creeps me out.”

And there it was.  On the tip of my tongue.

Be.  Nice.

Only I caught myself just in time.  A glance in the rearview mirror assured me that he was serious.


It’s been a little over a year since I had the conversation with my oldest where she shared what she had read–that we shouldn’t tease anyone about someone being mean because they have a crush on them.  We don’t want anyone to equate meanness or cruel words or hurtful actions with affection.  Not when they’re little.  Not ever.

And this takes it one step further.  If I were to tell Cooter, now be nice, he just wants to hug you, that means he wants to be your friend, imagine how that could mess him up later on.  Sure, this is all innocent–a boy who is younger than him, wanting to hug it out because he wants to be friends.  Just a year ago, that was very likely how Cooter was with his older friend there.  But what if?  What if later on someone else’s “touch” gives him the “creeps,” and I’ve set the precedent of ignoring those feelings, not giving them validation, and told him to “be nice,” that they just want to be his friend. I have to show him I trust him now, that I respect his “creepy” feelings if I want him to continue sharing these things with me and be able to stand up for himself.

It’s a scary and wonderful world we live in.  And as I’ve said before, this raising of the children is not for the faint of heart.  These children with their precious little selves, always listening and watching and paying attention and not always when you really want or need them to, they are so fragile and strong.  So vulnerable and wise.  So innocent and knowing.  All of that.  I don’t want to mess this up.

It’s so hard to know what’s right, you know?  It is so instinctual for me to want my children to be kind, to be polite, and to be respectful.  It was on the very tip of my tongue to correct my boy, to crush any hope of him talking about this kind of thing to me again–all with those two simple words.  Be. Nice.

Instead I gathered my thoughts, and told him that I could appreciate how that made him feel uncomfortable.  I suggested that next time, if it happens again, he should step back and put his hand up and say, “Hey, I can be your friend, but I don’t want to be hugged.”  And if the little guy doesn’t stop, he should go and let a grownup know that he doesn’t care to be hugged.

I don’t know.  It’s so hard to know, isn’t it?  All I can do, as my Mama often said, is the best I can do with what I have now.  And right now, I think the most important thing is for each of my children to feel heard and know that they can bring any story, anything at all, home for me to hear.  I can’t promise not to flip out–it’s kind of my thing (yes, another thing)–but I can promise I won’t leave their side.  Not even once.

"Stickered" by my little guy.  Not a prouder Mama anywhere around.  Love that boy.

“Stickered” by my little guy. Not a prouder Mama anywhere around. Love that boy.

I guess I must have done okay because Cooter gave me his sticker from today.  He smiled so brightly (oh how I love that toothless grin) and seemed plum tickled with himself over it.  I wore it proudly all afternoon and evening.  Let folks stare.  My baby boy thinks I’m awesome.

And tonight I’m thankful for that.  And so much more.

Love to all.