I think I've mentioned that we are again attending a weekly homeschool coop - a day where somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 families gather to learn together. The classes are widely varied; this quarter a sampling could include origami, storybook illustration, human evolution, the history of salt and sugar, computer programming, Ivanhoe through the world of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and world geography. It was this last class, geography, that brought on the anxiety for Ani earlier this winter, because on the first day the kids were asked to sign up for a country to present to the class. A presentation being a new concept, she didn't think twice about it and was assigned Russia. Score! I lived there when I was her age, so this should be easy...
But she worried it like a hidden splinter. I would observe her through the day every week, in her classes and at lunch, having a great time, enjoying the company of her friends and loving having babies around to entertain and help with. Then without fail at some point in the week she would declare that she was done with coop and would not be returning. Somehow the next Tuesday would roll around and we'd make it there, only to repeat the declaration with more vehemence. Finally she said, I know what I'm going to do for my presentation! Ah, that's what's going on. She said, "When the teacher turns to me to say, Ani do you have something to tell us about Russia? I am just going to answer her: NO!" She was very happy to have come up with this simple and honest way out of the deal. I asked her if this is what she was thinking about whenever she felt frustrated about returning to coop....duh, yes. So, we talked about options. The other kids were choosing poster boards and facts, but that was not for her. (And let me just say that she was not the only one with this anxiety. One of the other moms said her daughter was up all night the night before her presentation and the mom had to translate her whispers to the class, she was so nervous. We would have quit before then, I think...) I finally convinced her that she could really think out of the box on this one, and do something that would be fun for her, because if she was enjoying it, chances were the other kids in the class would enjoy it too.
Finally she landed on telling a story. Ha! Her forte! She read through books of Russian folk tales and settled on one about Baba Yaga. Perfect. Then she began her process of getting comfortable with the whole idea. This is how she spent a whole morning a few weeks ago when the sun was just starting its flirtation with our world...
|Yes, she is in her footie pajamas|
She is clearly a little Russian girl named "Too Nice Child", out on a scary adventure to Baba Yaga's chicken hut in the woods, with her bonnet and apron and her magical helper doll tucked in her pocket. She was out there for at least an hour, then in to change clothes, and back out again, talking and figuring and acting out her story.
I was so grateful that we had the time for her to play through her worries and find herself into a comfort zone that allowed her to meet the expectations of her class and teacher on her terms.
Fast forward to this week, the week of the presentation. Monday was all about making borscht to share with the class ("Mom. Everyone brings food." Never mind that most people don't know what to make of beets, she seemed confident that it was the right thing to bring, and why? Because beets are something she loves.)
|Goggles in place for the stirring of the onions|
Do you remember the anxiety of performing in front of your teacher and a class of students? Oh man, I do. I feel like I always got through it fine, did well, and felt like I had accomplished something, but the worrying ahead of time was sometimes paralyzing. It was as if once Ani had figured out her plan, the worry was all gone, and she felt confident and relaxed. She showed the class how to write her name in the cyrillic alphabet. She taught them how to say yes and no in Russian. She showed them a few things we have from home that are Russian, and showed them where it is on the globe, explaining that it is a part of Europe and Asia. Then, while they ate their borscht (yes, they all tried it, and no one was rude!), she read her story, stopping at the end of every page to show the illustration.
She learned that she could speak in front of her class and contribute something interesting and entertaining, and I was reminded once again that play is so often the path through fear and anxiety! And we got some beautiful borscht in the mix, which made us both happy...