Even though we’ve settled into our school routine, there are always those unexpected “bumps” along the way. Those “bumps” aren’t always bad things. Sometimes they’re just added adjustments to the regular routine to make things smoother.
Since J’s been going (and participating!) in his team’s XC meets, we’ve had to figure out how to make up for that school time and study time lost while attending meets. We live in Fargo, North Dakota, and do a lot of traveling to nearby small towns for meets (because there’s just not a lot of people who live in North Dakota outside of Fargo!). J’s had meets in Jamestown (which is about 2 hrs by bus there and 2 hrs back), Whapeton (which is about 1 hr there and 1 hr back), and Valley City (another 1 hour there and back trip). Even when we’ve had meets in Fargo, the team still needs to show up at least an hour before the race to warm up and walk the course. Add about 3 hours of meet plus travel time plus prep time and you’re gone a lot of the day. Most meets are on Saturdays, but J has had a few meets on Thursdays which requires him to miss afternoon classes and brings him home around 8:30-9:00 at night. Try doing homework with a tired kid who struggles with ADHD at 9 pm!
At first I really struggled with this. J has anxiety, ADHD, and learning disabilities that make learning and doing homework really hard. As much as I love XC, it’s been a real juggle to try to keep up with the school stuff. But as I’ve watched him at meets–when he ran that first meet by himself–I really felt strongly that he needs this experience. I’m not sure where J’s academics are going to be when he graduates high school. He has a lot of strikes against him. Maybe that’s why I feel that this physical and mental self-discipline that he’s learning from XC is so essential–almost more essential right now. J can’t overcome a lot of his anxiety, ADHD, and learning disabilities if he’s not mentally committed to push through. He can’t succeed if he doesn’t learn those skills first. That’s why he’s struggled so much in school for so long because he’s never had those skills. XC might be the experience that gets him that mental grit to help him succeed academically.
At the same time, even if J doesn’t ever get to that academic success, J’s going to need to learn how to have mental grit no matter what. No matter what job he has, what obstacles he faces as an adult. It’s imperative he has those skills. So right now, I feel like we need to stick with the meets, even if it makes homework and studying really hard. Plus I’m not ready to give up that physical exercise for J. I feel like it’s been a huge part in curbing anxiety and behaviors.
One of the hardest things academically over the last few years has been math. And so with the new balancing act we’re doing with XC, I’ve had to find a way to keep practicing learned math skills while keeping up on his other new math assignments. Normally we’ve used the adaptive paper, which is great, but requires dry erase markers and plastic protectors (otherwise I’m constantly making copies of it) and Kleenex. I wasn’t 100% happy with the adaptive paper/dry erase marker approach because I feel like dry erase makers take a lot of the sensory experience out of writing (and ultimately learning). I needed something that could really helped J organize his math on the page PLUS something we could take along with us. Behold the power of note cards! J uses note cards all the time for memorizing French or definitions for other classes, and so the note cards seemed like a great idea for math. Right now, J’s been converting repeating decimals into fractions. The note cards are great because the space is so small (he doesn’t get a whole sheet of paper) so he has to make it fit. It also forces him to keep all the algebra lined up on both sides! It’s just like the other studying he does (it’s essentially flash card math), and most importantly it’s PORTABLE! I can take a stack of note cards to a meet, and throw a few repeating decimals down and have him work on them when he’s done his race and we’ve got downtime. I can take them in the car or bus. I can throw one down at the kitchen table while I make dinner. And it doesn’t feel like “math” because it’s not a whole assignment sheet. Its non-threatening to J, and I don’t get as many fights when I ask him to practice.
I’m really excited about this discovery because J is taking pre-Algebra this year. He struggles with the handwriting, remembering the steps, organizing the steps, and practicing the steps. But I feel like we’ve stumbled on a new process here that will help eliminate some of those issues. If he doesn’t have to worry about the handwriting or organizing the numbers on the page, then he can start focusing on the steps and practicing the steps.
We’re over halfway through the season now; J’s last meet will be in mid-October. After XC season, we’ll have a lot more time to focus on study skills and I’m really excited to see how these approaches and habits in studying math will play on in the long-term. Even though it’s been stressful trying to find time to get everything done, I’m really glad J’s having this XC experience. He’s developing good work habits and self discipline from XC that can transfer to his academic work. He’s gaining self-confidence and building relationships with his coaches and teammates–in the best social environment I could ask for. He’s having experiences that I’ve never dreamed he’d be able to have. He’s understanding the value of time and balancing that time (even though I still feel we’re not perfect at it). He starting to realize that if you want something really bad (like XC), sometimes you have to work extra hard at things (school work) to make sure those things you really want (XC) happen.
In some ways, I’m just like J. I don’t like bumps in my schedule. But every once in a while those bumps help us figure out things we wouldn’t have thought of before.